Strategies for Parenting Children with ADHDby Eileen Bailey Health Writer
Children with ADHD are often hyperactive, impulsive and easily distracted. They can forget what they have been told (minutes later) or constantly lose items. Parents can help children learn to cope with these common symptoms of ADHD. The strategies here will help.
Make sure you maintain eye contact when speaking with your child. Children will be less distracted if they are making eye contact while you are speaking. When giving instructions or directions, place a hand gently on their chin and hold their face so they cannot look away. This will help them to pay attention to what you are saying.
Use positive reinforcement more often than discipline. Although there may be times when disciplining your child is appropriate, it is more effective when used in conjunction with a positive reinforcement system. Find ways to compliment your children, but be sincere. Let them know what they are doing right and remind them of the times they used appropriate behaviors. Be specific whenever possible. Rather than saying "You were good today" say something like "I really appreciated the way you listened when I asked you to clean up your toys, you put a lot of effort into making sure everything was put away."
Make consequences as immediate as possible. If your child does something wrong and there is no consequence for several hours, the impact will not be the same as if you had immediately disciplined them for their behavior. This can be seen when a child receives a bad grade on a test, but does not always connect a test grade in September to a report card grade in November. Keeping consequences as immediate as possible helps children to connect the discipline with the action.
Be proactive. Planning ahead for situations can help you to deal with them in a calm and rational way. If you are going to be attending a family function and are concerned that your child might act up, think about what the appropriate behavior would be and discuss this with your child before you go. It will help them to know exactly what is expected of them and what is going to happen if they do not act properly. Being proactive can work with homework, school time and visiting friends.
Simplify directions. When giving instructions or directions, keep sentences short and to the point. Give one or two steps at a time and ask the child to come back when those steps have been completed. For example, rather than saying," Go clean your room" you can say "Go make your bed and pick the toys up off the floor, then come back and tell me when it is done." When they return you can give one or two more instructions. This will help them to stay focused on the task rather than on trying to remember everything you said.
Use token economies to help in enforcing rules. This can be in the way of chips, charts or stickers. The child could receive one sticker each morning they get ready for school on time. When they reach a certain amount of stickers, they can receive some type of reward (rewards do not need to be monetary, staying up late on a weekend, renting a movie or having a friend over can be rewards).
Create organizational systems to help your child. Make a homework box with all of the materials they will need to complete their homework, such as, pencils, rulers, erasers and paper. Label drawers in their room to help them put away their things. Hang a clear, plastic shoe holder over their bedroom door to help them keep small objects off the floor but somewhere they can see them. Create morning routine charts to help them remember everything they need to do before school.
Review your expectations for your child. Are your expectations in line with what your child is capable of? Just because your friend's children may be able to do something on their own, this does not mean that your child is able to. Figure out what your child is capable of and base your expectations on that.
Find your child's talents. What is your child good at: art, music, reading, working with their hands? Discover your child's strengths and focus on developing them rather than looking at what they cannot do.
Create daily routines and stick to them as much as possible. Children with ADHD tend to work best in structured environments when they know exactly what to expect.