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Tips to Help Your Child With ADHD Behave

Whether your child with ADHD is young or a teen, you can show them you’re firm but fair (and fun) by doing two key things.

  • Encourage good behavior with praise or rewards immediately.
  • Make consequences for bad behavior clear, understood, and consistent.

Your approach will depend on your child’s age.

Preschoolers (Age 5 and Younger)

For little kids, try these tips:

  • Organize the day. Have a routine. Let your child know if it’s changing or if something unusual is going to happen, like a visit from a relative or a vacation.
  • Set rules and expectations. It's best to do this right before an activity or situation.
  • Use rewards. If your child does something you’re proud of, give him a gold star, or give him time for his favorite hobby. Try not to use money, food, or candy for rewards.
  • Engage your child with mind-building activities, such as reading, games, and puzzles. Join in!
  • Use a timer. Some parents find this helps build structure. For example, set a reasonable time limit for a bath or playtime. It helps train your child to expect limitations, even on fun things. Give your child a time limit for doing a chore, too, especially if you reward her for finishing on time.

Children Ages 6-12

Use these tips if your child is in elementary or middle school.

  • Explain and instruct. Give clear instructions for tasks. If a chore is hard or lengthy, break it down into steps that can be done one at a time.
  • Reward your child for good behavior and tasks completed. Have a clear system for incentives (like a point system or gold stars) so your child knows what to expect when they finish a chore or behave better. Be consistent with your expectations, and always follow through with rewards.
  • Make a plan for discipline. Set up a specific consequence for a certain misbehavior. Be consistent and fair about enforcing it. Try not to discipline your child in front of others.
  • Talk regularly with your child's teachers, so you can deal with any behavior concerns before they become a major problem.
  • Walk your talk. Set a good example for your child. Children with ADHD need role models for good behavior.
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