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Tips to help children with ADHD

young students at elementary school

Do you repeatedly say "sit down" or "pay attention" to your young student? Check these tips for parents of children with ADD/ADHD.

Do you think your child may have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder? A doctor can help you look at how your child’s behavior compares to his or her peers’ behavior and will look for symptoms.

Is your child:

  • Easily distracted from work or play.
  • Often doesn’t seem to listen.
  • Can’t stay seated.
  • Frequently interrupts others.
  • Often acts and speaks without thinking.

Read more about ADHD symptoms and treatments. Talk with your child's doctor if you have concerns.  

Following is some practical behavior therapy advice from a PeaceHealth pediatrician, Kevin Marks, MD on parenting kids with ADHD:

1. Emphasize positives and successes:  Children with ADHD styles or diagnoses tend to be much more reinforced by positive reinforcement and are more reactive to punishment. Changing rewards periodically for good behavior prevents boredom.

2. Less talk, more action: This means immediately and consistently reinforcing appropriate consequences instead of giving a long-winded lecture, as well as shortening directives and increasing positive reinforcement techniques (e.g., hugs, pats on the back, kisses, high 5s, fist bumps, etc).

3. Limiting anger expression: This means limiting the child's anger outbursts to acceptable practices, and putting a stop to excesses. In other words, discuss that in this house, there is no banging walls, no slamming doors, no yelling out the window, no throwing things, no biting, no hitting, no kicking people, etc. Parents should model appropriate behavior and language in front of their children.  

4. Pre-teach: This means that parents are stating expected behavior and responses prior to an event/outing or possible negative event. Have him/her repeat these expectations back to demonstrate understanding and facilitate retention. The goal is to get him thinking about acceptable options before a crisis or semi-crisis develops.

5. Anticipate problems and emphasize "House Rules of Behavior": This means printing out an achievable, child-specific set of house rules and posting them on the fridge or highly visible place. Discuss these rules with the kids, and refer to them as needed.

6.  Create a structured routine: Use a phone, planner, or calendar to stay on track with daily activities and behavior goals. Make sure your child has a study area that is free from distractions and help them maintain organization in this area.

7. Don’t personalize your child’s problems: Maintain a sense of humor, perspective, and personal/emotional distance from your child’s struggles.

8. Practice forgiveness and have a disability perspective: Remember, to err is human, to forgive is divine. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder with a strong hereditary predisposition.  This shouldn’t excuse your child from attempts to improve his or her behavior, but it should help parents understand that positive parenting strategies are needed to achieve desired outcomes.