Friday, November 1, 2013

Managing Adhd Children

Doctors are diagnosing more and more children in the US with ADHD. Nobody knows what percentage of children have it. Estimates range from 1 to 20 percent. One thing almost everyone agrees on is that ADHD is real and creates challenges for parents, educators and children at home and at school.

Rewards and Punishments

Dr. Russell Barkley, a specialist in treating ADHD, says that children with ADHD may be less sensitive to rewards and punishments than other children. To work, rewards and punishments will have to be more concrete and as immediate as possible. Instead of praising her once or twice a day for general good behavior, praise her immediately. Be specific about what she did right. Go to her frequently and find something specific about her behavior that you can compliment. Pair praise with a hug or other physical contact.

Punishments should also be immediate and concrete, but they should be a last resort. The ratio of rewards to punishments should never go below three to one.

Prepare for Problem Situations and Transitions

Most parents of ADHD children can name the places where their children are most likely to misbehave. Have a plan for handling misbehavior. Right before you enter the situation, stop and review the rules he has trouble following, and have him repeat them back to you. Keep it simple. Tell him the rewards he'll earn for following the rules: points, tokens or a small treat. Tell him the punishments you may have to use if he breaks the rules: loss of points or tokens, loss of a privilege or a time out. Give him frequent, specific feedback during the situation. Rewards or punishments should be immediate.

ADHD children can have trouble switching focus from one place or activity to another. Give her wait time: "In 10 minutes you have to get out of the pool so we can go to the store." Give her advance notice of plans when you can, but make sure she understands things come up and plans change.


Doctors and therapists often tell parents to be consistent, but rarely explain what they mean. There are three elements of consistency.

Be consistent over time. If you want to change or reinforce a behavior, decide how you're going to respond to the behavior and respond that way every time you see it. His behavior didn't start overnight and won't change overnight, either.

Be consistent across places and situations. Choose rewards or punishments you are comfortable giving in public or in front family and friends. Respond the same way, immediately, no matter where you are.

Be consistent as a parental team. You have different parenting styles, of course. Still, respond to the same behaviors the same way as much as possible. If you agree to change a particular behavior, each of you should respond the same way every time your child does it. Don't send mixed messages by having one parent punish a behavior while the other one ignores it. Focus on behaviors you agree on.

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