Parenting Tips for ADHD: Dos and Don’ts

Written by Eloise Porter and Brian Krans | Published on December 9, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on December 9, 2014

Parenting Tips for ADHD

Raising a child with ADHD is not like traditional child rearing.  Normal rule making and household routines can become almost impossible, so you will need to adopt different approaches. It can be frustrating and disheartening to cope with constant impulsive behavior from your child. But there are ways to make life easier. 

Parents must accept the fact that children with ADHD have functionally different brains from those of other children. While children with ADHD can still learn what is acceptable and what isn’t, their internal regulation makes them more prone to impulsive behavior.

Fostering the development of a child with ADHD means that you will have to modify your behavior and learn to manage the behavior of your child. Medication may be the first step in your child’s treatment. Behavioral techniques for managing a child’s ADHD symptoms must always be in place.  By following these guidelines, you can limit destructive behavior and help your child overcome self-doubt.

Principles of Behavior Management Therapy

The two basic principles of behavior management therapy are encouraging and rewarding good behavior and negatively reinforcing bad behavior by following it with appropriate consequences. You teach your child to understand that actions have consequences by establishing rules and clear outcomes for following or disobeying these rules. These principles must be followed in every area of a child’s life. That means at home, in the classroom, and in the social arena.

Decide Ahead of Time Which Behaviors Are Acceptable and Which Are Not

The goal of behavioral modification is to help your child consider the consequences of an action and control the impulse to act on it. This requires empathy, patience, affection, energy, and strength on the part of the parent. Parents must first decide which behaviors they will and won’t tolerate. It is crucial to stick to these guidelines.  Punishing a behavior one day and allowing it the next is harmful to a child’s improvement. Some behaviors should always be unacceptable, like physical outbursts, refusal to get up in the morning, or unwillingness to turn off the television when told to do so.

Your child may have a hard time internalizing and enacting your guidelines. Rules should be simple and clear, and children should be rewarded for following them. This can be accomplished using a points system. For example, allow the child to accrue points for good behavior that can be redeemed for spending money, time in front of the TV, or a new video game.  If you have a list of house rules, write them down and put them where they are easy to see. Repetition and positive reinforcement can help your child to better understand your rules.

Define the Rules, But Allow Some Flexibility

It’s important to consistently reward good behaviors and discourage destructive ones, but you can’t be too strict with your child. Remember that children with ADHD don’t adapt to change as well as others. You must learn to allow your child to make mistakes as they learn. Odd behaviors that are not detrimental to your child or anyone else should be accepted as part of your child’s individual personality. It’s ultimately harmful to discourage a child’s quirky behaviors just because you think they are unusual.

Manage Aggression

Aggressive outbursts from children with ADHD are a common problem. “Time-out” is an effective way to calm both you and your overactive child. If your child acts out in public, they should be immediately removed in a calm and decisive manner. “Time-out” should be explained to the child as a period to cool off and think about the negative behavior they have exhibited. Try to ignore mildly disruptive behaviors as a way for your child to release his or her pent up energy.  However, destructive, abusive, or intentionally disruptive behavior should always be punished.

Other “Dos” for Coping with ADHD

Create Structure

Make a routine for your child and stick to it every day. Establish rituals around meals, homework, playtime, and bedtime. Simple daily tasks, such as having your child lay out his or her clothes for the next day, can provide essential structure.

Break Tasks Into Manageable Pieces

Try using a large wall calendar to help remind a child of their duties. Color-coding chores and homework can keep your child from becoming overwhelmed with everyday tasks and school assignments. Even morning routines should be broken down into discreet tasks.

Simplify and Organize Your Child’s Life

Create a special, quiet space for your child to read, do homework, and have time-outs from the chaos of everyday life. Keep your home neat and organized so that your child knows where everything goes. This helps reduce unnecessary distractions.

Limit Distractions

Children with ADHD welcome easily accessible distractions. Television, video games, and the computer encourage impulsive behavior and should be regulated. By decreasing time with electronics and increasing time doing engaging activities outside the home, your child will have an outlet for built-up energy.

Encourage Exercise

Physical activity burns excess energy in healthy ways. It also helps a child focus their attention on specific movements. This may decrease impulsivity. Exercise also improves concentration, decreases depression and anxiety, and stimulates the brain. Many professional athletes have ADHD. Experts believe that athletics can help a child with ADHD find a constructive way to focus their passion, attention, and energy.

Regulate Sleep Patterns 

Bedtime is especially difficult for children suffering from ADHD. Lack of sleep exacerbates inattention, hyperactivity, and recklessness. Helping your child get better sleep is important. To help them get better rest, eliminate stimulants like sugar and caffeine, and decrease television time. Establish a healthy, calming bedtime ritual. 

Encourage Out-Loud Thinking.

Children with ADHD can lack self-control. This causes them to speak and act before thinking. Ask your child to verbalize their thoughts and reasoning when the urge to act out arises. It’s important to understand your child’s thought process in order to help him or her curb impulsive behaviors.

Promote Wait Time

Another way to control the impulse to speak before thinking is to teach your child how to pause a moment before talking or replying. Encourage more thoughtful responses by helping your child with homework assignments and asking interactive questions about a favorite television show or book. 

Believe In Your Child

Your child likely doesn’t realize the stress they can cause. It’s important to remain positive and encouraging. Praise your child’s good behavior so that they know when something was done right. Your child may struggle with ADHD now, but it won’t last forever. Have confidence in your child and be positive about their future.

Find Individualized Counseling

You can’t do it all. Your child needs your encouragement, but they also need professional help. Find a therapist to coach your child and provide another outlet for them. Don’t be afraid to seek assistance if you need it. Many parents are so focused on their children that they neglect their own mental needs. A therapist can help manage your stress and anxiety as well as your child’s.

Take Breaks

You can’t be supportive 100 percent of the time. It’s normal to become overwhelmed or frustrated with yourself or your child. Just as your child will need to take breaks while studying, you’ll need your own breaks as well. Scheduling alone time is important for any parent. Good break options include:

  • hire a babysitter
  • go for a walk
  • go to the gym
  • take a relaxing bath

Calm Yourself

You can’t help an impulsive child if you yourself are aggravated. Children mimic the behaviors they see around them, so if you remain composed and controlled during an outburst it will help your child to do the same. Take time to breathe, relax, and collect your thoughts before attempting to pacify your child. The calmer you are, the calmer your child will become. 

“Don’ts” for Dealing With an ADHD Child

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Be willing to make some compromises with your child. If your child has accomplished two of the three chores you assigned, don’t worry about the third, uncompleted task. It’s a learning process and even small steps count.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed and Lash Out

Remember that your child’s behavior is caused by a disorder. ADHD may not be visible on the outside, but it’s a disability and should be treated as such. When you begin to feel angry or frustrated, remember that your child can’t “snap out of it” or “just be normal.”

Don’t Be Negative

It sounds simplistic, but take things one day at a time and remember to keep it all in perspective. What is stressful or embarrassing today will fade away tomorrow.

Don’t Let Your Child Or the Disorder Take Control

Remember that you are the parent and, ultimately, you establish the rules for acceptable behavior in your home. Be patient and nurturing, but don’t allow yourself to be bullied or intimidated by your child. 

Thank you.

Your message has been sent.

We're sorry, an error occurred.

We are unable to collect your feedback at this time. However, your feedback is important to us. Please try again later.


Show Sources

Recommended for You

The Best ADHD iPhone & Android Apps of the Year
The Best ADHD iPhone & Android Apps of the Year
If you're dealing with ADHD, there's help right on your smartphone. These 14 apps have everything from reminders and to-do lists, to concentration techniques.
The Best ADHD Health Blogs of the Year
The Best ADHD Health Blogs of the Year
Managing ADHD or parenting a child with the condition can be overwhelming, confusing, and challenging. Thankfully, these 12 blogs help show readers the way.
ADHD Treatment: Is Clonidine Effective?
ADHD Treatment: Is Clonidine Effective?
Clonidine is traditionally used to treat high blood pressure, but it may effectively help reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity in some people with ADHD.
Best ADHD Videos of 2013
Best ADHD Videos of 2013
Use these top 10 ADHD videos of 2013 starring comedians, penguin, and cheetahs to learn more about the disorder and how you can get help.
How Does Caffeine Affect ADHD?
How Does Caffeine Affect ADHD?
Caffeine can disrupt sleep and reduce blood flow to the brain in most people. However, it has a different effect on people with ADHD. Find out what it does.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement