Rewards & Consequences

Be Present, Be Tough: 8 Steps to Better Behavior

Tired of behavior and discipline being a daily struggle? Learn how to help your child with ADHD find better behavior skills with these tips for showing praise, sticking to consequences, and telling instead of asking.

Better Behavior for ADHD Children: A Parent's Guide
Better Behavior for ADHD Children: A Parent's Guide

Is discipline a daily challenge for you and your child with ADHD? Do house rules go ignored? Do warnings make no difference? Follow this expert advice for better behavior from kids with ADHD.

Offer Praise — and Rewards

Praise good behavior immediately and often. While it’s easy to notice and react immediately to negative behavior, parents of children with ADHD should remember to respond just as quickly to good behavior. Positive reinforcement is the best behavioral tool, and it’s especially important to children with attention deficit when it comes from a parent.

Promptly award good behavior. Teachers can reward good behavior by praising the child with ADHD in front of his peers or giving him a special privilege. You can use tokens, such as stars on a chart or coins as rewards too. Once a certain number of tokens are earned, your child earns a predetermined reward like a trip to the movies.

[Why Praise Is So Important for Children with ADHD]

Be Clear

Don’t ask, tell. Don’t start your requests with “Would you mind?”, or finish them with “O.K.?” Instead, give clear and succinct instructions like “Please pick up your coat from the floor.”

If your child doesn’t respond to your first request, try saying it another way. Kids respond differently to requests so saying things in different ways may lead to a better response from your child than simply repeating the request again and again.

Insist on eye contact. When you look at each other eye-to-eye your child can’t ignore you and will listen to what you’re saying. Ask your child to look at you when you explain why a certain behavior is bad or when you are requesting a change in behavior. like waiting patiently or cleaning up a mess.

Be Present, Be Tough

Spend unstructured time together. Just 15 minutes a day with your child lays the groundwork for a strong bond with your child. The closer you are, the easier positive reinforcement of good behaviors will be in the future.

[Free Download: 13 Parenting Strategies for Kids with ADHD]

Let your children know who’s boss. Explain to your child that playing video games and watching TV are privileges you’ve given her, not her right. Child psychologist Douglas Riley says, “Kids need to know that access to the phone, TV, and computer have to be earned by showing positive behavior and a good attitude.”

Use Consequences

Explain consequences for misbehavior ahead of time. Having a clear plan of action before an incident occurs will help guide you when bad behavior happens and won’t surprise your child. These consequences should involve taking away privileges. Really bad behavior like hitting should result in an extended time-out (30 minutes for children over 8, an hour for adolescents).

Stick to the consequences, no matter what. First, discuss the behavior and make sure your child understands why it was wrong.

“A parent has to be 100 percent consistent in addressing bad behavior. Otherwise, the behavior may persist or even get worse,” says psychiatrist Larry Silver, M.D.