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Behavioral Techniques for Children With ADHD

Using behavior management techniques is a key part of treating ADHD in children. 

In children and teens, the two basic principles are:

  • Encouraging good behavior with praise or rewards. This works best if you are consistent and reward or praise the child immediately after the positive behavior.
  • Consistently setting consequences for bad behavior.

Preschoolers (Age 5 and Younger)

To help younger kids with ADHD, try these behavior management techniques:

  • Organize the day. Set a routine. Let your child know if the routine is changing or something unusual is going to happen, such as a visit from a relative or a vacation.
  • Set boundaries and expectations. It's best to do this right before the activity or situation you have in mind.
  • Use rewards. Gold stars or favorite activities are examples of rewards for good behavior. Try to avoid using money, food, or candy for rewards.
  • Engage your child in constructive and mind-building activities, such as reading, games, and puzzles. Join in!
  • Use a timer. Some parents find that using a timer for activities is a good way to build and reinforce structure. For example, setting a reasonable time limit for a bath or playtime helps train your child to expect limitations, even on pleasurable activities. Giving a child a time limit for doing a chore is also useful, especially if you reward finishing on time.

Children Ages 6-12

Behavior management strategies for children in elementary and middle school with ADHD may include:

Explain and instruct. As much as possible, give clear instructions and explanations for tasks throughout the day. If a task is complex or lengthy, break it down into steps that are more manageable. As the child learns to manage their behavior, the steps and tasks can become more complex.

Reward the child appropriately for good behavior and tasks completed. Set up a clear system of rewards (point system, gold stars) so that your child knows what to expect when they complete a task or improve their behavior. Remember to be consistent with expectations and always follow through with rewards.

Make a plan for discipline. Avoid disciplining your child in front of other people. Set up a specific consequence for a certain behavior, and then be consistent and fair about enforcing it.

Communicate regularly with your child's teachers so that you can deal with any behavior patterns before they become a major problem.

Walk your talk. Set a good example for your child. Children with ADHD need good role models for good behavior, and the adults in their lives are very important.

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