If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD you will no doubt understand how frustrating and discouraging it can be to cope with impulsive and defiant behaviour on a daily basis. Perhaps you have become stressed and exhausted, trying all the traditional discipline methods in the book and nothing seems to work. This can be especially puzzling and disheartening if you have one or more other children who have responded well to your parenting style, but now you find yourself struggling so much with this one which is just so different!
What we need to understand when it comes to parenting our ADHD child is that they are different in the sense that their brains function differently from those of other children. Once we accept that fact and stop expecting them to respond in the same way as other children, then we can begin to make some progress. It is always advisable to get the advice of a medical professional, as sometimes medication may be the first step in helping your child to focus and concentrate. Besides that, the following guidelines can be helpful as you teach your ADHD child how to function well and to behave in an acceptable manner.
Make your relationship a priority
Your relationship with your child is what it is all about. That is why it is so painful when the relationship is strained and you find yourself relating in a mostly negative way to your child, constantly correcting them and feeling stressed about their bad behavior. With ADHD children it is often true that they desperately want your attention, and unfortunately their most “successful” method of getting that attention can often be by misbehaving and acting out. If you as the parent are able to make this connection and switch from negative to positive attention, you may find most of your battles will be won as you win your child’s heart and restore your relationship. Rather than making a highly negative emotional connection by flaring up when your child is breaking the rules, rather give them positive attention and reinforcement whenever they are doing something good every day. By making your relationship with your child a priority you can begin to nurture and build him up so that he will use his energy in a more successful way.
Give a good reflection
When we look into a mirror we see a reflection of ourselves as we are at that very moment, whether we are frowning, smiling or crying. As parents, many times we can function as a mirror for our children; they will look intently into our faces to see a reflection of themselves, and depending on what they see there they will make some conclusion (rightly or wrongly) about their worth. If we seldom make eye contact and are always distracted they may begin to feel invisible and unimportant. Or if we often frown or scowl in their direction they may conclude that they are always a nuisance. How we look at our child, especially when they are being “difficult” can make all the difference to our relationship with them and to the way they perceive themselves. A smiling and loving face, together with a warm hug, can say so much to a child. As you make eye contact with a pleasant expression, you can convey these positive messages to your child:
- I see you – you are not invisible
- You are precious to me
- I enjoy being with you
- You have a significant purpose in our family and in life
- There is hope for your future
Celebrate every success
As you persevere on your journey with your ADHD child, be sure to celebrate every success. When he comes home from school with a good report, manages to complete a chore or goes the whole afternoon (or even one hour) without any conflict with siblings, don’t let it go by unnoticed. Sometimes a child does not even know when they are behaving well, if only their bad behaviour is pointed out and made the focus of attention. As you reward and celebrate the positive choices your child is making, soon he will learn to enjoy this experience of success. As your child feels more and more valued, noticed and appreciated, you will no doubt sense a change for the better in the atmosphere in your home.
Create structure and routine
Structure and routine can go a long way to making your ADHD child feel secure in their environment and better able to cope with day to day challenges. Create a ritual for everyday activities such a mealtimes, homework, playtime, bath time, and bedtimes. By doing the same things in the same order every day, your child knows what to expect and feels a sense of order and accomplishment when these milestones can be ticked off successfully each day. If there is going to be some change in the routine it is good to prepare your child ahead of time and explain exactly how things are going to be different. Keeping your home and especially your child’s room neat and tidy can also help to reduce distractions and your child will know where everything goes.
Encourage exercise and sport
Exercise and sport are a great way to help your ADHD child as the physical exertion uses up their energy in a good and healthy way. Playing sport also helps to improve concentration as the child focuses on specific movements. Whether it is running, cycling, swimming or athletics find out what your child enjoys and encourage them to get plenty of exercise and fresh air to stimulate the brain. Healthy exercise is also good for decreasing impulsivity as well as decreasing depression and anxiety, and can also help your child to sleep better. As your child succeeds in sport it will build his confidence and passion in other areas too.