What I dreaded most about ADHD? Tantrums. Not the normal tantrum every child throws occasionally, but the blind rage by a hyperactive-type of child that scares even the adults.
My 9-year-old son “Mr. Lala” is a sweet and sensitive child. He loves people and animals. On most days, he is sunny as Southern California’s sky. But when the storm of tantrum blows up, he literally turns into a dark unfathomable sea, sucking up all the reason and love into the whirlpool of fury.
I still remember that when he was around three years old, he would attack other kids out of little provocation at the playground. One time when I refused to buy him a gum ball in the mall, he wailed from the mall to the car, and then wailed, kicked, destroyed the very expensive window sun screen until he finally cried himself to sleep.
I also remember that when he was around 6, I told him that he could not go to the park because he behaved badly in the art class (I didn’t know then that he had ADHD and held him to high standards). He started to jump and scream “I want to go to the park! I want to go to the park! I want to go to the park…” Nothing could make him stop. When I put him into the car and started to drive home, he repeatedly kicked the back of my seat, punched me in the head, and told me “I am going to kill you!” all while I was driving. I was seriously scared for the safety of myself and his younger brother who crawled to a corner of the car and whimpered.
I still remember that when he was 8, I took him and his younger brother to visit my family in another country. He threw three tantrums during that summer. One time forced us to abort a shopping trip because he wouldn’t stop his howling in the car. One time reduced my sister into crying and calling his dad in the U.S. for help. One time threatening to kill his cousin’s family.
It is very scary and traumatic for the family. However, I don’t think that my son even remembered all these. I recently read a book called “Hyper”, written by a writer who suffered severe ADHD tantrums growing up. He described when the tantrum came, he basically blanked out. He couldn’t see and didn’t even know where he was. Not until the tantrum was over that he would slowly came back to this world. I believe that Lala was experiencing the same.
The trigger of the tantrum is typically loss of a privilege such as ipad time. During his tantrum, he tends to repeat only one sentence, typically “I want…” or “You don’t love me anymore…” or “You are mean to me…” My efforts to break through this mantra typically didn’t reach him until after about 40 minutes when he had exhausted himself. If I used the time-out method in all those child-rearing books, he would storm in his room, kick the door, throw things until we went yelling at him or holding him down. After he calmed down, he would apologize and clung to you like a little baby, wanting to be soothed. Then he would forget about it in about half an hour and become cheery again.
It is these intense tantrums that led me to search for answers. I read online and books of various childhood mental issues, and ADHD struck me as the closest description. I finally decided to take him to a psychologist for evaluation toward the end of his second grade. And that is a great step towards a new beginning and hope that I will describe in the next post.