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11 Tips for Parenting Kids With ADHD

Coming across articles online for parenting tips, here are some worthy of consideration from Everyday Health:

Children with ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, don’t come with a how-to manual for parents — and it’s too bad considering all of the added responsibility and challenges.

“Parents of children with ADHD have less margin for error in their parenting,” explains Joel T. Nigg, PhD, professor of psychiatry, pediatrics, and behavioral neuroscience at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, the author of What Causes ADHD, and co-author of the study that identified consistency as key in how to parent successfully. “Whereas a parent of a typically developing child has to be pretty consistent in their parenting, a parent of an ADHD child has to be utterly consistent.”

How to Parent: Creating a Discipline Plan

The most important step in parenting a child with ADHD is to create an age-appropriate discipline plan — and then consistently carry it through. Here’s how.

  1. Explain the plan. In age-appropriate words and ways, describe how the discipline plan works and will be implemented.

  2. Take advantage of time-outs. Time-outs are most effective for preschoolers and young school aged children. “The key is to do these effectively,” says Nigg. “Many parents do not use time-outs correctly. It is important that the child not get any interaction or any ‘inputs’ during the time-out.”

  3. Ignore. Minor misbehaviors can simply and effectively be ignored. Be sure to take notice and offer praise when your child stops the unwanted behavior or chooses to do something else.

  4. Focus on learning. Think about each discipline event as a chance for your child to learn. This means it is better to use frequent, short time-outs for frequently repeated misbehaviors instead of one long punishment for general disobedience.

  5. Communicate clearly. Children with ADHD (and possibly all children) do best if they know exactly what you expect. So, says Nigg, instead of a vague instruction like “be good,” opt for a specific instruction such as “pick up your toys.”

  6. Give one warning. If your specific instruction is ignored, give one warning (again, be specific about what you want done and what will happen if it isn’t), wait a minute or so, and then enforce the consequence.

  7. Seek out positive behaviors. Families that include children with ADHD often experience high conflict and can get too focused on the negative behaviors and consequences. “The key is to ‘catch’ your child being good. Start small and work your way up,” says Maria Rogers, clinical psychologist and research fellow at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Build up the positives by starting with simple requests, such as asking your child to hand you something, and give a warm thank you along with an affectionate smile or touch.

  8. Create reward systems. Like your communications, reward systems should be very specific. “Research has shown that a supportive, well thought-out reward-based discipline plan is more effective than punitive consequences,” says Rogers. Make sure it’s clear how many stickers (or stars or tokens) a child can earn for which behaviors and when those rewards can be cashed in. Make behaviors positive and specific — a sticker for putting dirty clothes in the hamper instead of a sticker for not making the room messy. Let younger children cash in rewards daily while older children may be able to save them up for a week or more.

  9. Keep rules simple and targeted. Focus on changing one behavior at a time, says Nigg. Again it’s a good idea to be specific rather than general. You might want to focus on changing one behavior, such as his hitting siblings when frustrated, instead of focusing on an abstraction, like being more in control of his temper. When you have achieved success with the priority behavior, move to another one.

  10. Review progress.

If you have a reward system, it helps to frequently remind children of where they are in their efforts. This gives you more chances to offer praise.

  1. Create fun time. Discipline works best if there is a positive parent-child relationship, notes Nigg. “If the relationship is a ‘war zone,’ you have to re-establish positive time together before the discipline is going to be effective,” he says. Make a “date” with your child to have fun together at least once a week.

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