My 8-year-old son has ADHD and has been on the same medication for 3 years. Anytime he doesn't get something he wants, has to do something he doesn't want to do (homework, chores, stop playing his Xbox, take a shower, go to bed, etc.), when his 4-year-old sister gives him a mean look, or gets in trouble for something, he just cries and I mean he's just inconsolable. He just breaks down and will not stop crying.

He says he gets picked on at school but swears he doesn't cry there like he does at home, but I'm almost postive that the crying over nothing is exactly why he is getting picked on. He's a good kid but he gets so upset over nothing. He does have toys, a tablet, an Xbox, 4 wheeler and bicycle.

I've tried being gentle with him, I tried showing him deep breathing, counting. I always tell him I'm not responding to him until he calms down and can calmly speak to me. I tried going over how to deal with different emotions but nothing seems to work.

Now I'm at the point where I say if you want to throw fits and cry like a 4-year-old, then that's how he will be treated, not get to ride his 4 wheeler, Xbox, etc. I just don't know what else to do. Our home is not stressful he just gets so upset and cries uncontrollably over the most simple things. I'm not sure what to do.

  • "He says he gets picked on at school but swears he doesn't cry there like he does at home, but I'm almost positive that the crying over nothing is exactly why he is getting picked on." Have you asked his teachers? It could be that he does possess the self-control to avoid crying over small things, but chooses not to exert himself at home.
    – swbarnes2
    May 9, 2019 at 17:27
  • ADhD children have issues of their own, but hyper-sensitivity seems out of place. Have you consulted his Pediatrician to find out if this could be a side effect of his medication (type, quantity, frequency, etc.)?
    – elbrant
    May 11, 2019 at 2:41
  • "He says he gets picked on at school but swears he doesn't cry there like he does at home, but I'm almost postive that the crying over nothing is exactly why he is getting picked on." Obviously I cannot know for a fact; but it is not impossible that your son is able to have a brave face on when outside of home, but cannot keep the facade up indefinitely and therefore behaves differently at home. I would put an asterisk with your assumption. Not that it can't be true, but that it isn't guaranteed to be true.
    – Flater
    Jan 6, 2022 at 16:03

2 Answers 2


I am not an expert on ADHD and can not emphasize enough that what I am about to say is not easy to do in practice without addressing ADHD or any other emotional/cognitive condition. As with everything I write, I am not a professional, merely passionate. Professional counsel will always supersede anything I write.

When a child breaks down in tears when not getting their way, two emotional reactions are at play: their reaction to not getting their way and your reaction to your child's reaction. Depending on our responses we can either reduce or escalate their crying.

This is not a solely a child - parent response but applies to any relationship. Think about how you feel when upset and someone says "Stop being upset". It usually triggers anger because that person isn't really trying to understand your situation and how you feel. The same goes for our children. Purely saying things along the line of "Stop crying and get over it" generates the same reaction in our children as it does in us. Hence, more crying, more anger and less resolution.

What's happening within us when we respond with "Stop crying" is we are trying to resolve our own anxiety that is triggered by our child's negative response. We are trying to fix our own problem instead of our child's problem. The same goes for giving in to a demand because we just want the crying to stop - it's really us we are trying to make feel better.

Instead, practice calmly asking "Why are you crying?" with a true intent of listening to what your son expresses. Even if it's not coherent. I try to always practice complete engagement during this type of episode: constant eye contact, stop doing other things, physical touch (hold hand, rub shoulder, sit together). Your goal is to let your son express himself and feel understood because you may understand exactly what's happening, but he doesn't (It's probably frustrating for him to always cry when something doesn't go his way). Always lead your responses with "I understand that..." repeating what he's said. Show that you listened, that you heard him and know how he feels.

At the end of the day, the goal is to express "I know you don't like this. I understand you want to do something different. This thing has to be done/stopped so we can what needs to be done."

Source: Lost Art of Listening

Regarding the Bullying:

Bullying at school is not about him crying. It's that he's different. He is his own person and that should be celebrated, not picked on. I was bullied because I have big ears that stick out further from my head - a defining feature of "me" my wife absolutely adores.

I am so sorry that he must suffer such torment in a place he has to go. No child should have to experience that and if you haven't already do make a HUGE stink about this with the school authorities. It is their responsibility to keep the school safe and healthy for everyone.


While not an official DSM symptom of ADHD, Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria is a common issue with ADHD.

I'm just learning what to do with an ADHD child, so take this advice lightly: I've started working with the child to identify the emotion, talk about how they're behaving, whether it's working, and how to react differently. I'm also trying to reassure them that their feeling is valid and it's ok to feel--but also to coach them in reacting differently. I should probably talk to a counselor or someone to get better insights myself.

My kid doesn't react so sensitively, and isn't on medication.

My kid can be very sensitive at times, but not like the OP. I'm also learning that there's built-up context of many many rejections, that affect relationships and reactions. So resolving that will be more a marathon. Also, to clarify, my son's ADHD isn't official, but I'm 100% sure he has it. Working on an official diagnosis.

Another note: I'm very imperfect at applying this; When dealing with misbehavior or inappropriate screaming... sometimes my kid reacts very poorly even to this method, but I get generally better results when I do. My counselor suggested I start very small with this approach in dealing with misbehavior; not start with the whole conversation. At first, I was to simply take my kid to the stairs (or somewhere), sit with the kid, and say "why are we here" (and don't make him struggle too much--the idea is to make it quick and painless, and to have him own it). I often wait a few seconds and just tell him. If he seems overly resistant to this or has a tantrum, I will either send him to his room until he's calm or try to deescalate by just giving him the answer. And it still doesn't always end well--my wife has a much softer approach and a better track record with him so sometimes that's what works too. Nothing is perfect, nothing works 100% of the time. But in general, this pattern has helped me a lot.

It's basically a Cognitive Behavior Therapy exercise for kids (I think).

Whether it's general misbehavior or just identifying emotions, start small so it's quick and painless, and doesn't feel like rejection to the kid. Make it suuuuper easy for the conversation to get done fast and painlessly.

[note 2, weeks later]

After further experimentation & conversations, some additional perspectives and ideas.

  • The child needs to feel accepted. You may need to offer a time period with almost zero correction from you to help build rapport. If there's another responsible parent present, consider stepping back for a while to get your bearings. Whether it's a day, week, or month. This gives you time to consider your responses and strategies, and make sure you're calm and ready to jump in.
  • Don't be afraid of delayed consequences, and delayed conversations. If you need time to regain your calm.
  • Make sure to praise the child often, and be involved. Spend at least 10m every day playing with him/her in a positive way.
  • Count to 20 BEFORE you offer correction, instructions, or repetition. This gives them time to process, decide, act. But also gives you time to notice YOUR emotions and calm down before responding.
  • Go to time out with the child, IF you can stay calm. This signals acceptance and closeness. Calmness signals acceptance and love. WAIT for them to calm down before correcting. If they fight, name the outbursts calmly and say it won't work. "Stop it! / Being bossy won't work. GO AWAY / Yelling won't work. You dummy! / Name-calling won't work." - even if the (small) child hits, keep calm and say it won't work. When they do something even remotely positive (yelling I NEED TIME ALONE) give it positive feedback.
  • Give them TIME to self-correct or to respond. ADHD makes it harder to process emotions, commands, cues, and many other things in real-time. Young kids need more time to work through all that.
  • Be consistent in your verbiage, tone, and stay calm. If they can predict what you will say, it will give them a sense of security (if you stay calm). Consistency makes it easier for the kid to process what you're saying.
  • Make consequences small, doable, and consistent. Any kind of fighting back should clearly take more time than the small consequence, won't work, and won't change your calm.
  • Get counseling help
  • Keep an emotions journal yourself, so you can better recognize the physical signs in your body when you're losing patience and calm. Reflect on what went well, and what to change. Keep it positive.
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    Gosh, what a helpful answer! There's no reason to take it lightly; it's great advice. Welcome, and I hope you feel free to answer more questions. Aug 19, 2021 at 23:52

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