In 2000, Dr. Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child, and psychiatrist Demitri Papolos and his wife, Janice, co-authors of The Bipolar Child, offered their advice for parents of children with crippling rage.
When Time-Out Doesn't Work
For children in the midst of an explosive rage, time-outs simply may not work. "Many of the kids who I work with, if you lay hands on them when they are in the midst of one of these episodes, they'll tear you apart. So the question is: How do we chill things out? How do we get a kid stable so that he's available to us to teach him how to think in the midst of frustration?" Dr. Greene says. "One of the ways you do that is medicine. ... I'm not anti-medication. In fact, I've seen medication help many of these kids do well, but not if it's the wrong medication. And you know if it's the wrong medication pretty quickly."

Non-Medicinal Techniques to Help Explosive Children
Dr. Greene says there are three ways parents can respond to a child who's behaving badly.
  • "My way or the highway."
  • "Whatever." Dr. Greene says this is a legitimate response in the process of trying to stabilize an explosive kid. "We don't care if the room is clean, we often don't care if their teeth are brushed, we often don't care if the homework is done."
  • "Parent as teacher—how am I going to teach my child to do these things he's not so good at yet? Namely, how to deal with frustration. How am I going to teach my child how to do that? It's something we all have to learn."
Goals for Parents
"The goal is the same with parents as it is for their kids. Goal number two: Think clearly in the midst of frustration. Goal number one: Stay calm enough to do goal number two," Dr. Greene says. "Sometimes parents need therapy outside of the context of the family approach, often not."

Get more advice from Dr. Greene on dealing with childhood rage.

Read how one family has overcome their son's violent rage.


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