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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Disciplining a Child With ADHD

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

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, and the attention, even negative attention, may unintentionally reinforce the behavior. "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!" Another widely used approach is to have a visual prompt such as a timer to signal the beginning and end of a time out. If your child won’t cooperate, remind him that the time-out cannot start until he is quietly in his time-out spot.

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. They also do better with very specific instructions. Instead of telling kids to, “clean their room,” give them a set of specific guidelines, such as "all clothes off the floor," and "all books on the bookshelves. "That way, kids have a clear understanding of exactly what is expected of them.

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 .

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