Parenting the ADHD child or teen

GUIDING PRINCIPLES. (1) BE PROACTIVE: Parents tend to react to the negative behavioral incidents of their ADHD children in an impulsive or ad hoc manner. The key to success in helping ADHD children is to have a plan. Do not wait for something “bad” to happen and then scramble for a solution. Carefully identify the antecedents and consequences of a problem and then make a plan to solve the problem through your family constitution. (2) THINK PREVENTION AND EDUCATION: As would follow from the above, always try to modify your child’s behavior through prevention and education. Make changes in the social and physical environment in order to prevent negative incidents, and then educate your child by teaching him specific self-regulation and problem-solving skills. (3) ESTABLISH CONSISTENT RULES: Rules and instructions must be consistent and communicated in a manner that is clear and brief. Whenever possible, represent rules in the form of charts, lists, or other visual reminders. (4) UTILIZE BEHAVIORAL REHEARSAL: Before engaging in an activity that is challenging for your child carefully review the behavioral and/or academic expectations related to that activity. Do not simply have your child state the rules. Rather, engage him in the following interactive process: 1. Model the behavior 2. Have your child role play or rehearse the behavior 3. Have your child perform the behavior 4. Provide your child with detailed feedback (positive and negative) (5) COMMUNICATE EFFICIENTLY AND FORCEFULLY: The cardinal rule of communication with the ADHD child is: Say what you mean and mean what you say. It is better to say nothing than to say something and not back it up with action. Begin sentences with “You need to … “. Avoid directions which include “Would you please” or “Could you please.” This type of statement sounds like a question and permits the child to decline. Do not negotiate or bargain. Try to be calm, consistent, logical, and respectful. Convey a sense of empathy and authority. (6) PROVIDE IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK AND CONSEQUENCES: ADHD children live in and for the moment. As such, they require feedback and consequences in the moment. If your child is being successful playing with a friend or eating dinner, he needs specific feedback during the activity as well as a positive consequence immediately after the activity. ADHD children cannot wait until the completion of an activity for feedback or rewards. (7) PROVIDE FREQUENT FEEDBACK: ADHD children also need continuous and detailed feedback to help them sustain their inhibition. In other words, if your child is staying on task while doing homework, he not only needs to have his positive behavior acknowledged during homework time, but he needs to get this feedback frequently throughout an activity (e.g., every 3 to 5 minutes). (8) USE POWERFUL CONSEQUENCES: ADHD children need more powerful consequences to sustain inhibition. Non-ADHD children can usually sustain themselves in an activity simply by virtue of the pleasure they derive from the activity or the pleasure they derive from pleasing adults. ADHD children often need concrete rewards or special privileges to maintain motivation. Correspondingly, ADHD children often require negative consequences that exceed typical social disapproval (e.g., time out, revoking a privilege, loss of an opportunity, etc.). (9) USE INCENTIVES TO CREATE BEHAVIOR CHANGE: In order to create and maintain positive behavior, it is best to provide your child with an incentive program. Rather than try to inhibit negative behavior by use of negative consequences, the better strategy is to positively reinforce behaviors that are incompatible with disruptive or negative behavior. For example, if your child has difficulty taking his turn during a game, provide him with the opportunity to earn a reward for “sharing behavior.” ADHD children respond positively to the idea of “working for a reward” instead of trying to “stop” a negative behavior. (10) INCREASE THE USE OF TIME OUT: ADHD children greatly benefit from time out when they become over-stimulated. Simply moving to the proximity of an activity is often sufficient for a child to calm down. Time out should not be regarded as punishment. It is a behavioral control technique which your child can learn to independently utilize to calm down and focus. Your child should be permitted to return to the activity that resulted in the time out in an effort to be successful as soon as he is calm. Remember, it is very useful for a child to practice the problem-solving steps described below while in time out. (11) USE THE VOCABULARY OF PROBLEM SOLVING: It is important to improve the social problem solving skills of children with ADHD by actively teaching problem solving techniques. As stated earlier, ADHD children do not plan their behavior in advance of action. In order to slow your ADHD child down, you can reference problem-solving methods such as the “Six Step” system. This system involves the following: 1. Define the problem (What was my role?) 2. Think of 3 solutions (What can I do to solve the problem?) 3. Consider the outcomes of possible solutions 4. Select 1 solution (What is the best solution?) 5. Implement the solution (Try the solution) 6. Evaluate the solution (Did it work? If not, why not?) (12) AVOID POWER STRUGGLES: ADHD children can be exceptionally stubborn and willing to engage in power struggles. Whenever possible try to “short circuit” tantrums or conflicts by use of humor, distraction, affection, and/or modifying the activity/expectation. (13) FOCUS ON YOUR OWN BEHAVIOR: Rather than focus on your child’s negative behavior, focus on ways that you can model positive behavior. Ultimately, the person whom you can exert the greatest control is yourself. If you consistently model the behavior you want your child to perform, your child will have greater opportunity to develop positive behavior. Write a parenting mission statement. Read your statement and revise as you and your child grow and develop. (14) USE THE PRAISE-IGNORE FORMULA: Whenever possible, try to modify behavior by ignoring negative behavior and praising positive behavior. Remember to “catch your child being good.” (15) TAKE A BREATHER: Find ways to separate yourself from the rigors of parenting. Rest is absolutely necessary for good parenting. Find a wedge of time —even if it twenty minutes — and do something you find enjoyable. (16) DON’T PERSONALIZE AND PRACTICE FORGIVENESS: Try to remember that your child does not intend to be immature, annoying or disruptive. Try not to take these behavioral characteristics personally. Above all, try to let go of all transgressions on the day they occur. (17) KEEP A DISABILITY NEUROLOGICAL: Always try to remember that your child is struggling with a neurological problem — not a problem of character or personality. Maintaining this perspective will help maintain your empathy. (19) ACCEPT YOUR HELPLESSNESS: Many of the most difficult moments with ADHD children occur when parents fail to recognize that they are helpless in terms of modifying their child’s behavior. There are times when there is absolutely nothing you can do to effect change. Rather than try harder (“bend the river”), let go, retreat, and relax. Regain your balance and try again another day. (20) TAKE A LONG VIEW: Try to take a long view about your child’s deficits. That is, try not to make too much of any given incident or event. Remember that your child is struggling with a developmental disorder. It takes time and a lot of hard work to for your child to reach his full potential. GUIDING PRINCIPLES. (1) BE PROACTIVE: Parents tend to react to the negative behavioral incidents of their ADHD children in an impulsive or ad hoc manner. The key to success in helping ADHD children is to have a plan. Do not wait for something “bad” to happen and then scramble for a solution. Carefully identify the antecedents and consequences of a problem and then make a plan to solve the problem through your family constitution. (2) THINK PREVENTION AND EDUCATION: As would follow from the above, always try to modify your child’s behavior through prevention and education. Make changes in the social and physical environment in order to prevent negative incidents, and then educate your child by teaching him specific self-regulation and problem-solving skills. (3) ESTABLISH CONSISTENT RULES: Rules and instructions must be consistent and communicated in a manner that is exceptionally clear and brief. Whenever possible, represent rules in the form of charts, lists, or other visual reminders. Use you family constitution! (4) UTILIZE BEHAVIORAL REHEARSAL: Before engaging in an activity that is challenging for your child carefully review the behavioral and/or academic expectations related to that activity. Do not simply have your child state the rules. Rather, engage him in the following interactive process: 1. Model the behavior 2. Have your child role play or rehearse the behavior 3. Have your child perform the behavior 4. Provide your child with detailed feedback (positive and negative) (5) COMMUNICATE EFFICIENTLY AND FORCEFULLY: The cardinal rule of communication with the ADHD child is: Say what you mean and mean what you say. It is better to say nothing than to say something and not back it up with action. Begin sentences with “You need to … “. Avoid directions which include “Would you please” or “Could you please.” This type of statement sounds like a question and permits the child to decline. Do not negotiate or bargain. Try to be calm, consistent, logical, and respectful. Convey a sense of empathy and authority. (6) PROVIDE IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK AND CONSEQUENCES: ADHD children live in and for the moment. As such, they require feedback and consequences in the moment. If your child is being successful playing with a friend or eating dinner, he needs specific feedback during the activity as well as a positive consequence immediately after the activity. ADHD children cannot wait until the completion of an activity for feedback or rewards. (7) PROVIDE FREQUENT FEEDBACK: ADHD children also need continuous and detailed feedback to help them sustain their inhibition. In other words, if your child is staying on task while doing homework, he not only needs to have his positive behavior acknowledged during homework time, but he needs to get this feedback frequently throughout an activity (e.g., every 3 to 5 minutes). (8) USE POWERFUL CONSEQUENCES: ADHD children need more powerful consequences to sustain inhibition. Non-ADHD children can usually sustain themselves in an activity simply by virtue of the pleasure they derive from the activity or the pleasure they derive from pleasing adults. ADHD children often need concrete rewards or special privileges to maintain motivation. Correspondingly, ADHD children often require negative consequences that exceed typical social disapproval (e.g., time out, revoking a privilege, loss of an opportunity, etc.). (9) USE INCENTIVES TO CREATE BEHAVIOR CHANGE: In order to create and maintain positive behavior, it is best to provide your child with an incentive program. Rather than try to inhibit negative behavior by use of negative consequences, the better strategy is to positively reinforce behaviors that are incompatible with disruptive or negative behavior. For example, if your child has difficulty taking his turn during a game, provide him with the opportunity to earn a reward for “sharing behavior.” ADHD children respond positively to the idea of “working for a reward” instead of trying to “stop” a negative behavior. (10) INCREASE THE USE OF TIME OUT: ADHD children greatly benefit from time out when they become over-stimulated. Simply moving to the proximity of an activity is often sufficient for a child to calm down. Time out should not be regarded as punishment. It is a behavioral control technique which your child can learn to independently utilize to calm down and focus. Your child should be permitted to return to the activity that resulted in the time out in an effort to be successful as soon as he is calm. Remember, it is very useful for a child to practice the problem-solving steps described below while in time out. (11) USE THE VOCABULARY OF PROBLEM SOLVING: It is important to improve the social problem solving skills of children with ADHD by actively teaching problem solving techniques. As stated earlier, ADHD children do not plan their behavior in advance of action. In order to slow your ADHD child down, you can reference problem-solving methods such as the “Six Step” system. This system involves the following: 1. Define the problem (What was my role?) 2. Think of 3 solutions (What can I do to solve the problem?) 3. Consider the outcomes of possible solutions 4. Select 1 solution (What is the best solution?) 5. Implement the solution (Try the solution) 6. Evaluate the solution (Did it work? If not, why not?) (12) AVOID POWER STRUGGLES: ADHD children can be exceptionally stubborn and willing to engage in power struggles. Whenever possible try to “short circuit” tantrums or conflicts by use of humor, distraction, affection, and/or modifying the activity/expectation. (13) FOCUS ON YOUR OWN BEHAVIOR: Rather than focus on your child’s negative behavior, focus on ways that you can model positive behavior. Ultimately, the person whom you can exert the greatest control is yourself. If you consistently model the behavior you want your child to perform, your child will have greater opportunity to develop positive behavior. Write a parenting mission statement. Read your statement and revise as you and your child grow and develop. (14) USE THE PRAISE-IGNORE FORMULA: Whenever possible, try to modify behavior by ignoring negative behavior and praising positive behavior. Remember to “catch your child being good.” (15) TAKE A BREATHER: Find ways to separate yourself from the rigors of parenting. Rest is absolutely necessary for good parenting. Find a wedge of time —even if it twenty minutes — and do something you find enjoyable. (16) DON’T PERSONALIZE AND PRACTICE FORGIVENESS: Try to remember that your child does not intend to be immature, annoying or disruptive. Try not to take these behavioral characteristics personally. Above all, try to let go of all transgressions on the day they occur. (17) KEEP A DISABILITY NEUROLOGICAL: Always try to remember that your child is struggling with a neurological problem — not a problem of character or personality. Maintaining this perspective will help maintain your empathy. (19) ACCEPT YOUR HELPLESSNESS: Many of the most difficult moments with ADHD children occur when parents fail to recognize that they are helpless in terms of modifying their child’s behavior. There are times when there is absolutely nothing you can do to effect change. Rather than try harder (“bend the river”), let go, retreat, and relax. Regain your balance and try again another day. (20) TAKE A LONG VIEW: Try to take a long view about your child’s deficits. That is, try not to make too much of any given incident or event. Remember that your child is struggling with a developmental disorder. It takes time and a lot of hard work to for your child to reach his full potential.

< Back to view all blogs