Managing problematic behaviors can present frequent frustrations and challenges when parenting an ADHD child. Basic discipline techniques and tips on behavior management that may work with most children can be woefully ineffective or counterproductive when used with an ADHD child.
You can’t expect that one-size-fits-most parenting advice will be remotely useful with an atypical kid who has ADHD. But that doesn’t mean that must tolerate truly poor behavior. Your ADHD kid’s behavior can still be managed. Read on for great tips on how to discipline an ADHD child.
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Why Managing ADHD Behavior Has More Challenges
One of the key ADHD facts that parents should know is that managing an ADHD child’s behavior can be more challenging because of certain traits that are part and parcel of the ADHD condition. In many instances, your child’s misbehavior has little or no relationship to an intent or desire to be naughty. This is not an excuse for misbehavior. But, in understanding the different forces at work, it can help us as parents be less emotional and/or more intentional in responding to and managing that misbehavior.
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ADHD kids frequently have a stronger propensity for tantrums and defiance, as well as a low threshold for tolerating frustrations. These traits combined with impulsivity can quickly lead to poor behavior.
The following articles help shine a spotlight on potential reasons for your child’s misbehavior other than willful disobedience. (You should also consider whether unaddressed sensory issues could be contributing to your child’s tantrums.)
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ADHD and Behavior Problems from childmind.org provides greater insight into why ADHD kids act out, throw tantrums and have poor self-regulation. And how a history of negative interactions with parents, teachers and caregivers can make ADHD kids less responsive to traditional disciplinary strategies.
Find out why things that we may do naturally as parents that would otherwise work with most children can fail miserably when it comes to ADHD kids.
And, learn about different types of programs that train parents in more effective ways to deal with atypical behavioral issues that you may often find with ADHD. Such training programs can help parents learn how to discipline an ADHD child with strategies tailored to their family’s specific situation.
Connecting Behavior and Consequences for Kids With ADHD
Learn the reasons why you may often find a disconnect between behavior and consequences for ADHD kids. Impulsivity may prevent your child from connecting information about past experiences with the present moment. In other words, impulsivity restricts the ability to learn from past mistakes.
Also, issues with working memory can interfere with the ability to project how present events will impact the future. This post provides some advice on how to discipline an ADHD child by bridging that gap.
Don’t Do These: Common Strategies That Can Be Counterproductive With ADHD Kids
(1) Sending child to his or her room.
Sometimes parents will send a child to his or her room as part of a timeout or other discipline strategy. But this can backfire with ADHD kids in different ways.
Some ADHD kids are particularly sensitive to feelings of rejection. Banishment to a bedroom can exacerbate underlying feelings of isolation and rejection.
Alternatively, for children who are easily distractible, a room filled with toys and other personal items can quickly turn into a treat rather than a time for reflection.
(2) Providing explanations for rule enforcement.
According to The Successful Parent, when you are enforcing a rule or delivering a consequence is not the time for explaining or defending your rule or your actions. Those types of discussions should take place when you are establishing the rules. Or, at some other neutral time such as a family meeting.
The habit of trying to provide reasonable explanations in the moment can invite debate or argument that is counterproductive to managing behavior effectively.
(3) Routinely using timeouts.
According to child psychologist Dr. Robert Myers, the routine use of timeouts can be inappropriate when trying to manage ADHD behavior. Rather, timeouts should be reserved for serious infractions and adjusted to account for your child’s developmental level rather than his chronological age. He recommends subtracting three minutes from the standard one minute per year of age rule.
Basic Principles For Managing A Child’s Behavior.
Regardless of what label you apply to a particular parenting strategy or philosophy, the ultimate goals remain the same when learning how to discipline an ADHD child. We want to elicit positive, compliant or otherwise good behavior. And, we want to discourage, minimize or eliminate bad behaviors.
These two articles provide a great basic overview or refresher on how parents can use natural consequences and logical consequences to positively shape their children’s behavior.
Note that the latter article provides a great overview of how a system of natural and logical consequences can work in most typical situations. But, not all of the 13 specific suggestions for consequences would necessarily be effective for ADHD kids.
While these basic principles provide a good starting place for creating your own disciplinary strategies, when learning how to discipline an ADHD child, you need to dive a little deeper.
How To Discipline An ADHD Child: Adapt The Basic Principles.
Find out why ignoring bad behavior can be counterproductive. Learn some alternative strategies to use instead. Including suggestions for adopting a practical approach to consequences that focuses less on punishment and more on remediation.
Because ADHD kids often require a slightly different approach to discipline, this post recommends some simple changes to your parenting strategies that will help your child develop the tools to manage his own behavior more effectively.
This article provides an overview of effective behavioral management for ADHD kids and identifies 12 “Do’s” for parents when disciplining an ADHD child. And, the article provides 4 “Don’ts” as well.
One “Don’t” that warrants particular highlighting: Don’t forget that your child’s behavior is caused by an actual disorder that interferes with her abilities. Try to remember that an ADHD kid can’t “snap out of it” or “just be normal.”
How To Discipline An ADHD Child When Consequences Don’t Work
Sometimes you may implement a program based on consequences and find that it simply doesn’t work despite your best efforts. So what should you do?
Review this collection of tips to discover why your system of consequences may not be working, and learn steps you can take to try to improve the situation.
Try A Problem Solving Approach.
If you have been implementing a discipline approach based on consequences, try using a “problem solving” approach.
When you have recurring problems that are not remedied by consequences, try a different approach. Remember the old saying, insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly yet expecting different results.
Re-evaluate Your Specific Consequences.
Try to figure out whether there is a specific reason that your rational consequences are not working. For instance, are the consequences being doled out such harsh ones that they lose any connection to the behavior you are trying to influence? Or, perhaps your child’s emotions are too hot in the moment to fully process the situation.
Find more insights into troubleshooting your consequences in When Kids Don’t Care About Their Consequences.
More insights into determining whether your consequences are effective can be found in What to Do When Your Child Doesn’t Care About Consequences.
This article provides four broad tips on evaluating the effectiveness of your consequences. But the discussion about proper time frames is particularly insightful.
This provides guidance both on making sure that there is a temporal fit between the objectionable behavior and the consequences received. And, on the actual time frame used for the consequence itself. Find out why using time frames that are either too short or too long can be counterproductive.
What If Your Child Just Doesn’t Seem To Care?
Should it even matter that your kid doesn’t seem to care about the consequences? This articles shows us why that may actually be an irrelevant question. And, find out why you should “Focus on what you want your child to learn from the consequence—not whether or not he’s going to care.”
These tips and insights are particularly relevant to parents dealing with tweens and teens. And, it sets out 10 specific ways to make consequences effective even for resistant kids.
If your child couldn’t care less about the chain of horrors that will flow from present misbehavior, perhaps it’s time to flip the script.
Checkout these tips from ADHD Impulsivity — and Its Consequences. Start highlighting the bounty of benefits that can flow from cheerful compliance.
Some Closing Thoughts On Learning How To Discipline An ADHD Child:
A final piece of advice. Focus on your child and your relationship with your child and try to filter out the uninformed judgments of other adults. It can be tough interacting with other parents who are not similarly situated to your family, but have their own strong opinions about proper parenting. No doubt about it. It can be uncomfortable and awkward. But try really hard to develop a thick skin when it comes to outsiders. Even when those outsiders are close family or friends.
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