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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Can You Prevent ADHD?

How does behavior management help in preventing ADHD?

Many therapists believe you can control your child's behavior by using behavior management. 

The first step is to foster a positive parent-child relationship. Therapists say this can be done by spending quality time with your child each day -- your child's "special time." During this time, let them pick an activity. Then simply focus on enjoying your child and their interests.

The next step in behavioral management is to use positive reinforcement when your child behaves well. Praise and reward them for it. Your child may behave well more often. Experts encourage parents to notice their child's good behavior at least five times a day and offer simple praise for it.

Keep your expectations reasonable. Base them on what's appropriate for your child's age and focus on only a few tasks at a time. Clearly explain what type of behavior you expect from your child in order to be rewarded. If you think of several appropriate rewards and let your child pick from among them, they may take more ownership in the program. That will make success more likely.

It's important for your child to know what you expect. One way to do that is to look into their eyes when you talk to them. Then make all directions very specific, simple, and concise, and explain them in a calm voice. You can have your child repeat the directions back to you to make sure they understand.

Finally, it is very important that you be consistent. If you don't always reward good behavior, for example, it sends your child mixed messages.

Will using negative consequences change behavior?

The last step in behavioral management is providing negative consequences for bad behavior. 

Once again, it is important to explain bad behavior to your child clearly. That way you can make sure they understand what is expected.

Start by explaining what's acceptable and what the reward is for that behavior. Then explain the negative consequences for bad behavior.

Be consistent. Don't be too harsh. Using negative consequences for unacceptable behavior is controversial, and negative consequences should never be cruel, abusive, or a reflection of your own emotions, no matter how frustrated you may feel. 

For behavior therapy to work, give children with ADHD frequent reminders of expected behavior and consequences. One way to do this is to write down the rules, consequences, and rewards. Then put them in a place where your child can see them.

Children with ADHD also need frequent feedback about their progress. They may do better with short-term goals rather than long-term ones. Keep changing the reward system so they don't get bored.

Start Teaching Attention Skills Early

If you have a preschooler, play games, build with blocks, and do puzzles together. It's good practice for building attention skills. Reading to your child is another good way to teach them how to pay attention. Showing them lots of affection can also help a child calm down and pay attention.

Not everyone agrees, but some experts think that television watching can hinder a child's ability to learn to pay attention. Regardless of whether or not TV causes attention deficiencies, the American Academy of Pediatrics says children younger than 2 should watch very little TV. The academy also says that after they turn 2, they should watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Patricia Quinn, MD on July 08, 2012

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