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Raising a Child with ADHD

imgresAttention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a developmental disorder of self control. In a child with ADHD, the executive part of the brain that is supposed to be organizing and controlling behavior, helping the child plan for the future and follow through, is doing a poor job. The child is not suffering from a lack of skills or knowledge, so showing him how to correct his problems will not be much of help. Instead try implementing some of the following  principles listed below to help them show what they know in situations that were previously a problem for them.

1) Give your Child Immediate Feedback and Consequences: If you want your child to stay at task, give them positive feedback and consequences that occur throughout the task that will make the task more rewarding , as well as using mild negative consequences for going off task. You must provide quick rewards and feedback for behaving well and negative consequences for behaving inappropriately. Give praises, compliments, affection, rewards or privileges. Whatever type of feedback you give make sure it is immediate. Likewise, the child should receive immediate and mildly negative feedback and consequences for displaying inappropriate behavior.

2) Give More Frequent Feedback: Children with ADHD need frequent feedback and consequences.Immediate consequences or feedback can be helpful even when given occasionally. Instead 0f waiting to praise your child who has  trouble finishing homework, when all homework is done, or punishing the child for not completing his homework after several hours when it should have taken 20 minutes, you can explain to your child that she can earn points for each math problem she finishes with the points adding up to purchasing a privilege. If you forget to praise your child throughout the day, you can place small stickers with smiley faces around the house to remind you to frequently check in with your child and comment on what they are doing that you like.

3) Use Powerful Consequences: Your child with ADHD requires more powerful consequences than other children to encourage him to perform work or to behave well. The nature of your child’s disability dictates that you will likely have to use larger, more significant consequences to develop and maintain your positive behaviors.

4) Use Incentives before Punishment: Frequently remind yourself of the rule: Positives before negatives. When you want to change an undesirable behavior, first decide what positive behavior you want to replace it with. Only after this new behavior has been rewarded consistently for at least a few days to a week should you begin punishing the undesired opposite behavior. Use mild punishment such as loss of a privilege and keep the punishments in balance with the rewards: one punishment for every two or three instances of praise and reward. Punish consistently but selectively, only for the occurrence of this negative behavior.

5) Externalize Time and Bridge Time Where Necessary: Children with ADHD do not have the capacity to sense and use time as children without ADHD do. Therefore they cannot respond to demands that involve timelines and preparations for the future as well as others can. They need external reference to the time period allowed for a task. They tend to live in the moment and therefore are less sensitive to things that are happening around them in the “now.” They are more likely to be guided by time when they are provided with external reminders about time. For tasks that involve much longer time intervals, like book reports, you will need to bridge time- break the assignment into small daily steps so that a little piece of the task is done every day.

6) Externalize Important Information at the Point of Performance: If your child has homework to do at the table, place on the table a card listing important rules and reminders, such as “Stay on task, read directions carefully, don’t space out, and ask for help.” These reminders should be tailored to address the problems that each child has at the point of performance. The more you make important information available at points of performance, the more likely the child will be to remember that information and use it to guide his behavior.

7) Externalize the Source of Motivation at the Point of Performance: The deficit in intrinsic motivation can be overcome to a large extent by giving the child an external motivation such as incentives, rewards, or reinforcer to behave himself-whatever is difficult for the child at that point of performance. This incentive can be an offer to let the child have something he wants when the work is done.

8) Strive for Consistency: Use the same strategies for managing your child’s behavior every time. Apply consistency by: a) being consistent over time, b) being persistent and not giving up too soon, c) responding in the same fashion even when the setting changes, d) making sure that both parents are using the same methods. Try a behavior changing program for at least 1-2 weeks before deciding it isn’t working.

9) Act: Simply talking to your child won’t change the problem that makes her uninhibited. Your child is more sensitive to the consequences and feedback you use and much less sensitive to your reasoning than a child without ADHD.

10) Plan Ahead for Situation: Consider ahead of time how best to deal with problems, develop a plan of action before entering that problem situation, share the plan with your child beforehand, and then follow through on your plan should a problem arise. Try using the following 5 simple steps before entering a problem situation:

  • Stop before entering the site of a problem
  • Review with your child two or three rules that the child often has trouble following in that situation.
  • Set up the reward or incentive
  • Explain the punishment that may have to be used
  • Follow your plan as you enter the situation and remember to give immediate and frequent feedback

11) Keep a Disability Perspective: Keep your cool by trying to maintain some psychological distance from your child’s problems. You may have to remind yourself of your child’s disability each day especially when trying to deal with disruptive behavior.

12) Don’t Personalize your Child’s Problems or Disorder: Stay calm, maintain a sense of humor about the problem and remove yourself from the situation for a moment by going to a different room to regain control over your feelings.  Don’t think that you are a bad parent when a situation goes wrong or does not turn out the way you wanted. Parents fail at managing their children occasionally, and that does not make them bad parents.

13) Practice Forgiveness: Practice letting go of your anger or disappointment. Try meditating in which you sit for a moment, close your eyes, clear your thoughts, and let bad thoughts go out of your mind. Practice forgiveness at the end of the day after your child retires for the night. The child cannot always control what he does and deserves to be forgiven. You should also practice forgiving yourself for your own mistakes in the management of your child that day. Identify which areas you need to improve and make a commitment to strive to get it right the next day.

Image taken from
Raising a Child with ADHD

Helen Nieves

Helen Nieves is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Attention Deficit Consultant Specialist. She teaches ADHD on line and is on the Advisory Board at The American Institute of Health Care Professionals. She also received advanced training in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and in Grief Counseling.

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APA Reference
Nieves, H. (2015). Raising a Child with ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Apr 2015
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