Tips for Parenting a Child with ADHD (cont.)

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Give clear instructions

Avoid vague or open-ended instructions such as "clean up your mess" or "play nicely" that do not accurately convey the specific tasks that you want to be done. Instead, use clear language and specific instructions such as "please put all the dirty clothes in the hamper," "please put all the toys back on the shelves," or "let's allow your friend to have a turn playing with the toy." Speak in a calm and clear voice and be sure to establish kind eye contact with your child when you give instructions so it is more likely that he or she is focused on what you are saying. It can be helpful to have your child repeat the instructions back to you. Breaking down instructions for larger tasks into simple steps can also be helpful.

Discipline, rewards, and consequences

Children with ADHD respond very well to a defined and predictable system of rewards and consequences to manage behavior and discipline. Reward positive behaviors with praise or with small rewards that cost little or no money, such as special time with a parent or participating in an outing or favorite activity. Focus on praise or privileges as rewards rather than offering foods, toys, or expensive gifts as prizes. To avoid boredom and increase motivation, change the nature of the rewards periodically.

It's always best to give more rewards and positive praise than negative comments or consequences. For most parents, the number of negative comments made to their children is far greater than the number of positive comments, and this is particularly true of kids with ADHD, who are often exposed to endless criticism and complaints about their behavior. Remember to catch them being good. For example, smile and say, "I like the way you're working on your homework" or "you're doing a great job clearing the table." Ask your child to say what they did well during an activity and help them come up with something if he or she cannot. Even though these kinds of positive behaviors may be expected or taken for granted in other children, praising and encouraging your child with ADHD when he or she exhibits positive or expected behavior will likely increase how often they show positive behaviors.

Likewise, consequences for negative behaviors should be fair, appropriate, consistent, predictable, and swiftly implemented and completed. Major events like holidays or the child's birthday should never be completely withdrawn or uncelebrated because of something the child did. Even the most severely acting out child needs to know that the day of their birth is a happy event for his or her parent. If the child impulsively opened presents or angrily broke something before a party, refusing to sing "Happy Birthday" for them is as unproductive as would be buying added gifts. Consequences should ideally be explained in advance and should occur immediately following the negative behavior. Delayed consequences (such as not participating in an event or outing in the following week) are not as effective as immediate consequences. Consequences can include a time-out, removal from the situation or setting, or restriction of privileges. It is very important that the consequence occur after every instance of negative behavior. It's normal to feel angry when it seems as if your child is willfully misbehaving, but try to avoid the tendency to impose overly extreme consequences for minor violations. Small, repeated, consistent, and reasonable consequences have the greatest effect over the long term.


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Parenting a Child with ADHD - Symptoms Question: Describe the symptoms associated with your child's ADHD.
Parenting a Child with ADHD - Strategies Question: Please provide some tips and strategies that have been helpful in parenting a child with ADHD.
Parenting a Child with ADHD - Success Question: In what areas does your child with ADHD excel? How did you help your child find his/her passion?
Parenting a Child with ADHD - Distractions Question: How have you dealt with or eliminated distractions for your child with ADHD?
Parenting a Child with ADHD - Healthy Lifestyle Question: Please discuss how you changed your child's diet or lifestyle to manage symptoms of ADHD.
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