Tips and Tricks for Parenting Children With ADHD

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on May 15, 2023
5 min read

The distraction. The countless lost items. The endless energy. The interruptions. The forgetfulness. Being the parent of a child with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) can be incredibly frustrating at times. You want to break the cycle of constantly being upset with your kid, but you’re not sure how.

Here are some tips that can help make both of your lives easier at home.

Maybe your child has trouble focusing and gets distracted easily. When you tell them to do something, they frequently forget. Often this is because they didn’t actually process what you said.

Try having your child look you in the eye as you talk. Then have them repeat it back. This helps cement your words in their brain instead of going in one ear and out the other.

Big tasks can feel overwhelming to any child. This is especially true for kids with ADHD. They have no idea where to start, even on what may seem like a small chore to you. Learning to break up tasks into smaller, doable pieces is a skill your child will use for the rest of their lives.

Let’s say you want your child to clean their room. Depending on how messy their room is, this can be a big task. For older kids, make a list of steps that they can check off. For instance, make bed, put dirty clothes in the hamper, put clean clothes away, put toys where they belong, dust, etc.

If your child is younger, have them complete one task and come back to you to find out what to do next. For example, you can start by having them pick up all the blocks in the room and putting them away. Next, they can work on picking up all the clothes. You can even make a game of it.

Your child may have problems with impulsiveness, emotional outbursts, and interrupting others. This can have a negative effect on their interactions with their peers.

Have practice chats with your child. Gently remind them not to interrupt. Encourage them to take deep breaths when they get emotional. Show them how to have a conversation with equal give and take. Talk to them about having empathy and compassion for others.

Read up on ADHD and find out all you can. This will help you understand your child more and be better equipped to advocate for them.

Kids with ADHD may hear a lot of criticism from friends, family members, and teachers throughout the day. Even teasing comments can sting. Because of this, they need plenty of positive feedback, reassurance, and support.

What is your child good at? What are they interested in most? Maybe he’s really into science or she’s a budding artist. Keep encouraging them in these areas. Be your child’s No. 1 fan. Do whatever you can to boost their enthusiasm and interest, whether it’s buying him a book on scientific experiments or taking her to an art show.

For older kids and teens, check out productivity apps. These can help them do everything from learning to manage money to keeping track of chores to mindfulness. There are calendars to help them keep on top of tasks and apps that lock smartphones and tablets to limit their distractions. There are even apps that can help them practice their social skills.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about their ADHD. Discuss how it affects them and what you can do together to make life easier and learn those important life skills. If you have it too, share what has helped you.

Make homework time easier by limiting distractions and encouraging organization. Set up a table or desk with no screens in the room. Use timers so your child knows when they can take a break. Encourage them to use a planner to keep track of their homework and write down notes and reminders. Show them how to organize their school supplies, folders, and homework in a way that helps them be responsible for it themselves.

Every child learns differently. Does your child learn better in silence or with some background noise like music? Is it easier for them to read or study for a test when they’re moving around or when they’re sitting or standing? Help your child figure out what works best for them.

Whether it’s house rules, everyday chores, or behavior, make sure your child knows exactly what you expect. Make a chore chart to help them keep track. Hang up a list of rules and refer your child to it when needed. Before you go somewhere, talk to your child about how you expect them to act.

If you want to change certain behaviors, focus on one or two at a time. Let’s say your child has trouble remembering to brush their teeth. Make a chart with two boxes for each day of the week. Every time they brush their teeth, give them a sticker to put on the chart (if they're older, they can check or color the box). Once they earn a certain number of stickers/checked boxes, they earn a reward. Eventually, brushing their teeth will become a habit and you can choose another behavior to work on.

Behavior therapy is an effective way to treat ADHD, especially for kids under the age of 12. It works best when it’s given by parents. Getting trained in behavior management can help your child do better at home, school, and in social settings. Older kids and teens may benefit from seeing a therapist for behavior therapy on their own.

If you’re interested in behavior therapy for parents, find a therapist who specifically trains parents. This training may be one-on-one, in groups, or online.

Remember that ADHD is no one’s fault. Yes, it can be challenging for both you and your child, but it also makes your child who they are. Maybe they forget everything, but they're also amazingly creative. They might be a tornado disguised as a child, but they have incredible focus when it comes to activities that interest them. Embrace all that your child is. Support, encourage, and advocate for them.

If you’re having trouble being positive, find an in-person or online support group. Hearing that others are going through similar experiences and how they manage them can help. You’ll feel less alone and be able to talk to others who understand.