Children with ADHD know what to do but they don’t do what they know. Consequently, parents might not know when to be firm and when to be patient.
Plus, parents have to deal with the tricky balance of believing in your child’s abilities while protecting him from the pitfalls of his ADHD. You might wonder how much accommodation and special treatment is best and worry that you’re fostering dependence or self-doubt in your child.
Fortunately, while there are many challenges that come with raising kids with ADHD, there are also effective strategies and rewards.
1. Stay calm.
Once the parent is out of control, the child’s anger becomes even more escalated, assuring that the interaction will result in a non-productive outcome. Pay attention to yourself if you have a tendency toward ADHD behaviors, such as reactivity. Arguing simply creates a diversion that delays homework even longer.
2. Set limits on your own behavior.
If you’re inclined to be a worried, rescuing parent, remind yourself that the more you do for your child, the less he does for himself. The key is to support, but don’t get into the driver’s seat.
For example, during a homework session, it’s fine to ask “Do you need more of those papers with the lines and boxes on them to finish these long division problems?” she says. But taking your child’s pencil and saying you’ll both work on that long division can be problematic.
3. Set structure—but make it pressure-free.
Structure involves star charts for young children, calendars and planners for older ones, and clear rules and sensible routines, especially at bedtime. Structure helps reduce disorganization and distractibility. Set a consistent time to do homework, with certain privileges only available to the child after they’ve successfully completed their assignments.
It’s best to avoid imposing pressure. So, what does pressure-free structure look like? It includes “not using threats or unreasonable deadlines and punishments that contribute to hostility, fear or drama.
4. Give your kids the chance to make wise choices.
Parents must provide ample opportunities for children to be faced with choices of how to respond.
Using a technique called “structured choice,” which gives your child two choices that steer him or her in the right direction. For example, you might ask “Do you want to do your math or your science assignment next?” or “Before we can go, your room needs to be cleaned up. Do you want to start with the clothes on the bed or clear the top of your desk first?”
5. Use reasonable consequences for rule-breaking.
Parents ask their child what the consequences should be if he or she breaks a rule. This helps kids create commitments that they can actually own.
In addition, create and consistently enforce positive consequences for positive behaviors and negative consequences for negative behaviors. This helps your child recognize that positive behaviors result in positive consequences, and negative behaviors result in negative ones.
6. Expect rule-breaking, and don’t take it personally.
It’s in your child’s “job description” to occasionally break the rules. When your child breaks the rules, correct him the way a police officer gives you a ticket. He doesn’t take it personally or groan or yell, ‘I can’t believe you did that again! Why do you do this to me?’ Like the officer, be respectful, consistent, and matter-of-fact.”
7. Advocate for your child when appropriate.
Certain accommodations might be necessary for your child because of his or her ADHD. However, you still want to encourage kids to cultivate their abilities.
An example of finding this tricky balance: stand up for his right for an accommodation like talking books, but encourage and expect him to learn to read fluently, giving him time, attention, a tutor, and most especially, your belief that he can.
8. Avoid muting a headstrong child.
One of the mistakes parents can make is trying to turn a spirited, willful child into one that never questions authority and accepts all that is said ‘just because I said so’ as a parent.
Instead, parents accept that some children will protest and talk back, and parents must set a limit that on the one hand realizes that children need at least some way to express their frustration, while still enforcing reasonable standards and rules.