Positive Parenting

Tips from the ADHD Coach

Take a page from an expert’s academic playbook to help your student thrive.

Kinesthetic learners benefit from hands-on experience, lik this child drawing on the sidewalk with chalk
Kinesthetic learners benefit from hands-on experience, lik this child drawing on the sidewalk with chalk

I have coached a lot of kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to be successful in school. Parents often ask how I am able to help their children learn skills and strategies when they can’t. The biggest difference is that I step back and guide my clients in a supportive, nonjudgmental way. This is not easy for a parent to do, nor is it always easy for me. Here are some tips from my coaching playbook that parents can use to help their kids succeed at school.

Learning Styles of Children with ADHD

Most parents use their own learning style when communicating with their children. Adapt to your child’s learning style when making a request, helping with homework, or trying to get his attention. It will make a big difference.

Visual learners learn best through written instructions, and they think best on paper. They need to see you when you are communicating, so always aim for face-to-face interaction.

Auditory learners prefer verbal instructions. Review homework aloud with your child. Ask him to repeat the instructions and homework plan.

Kinesthetic learners benefit from hands-on experiences. This type of learner can maintain attention better while seated on a rolling office chair or on an exercise balance ball than on a stationary wooden chair.

Ask Your Child Open-Ended Questions

Pose questions that show your child that you do not have an agenda, and that you are interested in hearing what he wants to share. Be curious and nonjudgmental. Here are some open-ended questions to ask. I use them with my clients every day, and the results are excellent!

What was the best part of your day?

When do you expect to start your homework?

What seems to be the problem?

How can I help you in your effort?

Avoid Asking “Why” Questions

“Why” questions put your child on guard, making him less willing to share information. These types of questions can also lead to arguments. Instead of asking, “Why didn’t you turn in your homework?” try, “What will help you turn in your homework on time?”

Routines for Children with ADHD

Transitions are difficult for children with ADHD, whether going from playing on the computer to doing homework or from the weekend to Monday morning. Create a list of activities and routines with your child. What needs to be done in the morning? In the evening? And in what order? For example:

7 p.m. Complete homework.

7:30 p.m. Get backpack ready and place by the door.

7:30-8:30 p.m. Play on computer.

8:30 p.m. Get ready for bed.

9 p.m. Bedtime.

To keep your child’s busy weeks in focus, use a family schedule or calendar that shows all appointments, sports practices, vacations, school projects, and birthdays/holidays for the month.

Accountability Plan for Children with ADHD

Explain to your child that “accountability” is a way to help him stay on track. Be supportive without judging, blaming, or scolding him. Your child can check in daily to give you an account of what he agreed to do.

  • Sit down with your child and make a list of daily and weekly action steps he’ll take to reach specific goals.
  • Always be reasonable and set goals that are attainable and clear.
  • Help your child stick with the plan and reach his target goals.
  • Start with small, specific goals, such as, “I will complete my homework by 7 o’clock on weeknights” or “I will review my school planner with Mom or Dad every day at 5 p.m.”
  • Provide reasonable rewards for progress.
  • Each week, get together and review the results: what worked, and what didn’t? What could he do differently next time? How might you help out?

Organizing Tips for ADHD Families

Most ADHD children learn by example and repetition. Share organizational strategies and hints that have helped you. Talk about, and demonstrate, how you get your own stuff organized at home or at work. Encourage ideas from her. Don’t force your child to organize your way. Not all systems work for every individual.

(If you are struggling with organizational problems, ask for help. Maybe you have a “super organized” friend or family member.)

Positive Reinforcement

There is always something positive to say to your children — even on tough days. Acknowledge their accomplishments, large and small, encouraging them to keep up the effort. My students look forward to my ADHD coaching sessions for the pat on the back and the positive reinforcement they receive. For example, I’ll say, “Wow! You finished half of your math problems! Great progress.” Or, “Did you notice how focused you were during practice today? I know that takes a lot of effort!” Remember: Goals are reached in steps/stages, and each step deserves recognition.

Parents: Remember to Breathe

Have you noticed that your stress level decreases when you take a deep breath? How about two or three? Repeat until you feel your shoulders coming down from your ears and you can focus on your child and his needs. Do some deep breathing before getting involved in homework or those last-minute projects. Ask your child to take a few deep breaths, too.