Parenting Tips for ADHD
Raising a child with ADHD isn’t like traditional childrearing. Normal
rule-making and household routines can become almost impossible, so you’ll need
to adopt different approaches. It can be frustrating and disheartening to cope
with constant impulsive behavior from your child, but there are ways to make life
Parents must accept the fact that children with ADHD have functionally
different brains from those of other children. While children with ADHD can
still learn what is acceptable and what isn’t, their internal regulation makes
them more prone to impulsive behavior.
Fostering the development of a child with ADHD means that you will
have to modify your behavior and learn to manage the behavior of your child.
Medication may be the first step in your child’s treatment. Behavioral
techniques for managing a child’s ADHD symptoms must always be in
place. By following these guidelines, you can limit destructive behavior
and help your child overcome self-doubt.
Principles of Behavior Management Therapy
There are two basic principles of behavior management therapy. The
first is encouraging and rewarding good behavior (positive reinforcement). The
second is negatively reinforcing bad behavior by following it with appropriate
consequences, leading to the extinguishing of bad behavior (negative
reinforcement). You teach your child to understand that actions have
consequences by establishing rules and clear outcomes for following or
disobeying these rules. These principles must be followed in every area of a
child’s life. That means at home, in the classroom, and in the social arena.
Decide Ahead of Time Which
Behaviors Are Acceptable and Which Are Not
The goal of behavioral modification is to help your child consider the
consequences of an action and control the impulse to act on it. This requires
empathy, patience, affection, energy, and strength on the part of the parent.
Parents must first decide which behaviors they will and won’t tolerate. It’s
crucial to stick to these guidelines. Punishing a behavior one day and
allowing it the next is harmful to a child’s improvement. Some behaviors should
always be unacceptable, like physical outbursts, refusal to get up in the
morning, or unwillingness to turn off the television when told to do so.
Your child may have a hard time internalizing and enacting your
guidelines. Rules should be simple and clear, and children should be rewarded
for following them. This can be accomplished using a points system. For
example, allow the child to accrue points for good behavior that can be
redeemed for spending money, time in front of the TV, or a new video
game. If you have a list of house rules, write them down and put them
where they’re easy to see. Repetition and positive reinforcement can help your
child better understand your rules.
Define the Rules, But Allow Some
It’s important to consistently reward good behaviors and discourage
destructive ones, but you can’t be too strict with your child. Remember that
children with ADHD don’t adapt to change as well as others. You must learn to
allow your child to make mistakes as they learn. Odd behaviors that aren’t
detrimental to your child or anyone else should be accepted as part of your
child’s individual personality. It’s ultimately harmful to discourage a child’s
quirky behaviors just because you think they are unusual.
Aggressive outbursts from children with ADHD are a common problem.
“Time-out” is an effective way to calm both you and your overactive child. If
your child acts out in public, they should be immediately removed in a calm and
decisive manner. “Time-out” should be explained to the child as a period to
cool off and think about the negative behavior they have exhibited. Try to
ignore mildly disruptive behaviors as a way for your child to release his or
her pent up energy. However, destructive, abusive, or intentionally
disruptive behavior should always be punished.
Other “Do’s” for Coping with ADHD
Make a routine for your child and stick to it every day. Establish
rituals around meals, homework, playtime, and bedtime. Simple daily tasks, such
as having your child lay out his or her clothes for the next day, can provide
Break Tasks Into Manageable
Try using a large wall calendar to help remind a child of their
duties. Color coding chores and homework can keep your child from becoming
overwhelmed with everyday tasks and school assignments. Even morning routines
should be broken down into discreet tasks.
Simplify and Organize Your
Create a special, quiet space for your child to read, do homework, and
have time-outs from the chaos of everyday life. Keep your home neat and
organized so that your child knows where everything goes. This helps reduce
Children with ADHD welcome easily accessible distractions. Television,
video games, and the computer encourage impulsive behavior and should be
regulated. By decreasing time with electronics and increasing time doing
engaging activities outside the home, your child will have an outlet for
Physical activity burns excess energy in healthy ways. It also helps a
child focus their attention on specific movements. This may decrease
impulsivity. Exercise also improves concentration, decreases depression and
anxiety, and stimulates the brain. Many professional athletes have ADHD.
Experts believe that athletics can help a child with ADHD find a constructive
way to focus their passion, attention, and energy.
Regulate Sleep Patterns
Bedtime is especially difficult for children suffering from ADHD. Lack
of sleep exacerbates inattention, hyperactivity, and recklessness. Helping your
child get better sleep is important. To help them get better rest, eliminate
stimulants like sugar and caffeine, and decrease television time. Establish a
healthy, calming bedtime ritual.
Encourage Out-Loud Thinking
Children with ADHD can lack self-control. This causes them to speak
and act before thinking. Ask your child to verbalize their thoughts and
reasoning when the urge to act out arises. It’s important to understand your
child’s thought process in order to help him or her curb impulsive behaviors.
Promote Wait Time
Another way to control the impulse to speak before thinking is to
teach your child how to pause a moment before talking or replying. Encourage
more thoughtful responses by helping your child with homework assignments and
asking interactive questions about a favorite television show or book.
Believe in Your Child
Your child likely doesn’t realize the stress they can cause. It’s
important to remain positive and encouraging. Praise your child’s good behavior
so they know when something was done right. Your child may struggle with ADHD
now, but it won’t last forever. Have confidence in your child and be positive
about their future.
Find Individualized Counseling
You can’t do it all. Your child needs your encouragement, but they
also need professional help. Find a therapist to coach your child and provide
another outlet for them. Don’t be afraid to seek assistance if you need it.
Many parents are so focused on their children that they neglect their own
mental needs. A therapist can help manage your stress and anxiety as well as
You can’t be supportive 100 percent of the time. It’s normal to become
overwhelmed or frustrated with yourself or your child. Just as your child will
need to take breaks while studying, you’ll need your own breaks as well.
Scheduling alone time is important for any parent. Consider hiring a
babysitter. Good break options include:
for a walk
to the gym
a relaxing bath
You can’t help an impulsive child if you yourself are aggravated.
Children mimic the behaviors they see around them, so if you remain composed
and controlled during an outburst, it will help your child to do the same. Take
time to breathe, relax, and collect your thoughts before attempting to pacify
your child. The calmer you are, the calmer your child will become.
“Don’ts” for Dealing with an ADHD Child
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Be willing to make some compromises with your child. If your child has
accomplished two of the three chores you assigned, don’t worry about the third,
uncompleted task. It’s a learning process and even small steps count.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed and Lash
Remember that your child’s behavior is caused by a disorder. ADHD may
not be visible on the outside, but it’s a disability and should be treated as
such. When you begin to feel angry or frustrated, remember that your child
can’t “snap out of it” or “just be normal.”
Don’t Be Negative
It sounds simplistic, but take things one day at a time and remember
to keep it all in perspective. What is stressful or embarrassing today will
fade away tomorrow.
Don’t Let Your Child or the
Disorder Take Control
Remember that you are the parent and, ultimately, you establish the
rules for acceptable behavior in your home. Be patient and nurturing, but don’t
allow yourself to be bullied or intimidated by your child.