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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Behavior Therapy for ADHD - Topic Overview

School-age children (6 to 12 years)

  • Give instructions clearly so that the child is more likely to follow through with the task. Break tasks into simple steps. This makes it easier for the child to maintain attention.
  • Increase the attention, praise, and privileges or rewards given to the child for obeying household rules. A token, sticker, or point system may be helpful for keeping a record of the child's positive behaviors.
  • Anticipate where the child may misbehave (such as in stores or restaurants or in the home when visitors come by). Make a plan with the child about how to manage the situation before problem behavior occurs.
  • Explain what will happen if the child misbehaves. When misbehavior occurs, follow through with the consequences as soon as possible. Your child will usually respond better with consistent reactions while in different settings, so discuss your strategies with school personnel. Consider requesting daily report cards from your child's teacher to get a sense of how he or she behaves outside of the home.
  • Model positive behaviors. Demonstrate patience, calmness, and understanding. Avoid angry outbursts, and don't interrupt others. Pay attention while someone else is talking.


  • Allow your child to help plan rules and consequences. Be willing to negotiate these rules periodically.
  • Anticipate when major changes will occur, such as starting a new school. Also, recognize other high-stress situations, such as a heavy class load or final exams. These are all times when symptoms may be more difficult to manage. Talk about what the child can expect and ways to meet the challenges successfully.
  • Be consistent. Predictability reinforces expectations and will help your child develop positive behavior patterns.

When parents start a new system of limits and consequences, children tend to test those limits. It takes patience, imagination, creativity, and energy to carry out behavior management. It is important for parents to apply the techniques consistently. The program is often successful in helping a child behave appropriately and function well. But if parents stop using the techniques, problem behavior usually returns.

Parenting programs and books may be helpful for some parents. Ask your health professional for specific recommendations.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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