Almost everyone knows some child with ADHD–its virtually ubiquitous. And we all know of the many medicines used to help these children focus. I wish to emphasize that drugs are not the beginning and certainly aren’t the end of ADHD management. Rather, behavioral interventions are basic to helping ADHD children succeed. Now, as I often say, kids with ADHD are the same as everybody else only more so. What I mean is that behavior principles that one employs for ADHD are useful for any child and virtually all situations.
The American Academy of Pediatrics stresses 3 basic points to keep in mind:
- Positive communication: give your child your full attention and try to use the same words he uses. This demonstrates that you are listening to him.
- Positive reinforcement. Most important to teach good behavior is to pay attention to and reward behaviors you like and ignore those that you don’t. (Notice no mention of “punishment”–absolutely last resort). Make sure rewards are timed closely to the good behavior. Praise and positive attention (play with your kid!) are usually best.
- Structure. ADHD children don’t like change and don’t do random well. Try to keep to daily routines as much as possible. When deviations are necessary it’s best to try and discuss with your children beforehand to prepare them.
There are a few other suggestions I can offer:
- Adequate rest–everyone is more emotional and distractible when fatigued
- Choices, but not too many. This limits confusion and anxiety. For example, at a restaurant, ask your child “do you want (a) or (b)?” instead of “what do you want?”
- Homework. Avoid multi-tasking. ADHD kids should do homework in a quiet room at a desk/table without TV/videos/music/social media distractions. Frequent short breaks are helpful. If possible, offer assistance (but the kid does his own work, right?)
- Prepare for good behavior–review expectations calmly before the event rather than during when discipline may be deteriorating. Before is the time to say “this is what I want(don’t want).” Identify the positive reinforcement for cooperation (“if you help Dad we can ride bikes together afterwards”). I always encourage parents to add “I know you want to be a good boy.”(I think that simple phrase is often very helpful).
- Reasonable expectations. In academics, no one excels at all subjects. If your child isn’t as good/dislikes math then make sure he is in the right track class, encourage best effort, and accept the results. Life will go on without A’s in every class. Outside of the classroom, avoid placing your child in situations that have historically troubled him. For example, don’t take your kid on a 2 hour food shop with you on a sunny weekend day when he wanted to play with his friends. That’s surely trouble.
I wish to be helpful while keeping things general here. Please come on in when you need and we can discuss specifics. And thanks for following.