There are many challenges associated with ADHD, and often parents and children alike become frustrated and overwhelmed by addressing those challenges. Children with ADHD impact their siblings and parents unintentionally, but parents have the power to help their children focus their energy in positive ways and control and reduce their symptoms. Here are a few “outside the box” tips for doing so:
Be positive. Addressing behaviors and challenges associated with ADHD is taxing for parents. It can be hard to have a positive attitude, but parents need to be the model for their children’s emotional and physical health. A positive attitude helps parents remain calm when addressing their child’s behavior and often helps to keep the child calm and focus more quickly. By remembering that your child’s behavior is a result of his disorder, you will be able to avoid blowing things out of proportion. It also helps to have realistic and reasonable expectations for your child.
Be Your Child’s Champion. Sometimes, it seems that the only one in your child’s corner is you. When you are struggling, focus on your child’s strengths and successes. Some parents have found that writing a list of everything that is positive and unique about their children helps them to remain positive and have faith that they will learn, mature, and grow to become happy, successful adults. The trick is to find the right balance between acknowledging your child’s special needs and resisting defining him by them.
Parents might also consider enlisting the help of a four-legged friend. Dogs are proving to be great companions for children with ADHD, who often feel isolated and lonely. In addition to giving a mental health boost, dogs (and other pets) offer parents another way to provide their children with more unconditional love, which can be very beneficial to them after a tough day at school.
Distinguish Between Discipline and Punishment. Parents often try to find the perfect solution to correcting their ADHD child’s misbehaviors and wind up using too many methods rather than being consistent. Dr. Sal Severe, author of How to Behave So Your Preschooler Will Too!, explains that discipline is the better choice because it teaches children how to behave. Discipline includes explanations of inappropriate behaviors and redirects kids to appropriate behaviors while including positive reinforcement each time the child makes a better behavior choice. Alternatively, punishment forces better behavior through fear and shame and should be used as a last resort without ever including physical or verbal abuse.
Use the Power of Positive Attention. Children with ADHD crave positive attention, according to Dr. Robert Myers. Parents tend to nag children and criticize inappropriate behaviors, which gives attention to the child and ultimately rewards the inappropriate behaviors. Instead, parents should praise appropriate behavior and ignore inappropriate behavior as much as possible. Dr. Myers recommends, for example, that parents ignore a wiggling, silly child during homework time and say, “Let’s see how fast we can get this work done,” and then follow the more calm behavior with, “Wow, you are really working hard and look, we’re almost done now.”
Parents can also reduce the opportunity for inappropriate behavior by establishing routines. For example, have your child wake up, brush their teeth, eat breakfast, etc., at the same time and in the same order each morning. This can help reduce their opportunity for acting out and will help ensure that they start each day on a good note.
Consider Each Discipline Event a Learning Opportunity. Approach each discipline event as a learning opportunity for your child. This means that parents of children with ADHD should opt out of one long punishment for run-of-the-mill inappropriate behavior and utilize short, frequent time-outs for frequently repeated misbehavior.
Time-outs are most effective for younger children and need to be used correctly by parents in order for them to be beneficial. This means that parents do not interact with their child while he is in time-out, including not giving any input during the time-out. Once the child is calm, parents continue with the discipline by explaining the inappropriate behavior and redirecting the behavior in a positive way.
There are many pieces of advice for parents of kids with ADHD, but sometimes it’s better to think “outside the box” and approach it with a whole new attitude and set of goals.
Vee Cecil is passionate about overall wellbeing for humans and animals alike. She is a wellness coach and personal trainer, and recently launched a blog, where she shares her favorite health tips, tricks and recipes.