In previous posts, we have addressed some of the common problems for children with ADHD: Curbing Impulsive Behaviors in Children and Six Ways to Help Your Child Focus. This week we will discuss some ways parents can manage hyperactive behaviors. Your child might frequently get into trouble, both at home and at school for these types of behaviors, fidgeting in his seat, running in the halls or through the house, jumping from the top of your couch. While you can't eliminate hyperactivity, you can help reduce it and teach your child how to use the excess energy in a more positive way.
- Exercise is important; making sure your child gets some physical activity each day can drastically reduce hyperactivity and fidgety behaviors. If you don't have a yard or can't send your child outdoors, consider one of the video game fit programs (such as WiiFit or Kinnect) for your child to use instead of watching television. Be sure to talk with your child's teachers as well, often children are kept indoors during recess if they have been acting up or haven't completed their work. This strategy often backfires with children with ADHD as they become restless and fidgety and can't focus on their work. Work with the school to find alternatives, such as sending uncompleted work home, instead of keeping them indoors.
- For times when your child must sit still, use a stress ball or some type of squishy toy they can fidget with without too much movement. Some individuals with ADHD actually find their focus and concentration increase when they have something to keep their hands occupied.
- During homework time or other times which require sustained attention, make sure to give your child breaks when he can get up and move around. Have a routine of isometric exercises or stretching so he can use up some of the excess energy. Be sure to set a time limit for the break, so he is prepared to get back to work.
- Work with your child to identify causes of his hyperactivity. While excess energy doesn't always have an outside cause, there are times your child might be especially fidgety based on boredom, overstimulation or frustration. If there are certain times when your child is more hyperactive than others, look for causes and help your child develop strategies to deal with the underlying situation.
- Help your child set goals for himself, focusing on his areas of strength. As your child reaches goals, he develops confidence and is more motivated to tackle more difficult tasks. This motivation helps to keep your child focused, reducing hyperactivity that is based on boredom or frustration.
- Set clear expectations for your child and follow through on consequences for inappropriate behaviors. Children with ADHD need to know what is expected and what is going to happen when they act inappropriately. Use behavioral techniques or motivational games to help build your child's motivation to behave correctly. To be most effective you should focus on rewarding the behavior you want rather than punishing the undesired behavior.
- Use redirect techniques. For example if your child is racing through the house, instead of yelling or disciplining for his behavior, direct him to a specific activity, such as drawing or playing with a favorite toy.
- Create a "calm-down" area for your child to retreat to when overly excited. Have calming music and quiet activities in place so he can relax. This helps to reduce the effects of overstimulation and avoids the hyperactive behavior ending up in a conflict with siblings (or you) and gives him a chance to unwind.
Think about what behaviors you want to discipline your child for. Ignore minor misbehaviors and deal with those that are more important, for example if your child's or another child's safety is compromised or he is infringing on the rights of others. Work with these behaviors first, setting clear expectations and rewarding your child when you see him acting appropriately instead of focusing on every little thing he does wrong.