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Parenting The Child With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Posted Nov 17 2008 9:04pm

Children with AD/HD present a problem to their parents. Because they are energetic, loving; at times impossible and excitable, many parenting techniques simply do not work. Effective parenting involves patience, time, effort, and inter-parental cooperation. The following represent some concrete ideas and suggestions:

  • Be Positive - It is easy to notice the negative behavior of a child with AD/HD because there is so much of it. Noticing and reinforcing positive behavior is critical. There is a tendency to leave the child alone when she or he is being “good.” To the contrary, this is the time to say or do something that will make the positive behavior more probable.
  • Use Praise - Learning a variety of ways to say “good job” and “thanks” can do wonders for the child with AD/HD. This is a major means that you can use to reinforce positive behavior.
  • Be Specific, Concrete and Immediate- Children with AD/HD do not do well with generalities or with feedback that is delayed. Their rapid pace, hyperactivity, and distractibility make swift parental response critical. Break things into manageable elements. For example, when giving tasks, be specific and to the point. Telling a child with this disorder to clean his or her room is useless. On the other hand telling them to pick up dirty clothes and put them in the hamper or pick up all of the GI Joes and put them in a box will bring good results. Do not use complex, long-winded verbal communication. Children with AD/HD do not tolerate complexity and may hear a portion of what is being said. They may only hear the first command of a series. Often, they may need to have things repeated or be asked to say what they have heard in order to accomplish a task. Reinforce or punish now, not later. Because of memory problems and a tendency to operate in the here and now and not in the future, parental responses need to be immediate.
  • Discipline Must be Positive, If Possible, and Not Negative - Children with AD/HD often do much better by hearing positive rather than getting into a vicious negative feedback cycle, negative behavior escalating parental negatives. Some concrete techniques to facilitate this are: Give choices and options. Children with AD/HD often create power struggles and do not do well in confrontations, “options” are more useful than “musts.” For example, “Do you want to do your homework now or in 30 minutes?” Use charts. Things written down in specifics will be useful because they are visual and concrete. They can be helpful to remind children what they have to do and when. Use reward systems. Children with AD/HD are more ruled by immediate gratification than by mature deliberation or by long term consequences. Using rewards for behavior with concrete payoff can be incredibly useful.
  • Structure is Important As Is Attention to Time and Sequence - Children with AD/HD do not do well with unpredictability, change and a lack of consistency. Specific times for homework for completing tasks, chores, and other requirements are useful. If charts are used, they can dictate components of tasks in a sequential fashion.
  • Parents Must Take Time to Nurture Each Other and Take Time Out - Due to the stress of raising a child who is hyperactive and distractible, parents must take time away and not be locked into their child’s world. Going out and/or taking long weekends together can be very fruitful.

Resources: LDA Homepage

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