10 Ways to Deal with a Child’s ADHD Behavior

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

There's no question that a child with ADHD can create many challenges for his or her parents. Here are tips on what 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 extra attention? Is he or she getting distracted? Focus on dealing with the cause rather than the behavior.

Be consistent

This is extremely important for children with ADHD. Take bedtime, for instance. If one night you let your child’s bedtime slide when he doesn’t get ready for bed, but the next night you become angry when he doesn’t get ready when you ask, he isn’t going to know what to expect. He most likely will 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 other rewards each time he does something right.

Help your child understand social cues

Many 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 with each request 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 sometimes is 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, think harder. 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 beforehand

It’s a big help if everyone knows in advance what the consequences of misbehaviors will be. When that’s the case, you will reduce the chances of getting angry and blowing up and having things escalate. For example, if you set a consequence of taking away a privilege if your son hits his sister, you can matter-of-factly and calmly carry out the consequence if he does.

Redirect your child’s behavior

Instead of focusing on negative behavior or correcting your child over and over, redirect his attention to a more positive activity. For example, if he is arguing and fighting with his sister, rather than trying to make them play nicely together, redirect him 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
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.