Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – ADHD/ADD may be difficult to parent. They may have trouble understanding important directions. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – ADHD/ADD are usually in a constant state of activity.
This can be a challenge to adults. You may need to change your home life a bit to help your child. Here are some things you can do to help:
Organize your schedule at home. Set up specific times for waking up, eating, playing, doing homework, doing chores, watching TV or playing video games and going to bed. Write the schedule on a backboard or a piece of paper and hang it where your child will always see it. If your child can’t read yet, use drawings or symbols to show the activities of each day. Explain any changes in routine in advance. Make sure your child understands the changes.
Set up house rules. Make the rules of behavior for the family simple, clear and short. Rules should be explained clearly. It’s important to explain what will happen when the rules are obeyed and when they are broken. Write down the rules and results of not following them. Hang this list next to the schedule. The punishment fore breaking rules should be fair, quick and consistent.
Be positive. Tell your child what you want rather than what you don’t want. Reward your child regularly for any good behavior–even little things such as getting dressed and closing doors quietly. Children with ADHD often spend most of their day being told what they are doing wrong. They need to be praised for good behavior.
Make sure your directions are understood. First, get your child’s attention. Look directly into his or her eyes. Then tell your child in a clear, calm voice specifically just what you want. Ask your child to repeat the directions back to you. It’s usually better to keep directions simple and short. For difficult tasks, give only one or two directions at a time. Then congratulate your child when he or she completes each step.
Be consistent. Only promise what you will deliver. Do what you say you are going to do. Repeating directions and requests many times doesn’t work well. When your child breaks the rules, wan only once in a quiet voice. If the warning doe not work, follow through with the punishment that you promised. (Avoid physical punishment. This often makes matters worse).
Make sure someone watches your child all the time. Because they are impulsive, children with ADHD need more adult supervision than other children their age. make sure your child is supervised by adults all day.
Watch your child around his friends. It’s hard for children with ADHD to learn social skills and social rules. Be careful to select playmates for your child with similar language and physical skills. Invite only one or two friends at a time at first. Watch them closely while they play. Reward good play behaviors often. Most of all, don’t allow hitting, pushing and yelling in your house or yard. [Total Focus provides multi-media materials for helping ADHD kids develop social skills].
Help with school activities. School mornings may be difficult for children with ADHD. Get ready the night before–lay out school clothes and get the book bag ready. Allow enough time for your child to get dressed and eat a good breakfast. If your child is really slow in the mornings, it’s important to make enough time to dress and eat.
Set up homework routine. Pick a regular place for doing homework. This place should be away from distractions such as other people, television and video games. Break homework time into small parts and have breaks. For example, give your child a snack after school and then let him play for a few minutes. then start homework time. Stop frequently for short “fun breaks” that allow your child to do something enjoyable. Give your child lots of encouragement, but let your child do the school work.
Focus on effort, not grades. Reward your child when he tries to finish school work, not just for good grades. You can give extra rewards for earning better grades.
Additional pointers for parents of children with ADD and/or learning disabilities:
Parenting skills training …gives parents tools and techniques for managing their child’s behavior. One such technique is the use of token or point systems for immediately rewarding good behavior or work. Another is the use of “time-out” or isolation to a chair or bedroom when the child becomes too unruly or out of control. During time-outs, the child is removed from the agitating situation and sits alone quietly for a short time to calm down. Parents may also be taught to give the child “quality time” each day, in which they share a pleasurable or relaxing activity. During this time together, the parent looks for opportunities to notice and point out what the child does well, and praise his or her strengths and abilities.
This system of rewards and penalties can be an effective way to modify a child’s behavior. The parents (or teacher) identify a few desirable behaviors that they want to encourage in the child—such as asking for a toy instead of grabbing it, or completing a simple task. The child is told exactly what is expected in order to earn the reward. The child receives the reward when he performs the desired behavior and a mild penalty when he doesn’t. A reward can be small, perhaps a token that can be exchanged for special privileges, but it should be something the child wants and is eager to earn. The penalty might be removal of a token or a brief time-out. Make an effort to find your child being good. The goal, over time, is to help children learn to control their own behavior and to choose the more desired behavior. The technique works well with all children, although children with ADHD may need more frequent rewards.
In addition, parents may learn to structure situations in ways that will allow their child to succeed. This may include allowing only one or two playmates at a time, so that their child doesn’t get overstimulated. Or if their child has trouble completing tasks, they may learn to help the child divide a large task into small steps, then praise the child as each step is completed. Regardless of the specific technique parents may use to modify their child’s behavior, some general principles appear to be useful for most children with ADHD. These include providing more frequent and immediate feedback (including rewards and punishment), setting up more structure in advance of potential problem situations, and providing greater supervision and encouragement to children with ADHD in relatively unrewarding or tedious situations.
Children with ADHD need consistent rules that they can understand and follow. If rules are followed, give small rewards. Children with ADHD often receive, and expect, criticism. Look for good behavior and praise it.
Parents may also learn to use stress management methods, such as meditation, relaxation techniques, and exercise, to increase their own tolerance for frustration so that they can respond more calmly to their child’s behavior.
[Above information excerpted from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder a publication of National Institute for Mental Health (2006) NIH Publication No. 3572]