Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) is a well-recognised disorder that is characterised by a range of inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms.
Strong emotional reactions, impulsive behaviour, and short attention span are common characteristics of children with ADHD – which often result in challenging behaviours.
Avoid labelling your ADHD child “naughty” because their challenging behaviours are rarely deliberate. Generally, they are not even aware of their behaviours and how they affect others.
There are no quick-fixes or cures for AD/HD, however, there are many behaviour-management techniques and strategies that are effective to help manage difficult behaviours at home (and school!).
Keep reading for some ideas!
- Be firm, fair, and consistent!
- Start with establishing a few specific rules, expectations and consequences for their behaviours.
- Consequences need to be logical, reasonable, and fair, and you need to enforce them with consistency.
- Follow through! Kids are great at identifying their parent’s soft spots and learn very quickly how to get their own way. As long as you are being fair, back up what you say, and follow through.
- When talking to your child, go down to their level, make eye-contact, and calmly explain their actions and consequences to their actions.
- Come up with a private signal to remind your child to settle down. For example, you can use your hand as if it were a stop sign to cue your child to stop, breath, and think.
- Ask questions to explore their feelings and to explicitly teach them empathy. For example: “how would you feel if…?” or “do you remember when…?”.
- Teach your child to not interrupt. At times when you don’t want to be interrupted (e.g. when your friend comes to visit or when you are on the phone) set your child up with a task, game or activity. When this goes for an extended period of time, take breaks and praise your child for not interrupting, and also praise them when you are done. You can implement a reward system to increase their motivation to not interrupt you.
Managing Attention Problems
- Teach your child how to increase on-task behaviour: Establish a habit of working in short uninterrupted blocks of time to help maintain attention and focus. Use a visual timer so your child can monitor their time. Start with short periods of time (e.g. 15-20 minutes followed by a five minute break) and expand as appropriate.
- Teach your child to use positive self-talk to get on track and to stay on-task. For example: “It’s too noisy here and I’m not concentrating, I need to find a quieter place.” and “When I’m finished with this, I can play on my Ipad.”
- Use visual reminders for tasks they need to complete. For example: morning and night-time routines, steps for preparing their lunch and packing their schoolbag, house chores (steps for running and unloading the dishwasher).
- Teach your child how to set personal goals that are challenging but achievable. This is very important to increase motivation and sense of responsibility – which will make your child feel successful. Write your child’s goals down so they have a visual reminder of their short, medium and long-term goals.
- Children with ADHD often have excessive energy. Allow your child to release energy in an appropriate manner.
- Team sports are great for children who also need help with social skills. Soccer, basketball, and netball are great team sports for ADHD kids as they don’t require waiting for long periods for a chance to move and participate.
- Individual sports, such as martial arts, swimming, tennis, and dance, are great to release extra energy and improve concentration.
Things to Remember
- Stay calm – control your voice and body language when talking to your child.
- If you are angry or upset, do not deal with the situation on the spot. Wait until you are calm and can communicate with your child better. And do the same for your child – if they are angry or upset, they will be less receptive to what you have to say and will probably make the situation worse. Wait until your child is calm to talk about their behaviour.
- Remind yourself that they are not deliberately trying to upset you – do not take their difficult behaviours personally.
- The golden tip for ADHD parenting: catch your child being good! When you reward and provide attention to positive behaviours, these are more likely to increase and occur more frequently.
- Listen to your child and take interest in their life. Giving your child your undivided attention for 10 minutes every day can really give you an insight into how your child is feeling. You can ask questions about school, their friends, or about their interests.
- Get informed – read as much as possible about ADHD so you can better understand why your child behaves the way they do and what strategies work best for ADHD kids.
I hope these tips are helpful for your family.
If you would like any further help with managing your child’s AD/HD symptoms please contact us to book an initial 30 minute consultation for parents. If you are in Melbourne we can offer child counselling and parent coaching sessions at our lovely office by the beach in Port Melbourne. If you live elsewhere, we can still offer parent coaching sessions by Skype.