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)
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 them a gold star, or give them time for their 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 them for finishing on time.
Children Ages 6-12
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.
Involve them. As your child matures, let them help set expectations, rewards, and consequences. This empowers them, which may improve their self-esteem and reinforce the idea that they’re in charge of their own behavior. This will also help them become more responsible as they move toward young adulthood.
Discipline in private. Teenagers are often sensitive about how they appear to others. So they may overreact or feel ashamed if you discipline them in public. The teen years can be tough for any kid, so be gentle and understanding. Talk with them about any issues they're having.
Talk with your teen's teachers when issues in the classroom come up. Talk with your child, too. Make a plan to deal with it, together.
Be predictable. Be consistent and fair with how you act. That way, your teen knows what to expect from you.
Set a good example. Teens don't always show it, but the adults in their lives are very influential and important to them.
All parents find themselves frustrated at times, and raising a child with ADHD has its own set of challenges. It's natural to have needs and questions.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone about it. Look for a support group, or see a mental health professional to help you deal with your emotions and reactions so you can be a more effective parent. Family counseling may help, too.