Behavior Modification     

By Eileen Bailey

Whenever there is a discussion on the treatment of ADHD, especially for children, the term “behavior modification” will normally come up.  But less often do people explain exactly what they mean or how to go about creating an effective behavior modification program.  This is a generic term for a system that rewards appropriate and acceptable behaviors in order to encourage more of the same.  The focus of a behavior modification program is that positive reinforcement is more effective than punitive measures.

Setting up a behavior modification program takes hard work, dedication, commitment and cooperation between parents, teachers and caregivers.  The following seven steps will help you to create your own system, catered to the individual needs of your children. 

1)      Change Your Attitude

Before setting any plan into action, take some time to review how you typically react to your child.  You are going to take 1-2 weeks changing your view of your child and the situation at home.  This time will be well spent and the rewards of taking this time will pay off tremendously.  Raising a child with ADHD is exhausting, frustrating and demanding.  If many of your interactions with your child include yelling and leave you feeling exasperated, you are not alone.  Spend time listening to how you are talking with your child and try to change your perspective and focus.  Understand that children with ADHD require more monitoring and more patience than raising a non-ADHD child.  Accept that you will need to provide assistance. 

An example of this would be if you sent your child to clean their room.  Fifteen minutes later you check and it looks as if nothing has been completed.  Your first reaction may be to say something like: “You haven’t done anything, didn’t I tell you to clean up, don’t leave this room until it is done.”  But changing your perspective, you could say instead, “I see you have picked up the blocks, that is great, now I would like you to pick up the clothes and put them away.  I will be back in 5 minutes to see how you are doing.”  Return 5 minutes later.  If the clothes are picked up, compliment them and provide another instruction.  If only one piece of clothing has been picked up, say something like, “I see you have started picking up the clothes, good work, now let’s finish, I will be back in 5 minutes.”  It may take your child hours to complete a job that could have been done in 10 minutes.  However, when they are done, they will have a sense of completion and accomplishment. 

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