Keeping Your Head to Lessen Problems

March 26, 2011 Angela McClanahan

One thing I remember from high school science class is Newton's third law of motion--in a nutshell, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

As an adult, I've learned this is true--and not just for motion. A lot of things in life--actions--produce a responsive reaction of equal intensity. Particularly, the actions of a child living with a psychiatric illness.reaction

In the ten years I've been mother to Bob--my son who has bipolar disorder and ADHD--I've experienced more than my fair share of actions. Intense rages, irrational fear, inappropriate giddiness from mania.

For years, these actions created equal and opposite reactions from me. As a parent, I believed it was my responsibility to identify undesirable behavior and quickly squash it in whatever manner possible--with my own equal and opposite reaction.

In the last few years, however, I've come to find the most effective way to squelch such actions is no reaction. I've also come to know this is often easier said than done--when your child is raging, throwing things across the room and calling you every name under the sun, the hardest thing to do is turn around and walk away (especially if this is the umpteenth time this week). Hard as it is, it's been the best thing I've taught myself to do when it comes to handling my child when he's not in control.
Of course, it's not always the best policy to refrain from reacting. If things are completely out of control and my son risks hurting himself or someone else, I have to react, either by physical restraint or "talking him down." But run-of-the-mill disturbances (parents know what I mean) are most easily handled by waiting them out or not handling them at all.

A good example--Bob wanted to go to a school event Thursday evening. I told him in order to do so, he'd have to have his homework finished before then and not get into any trouble at school Thursday. Suffice to say, he didn't meet the requirements, and I told him Thursday evening he wouldn't be able to go. Almost immediately he launched his tirade, stomping, slamming doors, throwing things, yelling.

I wanted to throw open his bedroom door and yell and throw things back, but I know that would only escalate the situation. Instead, I opened his door, quietly told him he needed to stop and that he should remain in his room until he was finished, turned and walked downstairs. And after a few minutes, he came downstairs. He still wasn't happy, but he accepted it.

Essentially, I removed the fuel from his fire. By refusing to play into his rage, I took away anything he had to rail against. And he was more quickly able to regain control.

Keeping your head when "all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you" isn't easy, but I encourage all parents to try. It could be the difference between a difficult 20 minutes and a difficult day.

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2011, March 26). Keeping Your Head to Lessen Problems, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 23 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

Karen M Neu
April, 5 2011 at 2:40 pm

I am so glad I have found you. Our son was recently diagnoised as Bi-Poral and ADHD. I also believe that he has Dissociative Memory problems. Thank you for your openness. I really need to find you.

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