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Dealing with Aggressive Aspergers Teens: 10 Tips for Parents

Have you experienced an out-of-control yelling match with your Aspergers (high functioning autism) teen? While parenting these teens, moms and dads often find themselves in a power struggle. Teen "Aspies" try all sorts of things to get what they want, and sometimes this involves yelling and cussing-out their parents. The techniques that follow should help parents deal with aggressive Aspergers teens:

1. Avoid Excessive Negative Attention— It's a mistake to pay more attention to what the Aspergers youngster is doing wrong (e.g., his failures, mistakes, misbehaviors, etc.) than to what he is doing right (e.g., his successes, achievements, good behaviors, etc.). When you go to bed at night, review the day you have had with your Aspie. Have you spent as much time during the day looking at his appropriate behaviors as you have looking at his inappropriate actions?

You should avoid using punishment as a primary method of control. Instead, substitute positive consequences, which place the emphasis on good behavior rather than on bad behavior. Eliminate verbal punishment (e.g., hollering, putting down the teenager, name-calling, excessive criticism), and use reward as a disciplinary tactic. Emphasize successes, accomplishments, achievements, and good behaviors. Pay more attention to normal good behavior and be positive. Constant nagging of an Aspergers adolescent will certainly result in a buildup of anger, resentment, and aggressive behaviors.

2. Avoid Excessive Restrictions— Some Aspergers kids who are overprotected, excessively restricted, and generally not allowed to be like other youngsters their age may develop resentment and anger. They want to do things that others do, but are prevented from doing so. Sometimes you have to look at your adolescent's peer group in order to decide what is and is not appropriate – and what is too much restriction.

3. Avoid Random Discipline— Moms and dads often discipline after the fact. This is “random discipline.” They set a rule and wait for the teenager to break it before they decide upon a consequence. To Aspergers adolescents, the concept of fairness is extremely important. If they are disciplined in this fashion, they may frequently feel unjustly treated. In addition, random discipline often makes adolescents feel that others are responsible for what has happened to them and anger is apt to develop. You should spell out the rules and consequences for your youngster's behavior at the same time. The most important part of this process is not the rule, but the consequence. Put the responsibility for what happens to the youngster squarely on his or her shoulders.

4. Do Not Let the Behavior Get Out of Control— Once a youngster is actively involved in an aggressive behavior or shouting match, it is difficult to deal with the behavior. Rather than wait till the behavior occurs to handle it, sometimes it is possible, and better, to try to prevent it from happening or to catch it early and not let it get out of control. In some adolescents, the aggressive behavior develops gradually and may involve several steps. Some initial behaviors appear and then intensify.

For example, an adolescent's brother may call him stupid. Some verbal exchanges follow, then a pushing and shoving match begins, and finally a full-blown fight erupts. Rather than wait to react when the fight starts, it would be better to try to catch the behavior early, and intervene before the situation gets out of hand. Target the name-calling or verbal arguing and try to stop that, rather than wait to zero in on the fighting.

5. Don't Get into a Power Struggle—You tell your Aspie to clean his room and he refuses. Then you threaten, "You had better clean it, or you're not going out on Saturday." He replies, "You can't make me clean it and I'm going out on Saturday, anyway." Then you say something, he says something, you both begin to shout, and a full-blown power struggle has developed. This is a good way to generate anger in your youngster. When possible, avoid battles and power struggles, which only lead to a buildup of anger. At times, it may be better to have the youngster experience the consequence of his behavior rather than to win the battle and get him to do what you want. If you try to win each fight, you may battle the youngster throughout adolescence, and will probably end up losing the war.

6. Encourage Appropriate Communication— The most effective way to deal with anger and rebellious behavior is to have adolescents appropriately communicate their feelings of disapproval and resentment. Encourage them to express and explain negative feelings, sources of anger, and their opinions—that is, what angers them, what we do that they do not like, what they disapprove of. If an Aspergers adolescent expresses emotions appropriately, in a normal tone of voice, she should not be viewed as rude or disrespectful. This is an appropriate expression of anger, and the youngster should not be reprimanded or punished. In other words, allow adolescents to complain, disagree, or disapprove, provided they are not sarcastic, flippant, or nasty.

Remember, though, that allowing a youngster to shout, swear, or be fresh does not teach effective communication of emotions. If the adolescent is complaining about excessive restrictions, punishments, or other things that she does not like, listen. Try to understand her feelings. If the complaints are realistic, see if something can be worked out and resolved, or if a compromise can be achieved.

7. Look for Ways to Compromise— In many situations with Aspie teens, you should try to treat them the way you would one of your friends or another adult. Rather than get into a battle to see who is going to win, it may be better to create a situation where a compromise is reached.

8. Provide Appropriate Models— Kids learn a great deal from modeling their parents' behavior. The way we handle our conflicts and problems is apt to be imitated by our kids. If I handle my anger by hollering, throwing things, or hitting, there is a good possibility that my kids will handle their conflicts in a similar fashion. The old saying "Don't do as I do; do as I say" is a very ineffective way of dealing with behavior. Therefore, if you see aggressive or rebellious behaviors in your adolescent, look at yourself, your spouse, or an older sibling to see if one of you is modeling these behaviors. If so, the behavior must stop before we can expect to change the teenager's conduct. If there is a significant amount of arguing in the home, or if parents demonstrate disrespect for one another, it is likely that the adolescent will adopt similar behavior patterns. If you scream at your youngster, he is likely to scream back.

Moms and dads who use physical punishment with the young youngster, as a primary method of dealing with his or her behavior, forget one important thing: kids grow and usually get as big as or bigger than them. A young child disciplined through physical punishment will probably end up as a teenager who gets into physical battles with his parents. Moms and dads must look at themselves to be sure they are not models of the behavior they are trying to eliminate in the youngster. Serving as an appropriate model is a good way to teach kids how to deal with and express anger.

9. Stabilize the Environment— Aspergers adolescents who experience environmental change—especially divorce, separation, or remarriage—may develop underlying anger. The anger and resentment that result from the changes may be expressed in other ways. Try to identify the changes, stabilize the environment, and get him to express his feelings through more appropriate methods. If the teenager has questions regarding a divorce or remarriage, discuss them with him.

10. Try Not to React to Passive-Aggressive Behavior— Some of the opposition, stubbornness, resistance, and other passive-aggressive maneuvers of Aspergers adolescents are designed to express anger and/or to get a reaction from the parents. Ignoring this behavior is often an effective way to reduce it. Some ways of dealing with this passive-aggressive behavior will result in the development of more anger, while others will help deflate the anger balloon. For example, if you ask your Aspie to do something – and he is doing it, although complaining the whole time, ignore his complaints since he is doing what you asked.

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism


Anonymous said...

We are a family that consists of Grandmother and Mother of an intelligent and very verbal, highly functioning autistic fourteen year old girl. The three of us have lived together since her birth and have known things have not been quite right from the beginning. She has since been diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum but we have not received a great deal of professional help in our small Georgia town. We have tried to keep informed via the internet and have raised her with lots of love and the knowledge that we have acquired from the net and other various sources. Now at fourteen she has this giant attitude that we are the enemy, in addition to her social immaturity and other problems. Only now is she becoming hard to deal with.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous. Remember that your 14-year-old girl is also a 14-year-old girl...not just a child with Aspergers and that all girls develop attitude at this age (I have 1 14-yera-old too). Keeping this in mind will help you keep perspective, that is another - admittedly difficult - phase that parents have to navigate. Of course the overlay of Aspergers won't help but 'read' your child as both a teenager and an Aspie. A good, plain teenager book is 'Yes, Your Teen is Crazy!' by Michael Bradley.

Anonymous said...

My 18 year old son has the development of a 12/13 year old. He didn't fit in at school as he was the target of bullying. For the past 2 years he has been home schooled and we have encouraged him to become part of a local cycling group. The problem he tries to fit in and in the process will make quite inappropriate conversation ie swearing and making comments of a sexual nature towards a fellow rider's girl friend. I tried to discuss this with him and he was mortified and of course denied it all. He has had quite a large collection of teenage boy naked pictures on his phone in the past but is extremely uneasy in relation to anything of a female/male nature. He finds it all "smutty" How do we deal with this behaviour?

Anonymous said...

my daughter is 13 next week. she was diagnosed as an aspie at 7 years old. She hates herself, adults (thinks they are sex crazed disgusting creatures), hates people in general. Has become violent, striking her younger siblings and me, thinks I'm disgusting and blames me for bringing her into this awful world. She maintains a 4.0 in school. Today she picked up a knife and threatened herself and me with it. Risperdal, prozac and therapy have brought little improvement, while we have spent thousands of dollars. I'm so depressed, I fantasize about running away:-(

AdoreTu said...

My son is 15 and I am still trying to get a diagnosis. Waited years, finally in one week and one day he will get the tests he needs. The school believes he has asperger's I'm starting to accept that myself. I noticed he took interest in both sexes. One thing I discussed with him is not looking at or accepting pornograpy from other teenagers explaining if they happen to end up being under 18 that it could be considered child pornograpy and he could get in a significant amount of trouble for that. After my divorce I also became aware his father was looking at pornograpy of all ages including minors which I had to report to the FBI, because it was on the computer that was left in my home. Being there was only one password on the computer there was no valid way to prove he did it and he refused a lie detector test which cannot be forced in NYS. Anyhow, I think it is important you explain to him the possible consequences and explain that he may think someone is of age but they could be lYing about their age. Also explain there are dangerous people out there praying on young men and women and he needs to be extra careful. Make sure when you tell him this you say it in a way that you just want to confirm with him he already knows this. Well, at least that works for me. Basically, this way your son doesn't feel like you think he is dumb, etc, you just want to confirm he knows. Then let him ask questions about it. Don't speak in a stern voice, but a concerned understanding voice. When explaining inappropriate behaviors explain in a calm voice why these things are not appropriate and I find trying to help draw a picture for the child of how they may feel in that person's shoes helps them to develop empathy. I'm not a medical professional clearly, but I am pretty good at dealing with human relations of different sorts. Teaching empathy by putting the child in that person's shoes can really help develop it. My son finds the need to masterbate. I don't stop him, it took some time to help him to realize that needs to be done in private though and soap is not a good tool to use. I buy him lotion and I let him be on that. I do suggest if your son age 18 is going to insist on looking at pornograpy buy him magazines that are much less dangerous than the internet, applications or text messages. At least you know those magazines are of age. If you are completely bothered by him looking at the pornograpy I'm not sure what to suggest because any teenager, even "normal" teenagers tend to rebell against the parent if the parent will not allow something. When me son started having an obsession with girl toys when he was younger, it only got worse if I denied him them, so I learned to buy them and act as if I accepted it. He eventually grew out of it and I think it was faster growth from it because I didn't hold him back. With the inappropriate speaking to women I think mom or other important female in his life should give an example of how you felt violated when someone did that to you, or how you would. Explain how it made you feel and then try to help him to put himself in those shoes. It may take a few talks but it can help him to start to develop the empathy for that situation. Also explain how in the work force a person could be sued or fired for sexual harassment and that he needs to take that into consideration that practicing now could help him with his future. My son thinks he should cus in basically every sentence. It's very difficult and I'm still working with him on that one. Godo luck and God bless. Remember God put him with you because you can make him his best!

AdoreTu said...

My son loves to pull the knife garbage. I try to keep a calm voice with it and remind him he is afraid of death. I use the old fashioned Catholic idiology that suicidal people go to hell. I don't believe that but he doesn't need to know that. Seems to work for me. I just keep a calm voice, I don't try to grab the knife, I tell him to put it down, put it back where he got it from, ex dishes, and offer to talk to him about what is upsetting him. You may want to try this with her. Also I explain to him he is my life and how much I really do love him. I often tell him I agree some people are just bad people, but I try to find a positive in everyone, even the bad people. It's helped me get through some bad situations myself. You could tell her you know so and so is bad like this, but I know this or that is a good thing. The child may or may not agree. It doesn't matter your child heard your words and how you are trying to find a good and the example is being shown. Do it over and over. Try to avoid talking negative about people around her. Good luck, God bless. Remember God put her with you because you will help her the best to grow. We all want to run away sometimes, but you know you really can't. Stick with it, you are doing good. She is a teenager and teenagers will be teenagers no matter ASD or not. :-)

Amy said...

My 15 year old aspie has so much rage that can be triggered at the drop of a hat. Im a single mom and i dont know how to deal with him anymore...he also smokes pot...he has sobbed on my bedroom floor before claiming that weed is the only thing that helps him feel normal and sleep...i have tried to be understanding and have an open mind that maybe it does...i hate weed...ive watched it wreck havic on my 20 yr olds life but i havnt actually done resesrch on if it calms aspies...i never search his room and rarely comment when i smell it on him...i feel so overehelmed and discouraged and wldnt know how to stop him anyway...if i try it sends him into a today he wanted his birthday cash...i normally give kids $100 for bday but this year said i wld hold his until he thpught of something he wanted...wasnt going to give him cash to be spent on weed...i dobt know how to stop the habit but i wont support it. His bday was a few months ago...he said he didnt want anything...well today he decided he wanted the cash...i said no...he was furious...stupidest thing ever that i wld "steal" his bday $...tells me how much he hates me, im f**king stupid, he wishes i wld die...then when i made some comment abt how it bresks my heart he smokes weed he went absolutely ballistic...said he wants to kill himself cuz he cant stand me so much. Im so weary...any encouragement? Or wisdom? I dont need judgement weary enough

Vip said...

Hi Amy. I have a 13 year old Aspie who has been talking about weed. His Asperger's condition and his desperate need of "emancipation" from me mainly makes him angry with me and my husband. I am convinced any teen should learn that it is a MUST to attend the chores around the house:take the trash, do laundry, do the dishes, learn how to cook etc etc. Maybe your son already helps around the house....but until I stopped doing everything for my son...he did not stop with the cursing and battle struggles. Say no to weed at least he is 17 and explain to him that you will buy for him when the time comes, in a controlled environment. He should be making his breakfast, his bed, his laundry, your laundry, cooking or even working part time for minimal wage to get in contact with other people and to learn how difficult it is to make $100.
I believe we are in a society that we give in too easy because we are tired and we do not want make them upset... My son uses his "aggressiveness" to intimidate me for me to give in. I made this mistake before...not anymore. It is very hard and exhausting when you say no to an Aspie...but if it is time to say NO, say NO. It might get worse before it gets better...but insist Amy. You are a great mom because you love him...and even though he says he hates you....they actually hate the fact they really need us so much. Help him to need you less and less each day. He will love you later. Good luck. Vivi

Chris Howard said...

It's sad reading the comments here because what I see most is people not getting the support they need.

This is a very, very good list which also could apply to any teens and me hope makes at least a little difference for struggling parents.

I learned a lot of this by trial and error myself just from parenting four teens (1 diagnosed aspie male, 1 suspected female). I wish I had the ability to write it down this well.

I think being Aspie myself had advantages as I was able to empathise (in that Aspie objective-analytical way) and try to imagine what would work for me.

Only comment is I wish the article could have used a picture with both an angry boy and girl. The picture tends to implicitly and, of course, unintentionally, genderise Aspergers - and aggression - as a boy thing to anyone who doesn't read the article thoroughly.

This still prevalent stereotype of Aspergers being a boy thing makes it really difficult for parents of girls with Aspergers and one that we need to break down at every opportunity.

I think as recognition and acceptance improves, you will see a much more even distribution of Aspergers between male and female.

ausolomon said...

I have an ASPIE Step-son and I have to say I have lost the battle. I am weary every day from his reactivity, his negativity, his omnipresence and his oppositional approach to EVERYTHING I say.I just want it to stop. If he moved out I would feel enormous relief. Of Course, his mother would be devastated, so I keep doing my best to stay quiet and not interact.

Unfortunately, nothing works with this boy. We've tried specialists until we are penniless. He is a law unto himself and thinks he has smarter than Einstein!

I've decided that life will have to teach him his lessons, not me.

So, sometimes, even the experts can't help.

Not sure what I want by writing this, but here it is nonetheless. Thanks, Solomon

K Lewis said...

omg - I could have WRITTEN your comment - it's like your are speaking for me - only difference is us is that you're a stepdad and I'm a stepmom - have tried everything, have seen counselors, just can't think of anything else to try - Dad is just NO match for him! I too have just given up! Just hang in there - that's all I know for us to do - just wanted you to know you were NOT alone!

Kathy in LA

ausolomon said...

Hi Kathy,
well.... that was written in October...since then a couple of things....Just prior to Christmas I decided that I was going to move out when finances permitted because life is not meant to be lived this way!.... and secondly...Step Son was given a new laptop for Christmas and has been a different boy different I mean pleasant, cooperative. I'd almost say agreeable! However, I don't expect it to last...I expect that once the shine of the new PC has worn off and he is back at school, then he will revert to type.I might be proven wrong of course?????????????
But his change in behavior has me doubting my decision to move out...but I still think it is the most appropriate course of action as his mother is ASD and has NO IDEA how it impact on us. She thinks she sees things clearly - BUT SHE DOESN'T!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anyway, life goes on until I can move out.


Unknown said...

Dear Amy,
I know that this is now 2019 but I wanted to let you know that I know exactly how you feel. My son is now 18 in 2 months. His journey with weed has been horrendous.. he’s dropped out of school, we have the police and ambulance service virtually every week. He’s taken mdma, lsd, sleeping tablets, weed, alcohol, diazepam all in one go.. A and E twice in one week yet no help. He still says that the weed is the only thing that helped his depression, . I paid for it in the end and gave it him every day but made him promise not to take the other drugs off the dark web(£2 for lsd by the way!). I’m exhausted, done in, in pain.. no one can relate! Yet...
Suddenly he GOT A JOB! He said he’s realised that weed is not helping him anymore.. he’s starting on Monday.. so PRAYING that he won’t spend the wages on drugs.. but as you see.. everything is a phase... I mean he was BAD... we have no doors and the ones left have holes in...
But you never know how long each one will last... I understand your pain. Hang in..

Anonymous said...

Solomon, I'm in the same boat as you. Only it's my step daughter. She has my wife so battered down that she just tries to keep her happy instead of actually raising her. Theres some days she is an amazing kid, then theres other days shes screaming at the 6 and 10 year old. It's like living with a bully who controls our lives. I'm more of a disciplinarian to be brutally honest and anytime I have to step in I am the bad guy. Its put some devastation in our marriage and I don't know if it will ever be better, but I'm always hoping. Best of luck to you and I've felt like stepping away too.

Unknown said...

I have a thirteen year old high functioning autistic daughter. She has so much rage right now and also uses passive aggression. She refuses to do chores, curses at me, and screams and breaks things if she gets at all "in trouble." She breaks her siblings' things and says she will kill me and herself. But these out outbursts are mostly to draw a reaction. She has gotten way worse since my ex and I divorced. I've called a ton of counseling places, but they're all backed up for months and months. A counselor at the school was supposed to work with her but hasn't yet. She isn't like this at school or with her dad (who is kind of distant) but is horrible with me. For example, she started teasing and threatening our dog. I told her this is abuse and not allowed, but it only got worse. I tried to ignore it but she got worse and I'm sorry, I'm not tolerating it, so I got mad and took privileges away, like her phone. She threw things and called me a f'en b*tch. I have no family here. Her dad is three hrs away and I have two other children who don't need to be subjected to this. I'm on the verge of asking her dad to take custody of her but I don't want to just give up on her. It is true that there is so little help out there.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...