Understanding how your child is affected by ADHD and modifying your expectations is the first step. Parents need realistic expectations of what their children are capable of controlling. Some children with ADHD can’t consciously control their behaviour. For example, asking your child to tidy their room and finding them playing with a toy two minutes later may be your child demonstrating the key symptoms of the condition: being easily distracted and finding it difficult to follow direction. Once you have an understanding of your individual child’s abilities you can then tailor your discipline strategy to meet their needs.
Children with ADHD still need the security of limits and consequences for misbehaviour. Once you understand what your child can control, negative behaviour should still get a consequence, such as removing a privilege or taking some time out.
Remember that shouting will not work and is likely to evoke a worse response due to over stimulation. Sending your child to calm down in the form of time out will need to be tailored to what they can manage. Long time outs will make your child even more restless as they become bored and even destructive. A short period of a few minutes should help your child to calm down if they’re overstimulated. A good calm down space will need to be quiet, low key, free of bright colours/busy patterns and anything that’s going to increase their stimulation levels.
Keep the focus on helping your child to be good. A brief set of house rules can help remind your child what is expected. Phrase them positively to act as reminders of what they should be doing and keep them few and brief. Use verbal praise as they’re doing a task to sustain motivation and back up with immediate rewards. Reward charts can also be useful, however remember to tailor it specifically to your child. Don’t wait too long for them to earn rewards or they may forget or lose interest. Having pictures of the reward on the chart can also help as a visual reminder.
Children with ADHD sometimes struggle with new tasks or activities. Spoken instructions need to be brief and clear and new tasks are best learnt if they are demonstrated/modelled to the child one step at a time. Remember to keep calm and be patient and ensure you have enough time, don’t rush your child. Remember to tell your child what you’d like them to do one thing at a time when giving instructions; don’t reel off a list as they won’t absorb anything after the first request.
Visual reminders work well as ADHD children can easily be distracted from tasks. A kitchen timer can be useful for keeping focus, such as saying they have until the timer goes off to get dressed. Routines can also be printed in picture format to help them see what needs to be done and when.
Community Family Care, based at Staunton, Gloucestershire helps families, children and young people in need of additional support. It seeks to improve parents’ confidence, help with routines to get children to school, or more complex support dealing with challenging behaviours at home.
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