Tantrums and ADHD: Is There a Link?

Scream and moan. Throwing toys. Kick the floor, furniture, or maybe even yourself.

If you’re a parent or caregiver of a young child, you are likely familiar with these common tantrums – maybe a little more familiarity than you would like.

Toddlers and younger children often respond with outbursts and tantrums because they don’t know how to put overwhelming emotions into words and meet their needs more productively. Most children begin to grasp the ability to regulate their emotions around the age of 5, and the tantrums stop.

Of course, some children often have severe tantrums and breakdowns even after they start school. Extreme or aggressive tantrums can have a number of causes – we’ll cover some common ones below – but they’re quite common in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Your child may already have been diagnosed with ADHD. Perhaps you are just beginning to suspect the condition as a possible cause of your frequent outbreaks. Anyway, we’re here to help.

Read on for the details about ADHD-related tantrums, as well as guides on how to cope and find support.

Tantrums can be very distressing for you and your child. But while they can be a little tricky to manage, especially if they happen in public or if you’re already late, it often helps to know that they are just a normal part of the development.

In other words, it’s not uncommon for children to have an occasional tantrum during their toddler and preschool years. These tantrums generally involve many of the same signs and behaviors, whether or not they are related to ADHD.

A few key signs can help you identify when your child’s tantrums are getting beyond the norm. These signs often include tantrums that:

  • Stay frequently beyond 5 years
  • happen regularly 5 or more times a day
  • continue for more than 15 minutes
  • involve the destruction of personal property or very aggressive behavior towards yourself or others
  • involve extreme anger or defiance towards caregivers and other adults

Experts don’t consider tantrums to be a symptom of ADHD in so many words. Rather, you might think of them as a product of these symptoms.

Common triggers for tantrums in childhood are:

  • physical discomfort – a hungry, tired, or sick child is more likely to have an outbreak
  • Anger, frustration, fear, and other overwhelming emotions
  • sensory overstimulation
  • the inability to ask or get what they want
  • a need for attention
  • a previous successful tantrum – once it worked, they will likely try again

The main ADHD symptoms can easily interact with these triggers, adding to their turmoil, and provoking an outbreak. This is one reason why a pattern of frequent tantrums and outbursts often emerges in ADHD.

Hyperactivity symptoms

These symptomscan increase your child’s restlessness and boredom. You may feel frustrated and irritable very quickly, and have difficulty sitting or staying calm:

  • while waiting for an appointment
  • they don’t find it interesting during a Storytime session in the library
  • when you try to call

Inattention symptoms

These symptoms can make it difficult to focus on repetitive tasks and activities that require a lot of focus. Again, your child could:

  • get bored easily and find it hard to concentrate
  • feeling frustrated when they can’t concentrate
  • get angry if they have a hard time understanding what you’re asking of them

If they seem very distracted and you assume they are not listening, you can understandably feel a little angry and frustrated yourself. Feeling your rejection can increase their stress levels, especially if they are already doing their best.

Impulsivity symptoms

These symptomscan affect your child’s ability to deal with impulses and emotions.

Children with ADHD usually have a harder time managing their impulses and controlling their behavior.

You could:

  • Doing or saying things without thinking
  • Outwardly expressing anger and anger when things are not going well
  • become even more angry and frustrated when adults punish or misunderstand their behavior

You may need her to pick up her toys, have quiet playtime in her room, or brush your teeth. They want to chase the dog around the house or play on their tablet. If you try to redirect them with a reminder, they can argue or throw up a temper tantrum – especially if you are dictating a consequence for not listening, such as saying aloud. B. taking away the tablet.

Regardless of the cause of your child’s tantrums, an effective response can go a long way toward improving the situation and helping you weather the storm.

Keep these tips in mind:

Speak calmly

It is perfectly normal for your child to be angry and frustrated when your child has a tantrum, but raising your voice will usually only make things worse.

  • Even if you are on the verge of losing your temper, try to maintain a balanced tone.
  • If they question a certain rule, don’t argue. Instead, repeat the rule firmly but not angrily.
  • Avoid arguing with them in a tantrum, as this usually won’t get you very far. Wait until their distress has subsided and they can discuss things.

Find more tips to keep calm and continue positive parenting.

Use positive discipline

Screaming, spanking, and slamming objects are unlikely to end the tantrum. Angry reactions and tough discipline are more likely to lead to:

  • scare your child
  • Make her feel like you don’t love her
  • teach them to respond with aggression

An authoritative approach to parenting, coupled with consistent positive parenting tactics, can help reduce breakouts and increase your child’s wellbeing.


  • Pay positive attention, especially if you feel they are having a hard time
  • Praise better decisions, such as saying “No, thank you” instead of shouting “No!”
  • Communicate expectations and rules in clear, simple language
  • Explain and systematically reinforce the consequences of violating rules
  • Offer compassion and understanding, not criticism, for making mistakes

Learn more about the benefits of positive discipline.

Ignore the tantrum

Children don’t always have tantrums on purpose. But breakouts are often more common when they realize that this behavior is getting them what they want. After all, they haven’t seen any more helpful ways to deal with overwhelming emotions.

If you ignore the outburst, you will begin to learn that tantrums don’t work. This often helps stop the tantrum before it really gets going. But it also encourages them to explore other ways to meet their needs.

Tips for successful ignoring

  • Make sure there is nothing in the room that could hurt you.
  • Proceed with what you did without paying attention to them.
  • As long as they are safe, avoid looking at them, asking them to stop, or giving them positive or negative attention while the tantrum continues.

The goal of ignoring is to stop the tantrum (or any other unhelpful behavior). Once they have calmed down enough to tell you how they are feeling or ask for help, responding to their communication efforts can help reinforce this positive behavior.

Children with ADHD can still learn to share their emotions, ask for what they need, and process frustrations without melting together.

Your guidance can make a huge difference in your ability to learn these skills and reach out to them when they’re feeling desperate.

When it comes to fending off tantrums before they break out, research suggests that the acronym CALM can help:

  • Communicate. Use a calm tone and ask them to describe their feelings. You can try showing them pictures or offering examples like “tired”, “insane” or “hungry” for younger children or “bored” and “annoyed” for older children.
  • To visit. After making sure that all of their basic needs are met, offer attention and distraction when you notice the first signs of boredom or frustration. For example, you could suggest a game or art project, take them for a walk, or include them in your work if possible.
  • Hear. Encourage them to share their feelings. If they are frustrated with a lack of control, try to allow them to make more decisions of their own, within reasonable limits. That can mean they can choose their own clothes, even if they stay in pajamas all day, or walk around the back yard and get dirty instead of painting quietly or looking at books.
  • Keep a routine. By sticking to a regular routine as much as possible, you can reduce unexpected frustrations and create a sense of stability that you can rely on. Of course, you can’t always avoid disruptions, but having a backup plan for snacks, naps and bedtime, and other routine activities while you are away can make your job easier for both of you.

If your child’s tantrums seem frequent or excessive, it is always worth consulting a psychologist such as a child psychologist or family therapist.

Many factors beyond ADHD can contribute to tantrums, including:

These concerns can appear on their own, but they can also appear along with ADHD. A therapist can provide more guidance in identifying the specific source, which can make it easier to support your child in moments of frustration and need.

A therapist who specializes in treating ADHD can:

Depending on your child’s symptoms, caregivers may also recommend evaluating medications with the assistance of a psychiatrist.

Tantrums are not uncommon in early childhood, and most children are likely to have a few emotional outbursts. However, extreme or violent tantrums can sometimes indicate a more serious problem, such as ADHD, ASD, or a mood disorder.

If your child experiences disruptive tantrums on a daily basis, a therapist can help narrow down possible causes and teach you new skills to manage stress and defuse tantrums before they break out.

Crystal Raypole writes for Healthline and Psych Central. Her areas of interest include Japanese translation, cooking, science, sex positivity, and mental health, as well as books, books, and more. In particular, she is committed to reducing the stigmatization of mental health problems. She lives in Washington with her son and a lovably unruly cat.

About Clayton Arredondo

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