Strategies for Parenting Children with ADHDby Eileen Bailey Health Writer
Children with ADHD are often hyperactive, impulsive and easily distracted. They often forget what they have been told (sometimes just minutes later) or constantly lose items. Parents can help children learn to cope with these common symptoms of ADHD. The following strategies might help.
Maintain eye contact when speaking with your child. Children are usually 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 helps 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 is not the same as if you had immediately disciplined them for the behavior, for example, when a child receives a bad grade on a test, he might not connect the 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 helps your child stay focused on the task rather than on trying to remember everything you said. Use token economies to help enforce rules. Some example of token economies include chips, charts or stickers. your child might receive one sticker each morning she gets ready for school on time. When she reaches a certain amount of stickers, she receives 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 are all good rewards). Create organizational systems to help your child. Make a homework box with all of the materials needed for homework, such as, pencils, rulers, erasers and paper. Label drawers in bedrooms to help your child put away his things. Hang a clear, plastic shoe holder over their bedroom door to hold small objects and keep them off the floor while still allowing for easy access. Create morning routine charts to help your child remember everything that needs to be completed before school. Review your expectations for your child. Are your expectations in line with your child's capabilities? Just because your friend's children can do something on their own, this does not mean that your child is able to. Figure out what your child's capabilities 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 those 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. Try to keep your routine stable throughout the week. Although the routine might vary between school mornings and weekends, try to keep wake-up times, meals and bedtime standard. When your routine deviates from the normal routine, let your child know in advance what to expect.
More strategies for managing ADHD behaviors: