Skip to content

ADHD in Children Health Center

Disciplining a Child With ADHD

What parents need to know about effective child discipline for children with ADHD.
Font Size

Does Time-out Work? continued...

Stay calm. If you tell your child to go to time-out and he ignores you, add 1 minute to his time-out. If he doesn't go again, add another minute. If he ignores you a third time, don't pick him up and drag him to time-out -- that just escalates things. "Instead, impose a consequence that means a lot, such as no video games for the rest of the day," Allan says. "Deliver that consequence calmly and don't talk about it further. Even if he says, ‘I'll listen, I'll go into time-out now,' don't give in then!"

Practice time-outs. Ask your child to pretend that he misbehaved, and that he is sent to time-out. "'If you go willingly when I tell you to, you earn a point on a behavior chart and earn privileges,'" she says. "Have them practice going to time-out without putting up a fight."


Practice Makes a Little Closer to Perfect

Another discipline strategy for kids with ADHD (or any child) is to teach them the skills they need to succeed before they have a problem.

For example, all kids need some sort of a schedule or guidance to help them keep up with chores, homework, and other expectations. Kids with ADHD, Pastyrnak says, can't be expected to "just get it" from verbal instructions. Instead, they often respond better to a visual schedule that they can follow.

Reward systems work well for kids with ADHD, but they, too, may need to be tweaked slightly. "For example, one expectation might be to play appropriately with his sister," says pediatrician Mark Bertin, MD, author of The Family ADHD Solution: A Scientific Approach to Maximizing Your Child's Attention and Minimizing Parental Stress

"It's probably not realistic to set that expectation for an entire day," Bertin says. "If they mess up in the morning, you've lost the whole day." 

Instead, break the day up into thirds and give points for good behavior in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening.

Adjust Expectations

You can't change everything at once in children with ADHD, Bertin says.

Today on WebMD

doctor writing on clipboard
mother with child
disciplining a boy
daughter with her unhappy parents
preschool age girl sitting at desk
Child with adhd
father helping son with homework
children in sack race