Children with ADHD are often a handful. At the end of the night, after hours of repeating instructions, correcting your child and arguing, parents are often exhausted. For some, defiance is a way of life. But most children with ADHD aren’t defiant - they are not vindictive or malicious in their behavior - instead they don’t seem to listen and may repeat the same behavior day after day. For example, do you tell your child it is time for bed and 20 minutes later he is still playing with his toys or running around the house - even after repeated requests to get ready for bed?
The following are 10 things a parent can do to help improve their ADHD child’s behavior at home:
Think about the causes for the behavior. Chances are, your child is not misbehaving just to cause you grief although it can seem that way sometimes. Instead of getting angry, try to find the root cause. Does your child need some extra attention? Is your child getting distracted? Focus in to correct the cause rather than the behavior.
Be consistent. This is extremely important for children with ADHD. Using the example of bedtime, if one night you let your child slide when he doesn’t get ready for bed and the next night you become angry when you ask him to get ready for bed, he isn’t going to know what to expect and will probably put off getting ready until he knows you really mean it.
Use a token economy. A token economy is a behavioral management tool that focuses on positive behaviors rather than negative ones. Your child earns points or or other rewards each time he does something right. For information on setting up this type of system: Using Token Economies to Help Manage Behavior
Help your child learn and understand social cues. Many times children with ADHD have a hard time understanding the emotion behind a statement. He may not notice the impatience in your voice and how it increases each time you say it is time to get ready for bed until it is too late and you have become angry.
Give simple, direct and specific instructions. Use words that are on your child’s level and keep sentences short. For children who are easily distracted, you may want to give one or two instructions, have your child complete those tasks and then return for more instruction. Be as specific as possible. For example, instead of saying, "It’s time to get ready for bed." say "Jonas, it is bedtime. Please wash your face and brush your teeth. Come and tell me when you have done that."
Keep calm. Although it is sometimes hard to stay calm, the easiest way to get your child to tune out what you are saying is to yell. They may cry or get upset because you are mad, but chances are, they aren’t hearing anything you are saying. If you need to, leave the room, take a few deep breaths, calm yourself and then come back with a clear command.
Focus on the positive. Heap praise on your child for what he has done right and, if you can’t think of anything, find something. If you called him and he stood up but just stood there staring at the television, quickly say, "Thank you Jonas, for getting up when I called you. I really appreciate how well you are behaving." This goes a lot further than, "Jonas why are you still looking at the television when I told you to get ready for bed."
Set clear consequences for misbehaviors beforehand. If you know ahead of time what the consequences of misbehaviors will be, you will reduce the chances of getting angry and blowing up. For example, if you set a consequence of taking away a privilege if he hits his sister, when it happens, you are prepared and simply and calmly institute the consequence.
Redirect your child’s behavior. Instead of focusing on the negative behavior or correcting your child over and over, redirect his attention to a more positive activity. For example, if your child is arguing and fighting with his sister, rather than try to make them play nicely together, redirect your child to a different activity, such as coloring at the kitchen table.
Change your behavior. If your child isn’t listening or is consistently misbehaving, think about your approach and work to model the behavior you want your child to adopt. If you want your child to stop yelling, make sure you don’t yell - otherwise you are saying one thing and doing another, causing confusion in your child’s mind.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.