Published on ADDitudeMag.com
ADHD Parenting Strategies That Work!
How to be a great parent to your ADHD child.
by Deborah Carpenter
Going from Good to Great
Most parents are good parents. But
if your son or daughter has ADHD, "good" may not be enough. To ensure
that your child is happy and well-adjusted now and in the future—and to create
a tranquil home environment—you've got to be a great parent.
Fortunately, it's easier than you'd imagine to go from good to great. All it takes is a few adjustments
in your parenting skills and the way you interact with your child. Here's what
works, and why.
Believe in Your Child's Future
It's not easy to accept that there's
something not quite "normal" about your child. But a child who senses
his parents' resentment—and their pessimism about his prospects—is unlikely to
develop the self-esteem and can-do spirit he'll need in order to become a
Treat your kid as if he were already the person you would
like him to be. That will help him become that person.
Be a Good Role Model
Parents are a child's most influential role model, so think carefully about
your own behavior. If you're unable to control yourself, how can you expect your
child to exercise self-control?
It's perfectly normal to feel angry at your child from time to time. It's not
OK to continually shout at her. You wouldn't dream of screaming and swearing at
friends or coworkers, so you know you can control your anger if you must.
Don't Be Too Quick to Say No
All children need to be told "no" at certain times—to keep them
from doing something dangerous. But many parents say
"no" reflexively. And a kid who hears "no" a lot is apt to
rebel—especially if she's impulsive to begin with.
Smart parents know when to say "no," and when it makes more sense to take a deep breath and answer in the affirmative—and avoid a nasty confrontation.
Pay Attention to Positive Behavior
Many parents overlook all the
positive ways in which their child behaves. The resulting negativity can cast a
pall over the household that affects every aspect of life.
"Catch your child being good or doing something well, and praise her," says Sal Severe, Ph.D. "By praising desirable behaviors, you teach her what you want—not what you don't want."
Anticipate Potentially Explosive Situations
"Parents spend a lot of time in reactive mode instead of thinking and planning ahead," explains George DuPaul, Ph.D. A simple plan, he says, is all
it takes to keep a positive experience from turning negative for all concerned.
Whatever you do, be consistent. A last-minute change in schedule or an interruption
of a familiar routine can wreak havoc with a child who already feels like he
spends most of his time off-balance.
Don't Buy Into the Negative Remarks
It's no fun to hear others
describe your child as "slow" or unmotivated. But don't let negative
remarks deter you from advocating for his
educational needs. After all, kids with ADD can succeed if they get the help
"While it's true that your
child's mind works differently, he certainly has the ability to learn and
succeed just like any other kid," says Dr. DuPaul.
Discipline, Don't Punish
How often have you complained to
friends, "I've yelled, lectured,
threatened, given time-outs, and even spanked—and nothing works!" Do you see the problem with this
approach? Any child exposed to such a variety of "sticks"
would be confused.
Instead of punishing every infraction, stick to a consistent behavior modification program: Define attainable goals and reward each achievement until the behavior becomes routine.
Never Punish for Unintentional Misdeeds
Imagine telling your child to make his bed. Now imagine finding him,
minutes later, lying on his unmade bed playing cards. What should you do?
The best approach might be to remind
your child what you want him to do. Punishment makes sense if it's
clear that your child is being defiant—if he refuses
to make the bed. But, in many cases an ADHDer fails to comply simply because he became distracted.
Don't Label Your Child
Kids who repeatedly hear bad things about themselves come to believe these things. No matter how frustrating your child's behavior, never call him "lazy," or anything else that might be hurtful.
Bear in mind that some of the problem behaviors you ascribe to ADHD may be common to all children of that age. It's helpful to read up on the stages of childhood development—especially if your ADHD child happens to be your first-born.
Make Your Child—Not Meds—Responsible
There's no doubt that, for many
children with ADD, the right meds make a huge difference in behavior.
But by no means are meds the only thing that makes a difference, and
talking about it as if it were will leave the child feeling that good behavior
has little to do with her own efforts. When you catch your child doing
something you've repeatedly asked her not to do, fight the urge to ask,
"Did you forget to take your medication this morning?"
Enlist Your Child in Problem-Solving
"When you team up with your child to address negative behaviors, you create a supportive, loving climate at home," says Carol Brady, Ph.D.
Next time your kid's room is a mess, tell her, "We have a problem, and I need your help to solve it." Say that it's hard for you to tuck her in at night because you might trip over the toys on her floor, and ask for her input. The more involved your child is in the solution, the better the outcome.
Stop Blaming Others
Are you the kind of parent who finds fault with everyone except
your child? Do you say things like "If only the teacher were better, my son wouldn't have so much trouble in school"?
Other people can contribute to your child's problems. But trying to
pin the blame exclusively on others encourages your child to take the easy way
out. Why should she take personal responsibility for her actions if she can
blame someone else?
Don't Try to Do It Alone
Some things in life simply cannot be done well alone, and raising an ADD
child is one of them. "If you take the Clint Eastwood approach, you'll
wind up exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically," says Ken Brown-Gratchev, Ph.D. "Build a NASA-worthy support system. That way, when your
own 'system' overloads or fails, as it inevitably will from time to time,
there's someone to put you back together again."
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