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ADHD in Children Health Center

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6 Parenting Tips for Raising Kids With ADHD

What to do, and not to do, if your child has ADHD.

4. Enforce rules and consequences calmly.

For a child with ADHD, it helps to have verbal and written expectations. For example, parents could post a chart that lists the child’s responsibilities and the house rules.

Rewards are fine, Meyer says, but make them immediate, such as TV time or gold stars that can be redeemed for prizes. Since children with ADHD have trouble with planning for the future, it may not work to offer a new bike for a year’s worth of good grades.

Parents must be clear about consequences and enforce them right away, calmly and clearly. While parents may often feel frustrated, avoid punishing in the heat of disappointment or anger, Meyer says.

That can be hard when a parent has ADHD, too, Quinn says. The disorder can run in families.

Parents with ADHD might yell because they have trouble with impulsivity, according to Quinn. “We really do try to help the parent remain in control in these situations," she says. "Often, I say that the child doesn’t need a time out -- sometimes the parent needs a time-out before they discuss the situation.” 

Parents need to get their own ADHD under control so that they can model appropriate behavior, Quinn says.

5. Help your child discover his strengths.

Children with ADHD are often compared unfavorably to others. Hence, some develop low self-esteem and depression, Meyer says.

Problems with self-esteem occur as early as age 8, says Quinn. Many teens with ADHD, especially if undiagnosed, develop a learned helplessness. “They say, ‘Nothing ever goes right for me. Why should I even bother to try?’ There’s a lot of demoralization and depression that goes along with it," Quinn says.

Meyer wanted his son to discover his own best abilities -- “islands of competency,” he says. “I would say to him, ‘Look, you have weak spots and you have strong spots.”

When his son found subjects dull, “He couldn’t care about it, period,” Meyer says.

“But when he was interested in something, he would master things five years above his age [level],” he says. For example, his son knew how to wire electrical outlets and replace computer parts well ahead of peers. “That stuff stuck with him and he knew that was one of his islands of competency. So he had things to look at other than negative things.”

Meyer would offer a favorable comparison: he told his son that few people his age could master such tasks. “High expectations in the proper areas, I think, is very important,” he says.

6. Don't overprotect your child.

As children with ADHD grow, they’ll need to learn independence.

“We tend to try to solve everything for kids with issues,” Meyer says. “I’m adamantly against that. I want them to learn how to be on their own, to be successful. I don’t want them to feel, ‘I have a disability and Mommy and Daddy are going to be there to solve all my problems, to make everything good.’"

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