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How to Handle Behavior Problems in Kids With ADHD

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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Patricia Quinn, MD

You may not be in the classroom when your child acts up or tunes out, but you can still help. A good relationship with your child's teacher, along with planning and practice at home, can turn around behavior problems at school. Your kid will be a lot happier, and so will you and their teacher.

Team Up With Your Child's Teacher

If your child has behavior problems at school, your best ally is their teacher, says Stephen Brock, PhD. He is the school psychology program coordinator at California State University, Sacramento, and author of Identifying, Assessing, and Treating ADHD at School. While school psychologists and other experts may be able to help, too, the teacher will have the most contact with your child. Do everything you can to make that relationship work.

Keep your cool. Parents of kids with ADHD dread that phone call from the teacher about bad behavior. You may feel embarrassed and upset and react defensively. But the teacher isn't criticizing you, says Richard Lougy, LMFT, a school psychologist in Sacramento and co-author of The School Counselor's Guide to ADHD. They're just trying to help.

Be respectful. Remember that your child's teacher has a lot of other responsibilities, says Brock. Stress that you're there to help, not make their life harder with lots of demands. Keep the focus on helping your child, not on what you think the teacher may be doing wrong.

Ask what you can do. Find out what the problem behaviors are and how you can support the school's rules. Consider what changes you can make at home that will match the rules at school, such as a more formal routine, or a new reward system for good behavior.

Stay in touch. Whether it's by email, phone, or in person, keep in regular contact with your child's teacher. See if you can get a daily or weekly report on how things are going.

Find out about resources. Most public schools have support teams for kids with ADHD, says Brock. The team might include school psychologists, guidance counselors, or other experts. Ask the teacher if you can all meet together.

Volunteer. "Help out in the classroom, or donate supplies," says Jennifer Helm, a mother of two kids with ADHD in La Verne, Calif. Become known as someone who's helpful; an all-around asset to the school. The teacher will appreciate it.

If you and your child's teacher butt heads, you may want to give up and talk to the principal. But don't go down that road unless you've tried everything else, says Helm. It can backfire -- and your child could pay the price if you're feuding with their teacher. Instead, focus on working with the teacher, not around them.

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