Behavior & Discipline

Tip #2: Be Brief, Don’t Spout Off

Like all moms and dads, parents of kids with ADHD occasionally lose their tempers. The bottom line is that nagging or yelling don’t work; there are better ways to discipline. Find out why speaking calmly and punishing fairly are more effective options.

Mother enthusiastically spoonfeeding misbehaving ADHD son who has his hand over his mouth
Mother enthusiastically spoonfeeding misbehaving ADHD son who has his hand over his mouth

Like all kids, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) sometimes make bad choices regarding their own behavior. Parenting children with ADHD can challenge a mom or dad’s patience and good judgment — to the point that parents make bad decisions disciplining misbehavior. Instead of using firm, compassionate approaches, they move into the ignore-nag-yell-punish cycle.

Take an honest look at how you respond to your child’s ADHD behavior and misbehavior. What specific situations are likely to cause you to go down the wrong path? How far down the path do you typically proceed? How often?

Now that you are aware of your parenting strategies, use the following do-and-don’t tips to learn how to discipline without yelling at your child.

Interrupt, Don’t Ignore

DO: Quickly move people or objects to prevent bad behavior.

If your children start quarreling over a toy, you might say, “Alex, sit over there. Maria, stand here. I’ll take this and put it up here.” Similarly, if your teen with ADHD comes home for supper with dirty hands, immediately take his plate off the table and silently point to his hands.

DON’T: Ignore your child’s misbehavior.

He may read your silence as “I won’t give you my attention or concern” or even “I reject you.” He might also assume that your silence means you approve of what he is doing.

Be Brief, Don’t Chatter

DO: Keep words to a minimum.

Some of the best ADHD parenting advice that can be given is summed up in the following statement: The fewer words you use to discipline your child, the more effective (and heard) they will be. Tell your child once, very clearly, what you expect of him. Then stop talking.

DON’T: Be a chatterbox.

Words are like tires: Each time they rotate against the pavement, they lose tread, and become less efficient at starting, stopping, and steering. Eventually, they will have no “traction” at all — as tires will eventually become bald.

Talk Calmly, Don’t Shout

DO: Keep your anger under control.

Tell yourself that you won’t open your mouth until you’re calm enough to speak at normal volume and in a cordial tone. To calm down, spend a few minutes alone — something as simple as excusing yourself to get a glass of water may do the trick.

DON’T: Bark orders like a drill sergeant.

Yelling shows the child that you, the almighty parent, has lost control. Shouting also opens up the door to your child to return the favor and to yell back.

Punish Fairly, Don’t Overdo It

DO: Impose appropriate punishment.

The punishment should fit the crime. The consequence for spilling milk might be that your child cleans up the mess, and then pours another glass and sets it in a safer place on the table. No reason to blame or yell at her, or even withhold food.

DON’T: Go overboard with the punishment.

In most cases, harsh punishments, like spanking, encourage children with ADHD to become sneaky so as not to get caught next time. They may even cause your child to doubt your love for her — something you want to avoid at all costs.

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