Parenting is tough and if you have a child with ADHD, learning difficulties, or other behavioral challenges, it can be out-and-out exhausting. The good news is it doesn’t have to be! Here are some tips to help you keep the peace at home and set your child up for success.
1. Collaboration not confrontation: So you find your kid playing video games instead of cleaning their room like they said they would.
If you confront them and demand to know why they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to, you’ll only put your child on the defensive. And chances are they probably don’t have an answer or even know why.
Instead, redirect them with a reminder: “Remember, you’re supposed to be cleaning your room right now. Let’s get back to that!” If they resist, ask a “What” or a “How” question: “What do you need to do in order to get this room clean?” or “How can we make this easier?”
2. Get their input: When we see our child struggling, our immediate reaction as parents is to provide what we think is a logical solution.
Can’t remember which homework assignments are due? Write them down in a planner! Problem solved! That is until we discover the planner in our child’s backpack three weeks later, untouched.
What may seem like a perfectly good solution to you, may not be a good fit at all for your child.
Rather than trying to solve the problem yourself, talk to your child about what they think a good solution would be. Brainstorm a list of possibilities, even ones that seem completely outlandish and silly, and let them choose one to try.
When you involve your child in formulating a solution, you’re helping them to develop problem-solving skills and are much more likely to get their buy-in because they feel a sense of ownership and want to make it work.
3. Anticipate meltdowns: If you know your child has a hard time transitioning between activities or is likely to throw a fit in the toy aisle at the store, take proactive measures.
Give multiple “warnings” before transitions- “We’ll be leaving the park in 10 minutes!” and then, “Okay, we’re leaving in 5 minutes! Take one more turn on the slide and then we’ll pick up the sand toys”. Using an actual timer that your child can see and hear may be helpful too.
Talk to your child about what to expect during an outing and how pitfalls might be avoided. “I know you’ll be disappointed when it’s time to go home. What are we going to do to make sure we leave on a good note?”
4. Teach coping skills: Kids have a difficult time navigating strong emotions or stressful situations so teaching them simple coping skills that they can use during tough times will be invaluable, especially as they get older.
Create a chart that is broken down by emotion such as angry, sad, bored, frustrated, etc. Then brainstorm with your child and come up with different coping strategies they can use when they experience different feelings, like “Take a 5-minute break”, “Read a book”, “Ask for help”, “Do 10 jumping jacks”, and so on. Prompt your child to identify their feelings and choose a corresponding strategy from the chart when emotions start to run high.
However, keep in mind that mid-meltdown is NOT the time to start teaching coping skills! Work with your child on practicing their coping skills when they’re calm and receptive.
5. Praise, praise, praise: Kids with ADHD or other behavioral challenges often receive far more negative attention than they do positive. They may be constantly getting into trouble at home and at school and may have social difficulties as well.
That’s why it’s so very important to offer heartfelt praise when you observe them doing well, even if it’s something as small as quietly sitting and reading a book for two minutes, acknowledge it and be specific! “Thank you for sitting so quietly with your book while I was making dinner. Great job!”
Kids desperately want to do well and when they observe themselves succeeding, it lifts their self-confidence and sense of self-efficacy.