Effective Consequences for ADHD Kids

Effective Consequences for ADHD Kids

Imagine  this scene: Your 7–year–old won’t stop teasing his little sister.  You give him  a 10 minute time out, but he refuses to comply and has a total  meltdown. Or  suppose you tell your 13–year–old to do her homework and stop  texting her  friend or else she will lose TV privileges for the week. She  becomes upset and  breaks your favorite framed picture. If you’re the parent of  a child with ADHD,  this might sound all too familiar.

Related:  Start teaching your ADD or ADHD child to focus–starting today.

To  put it simply, parenting a child who has been diagnosed with Attention  Deficit  Hyperactivity Disorder isn’t always easy. Kids with ADHD need  special  attention because they are special—they  are wired differently  than their peers. Brain scans show that the brains of  ADHD kids look much  different when performing certain functions than those of  their neurotypical  peers. In fact, studies have shown that the thickness of the  cortex of their  brains is growing at a pace that is three years behind their  peers. What does  this mean for kids with ADHD? They are thinking and behaving  at the same level  as children three years their junior do—yet they are expected  to respond to  situations in an age–appropriate fashion. Kids with ADHD are  often scolded and  told: “act your age”—but that’s often not possible for them  to do.

The ADHD/Anxiety Connection

Many  children with ADHD also suffer from extreme anxiety symptoms. When an  individual  experiences severe anxiety, they will have one of three reactions:  they will  freeze and be unable to take action; they will attempt to avoid the  situation  by withdrawing or leaving the scene; or they will act out of rage to  protect  themselves. Children with ADHD also have a low tolerance for  frustration. When  confronted with a difficult task or a conflict they may  quickly become  emotionally and even physically upset. When a parent is simply  providing  appropriate guidance and/or limits for their child, they are not  expecting a  reaction based on fear or rage. They might naturally view this as  an act of  defiance and respond to the incident with an additional negative  consequence,  but that will most likely escalate the situation.

Related:  Is your ADHD child pushing your buttons and driving you crazy?

Most  well–meaning parents approach this behavior with the philosophy of  “If at first  you don’t succeed, try, try again.” They continue with the  same approach, only  “kicking it up a notch or two.” Or, they go from one  approach to another, all  the while saying, “No matter what I do, nothing  works.” I would like to give  you some simple parenting tips that would  make it a breeze to get things going  in the right direction, but this is  not a simple problem—which means there is  no “simple” solution. There are  things you can do that will be much more  effective, though for your child  with ADHD.

5 Tips for Giving Effective Consequences to  ADHD Kids:  Step–by–Step

The  first step is to identify the underlying problem that is causing your  child to  over–react to minor incidents. This may require professional  consultation and  assessment by an appropriately trained mental health  professional. For children  with severe ADHD symptoms, medication may be needed.  For others, therapy or a  special education program to address the underlying  impairment may be in order.

Here  are five tips for parenting that can help:

  1. Keep your child’s developmental  level in mind. Remember that your 7–year–old with ADHD may   developmentally be a 4–year–old. Your expectations need to be appropriate to  your  child’s developmental age, not his or her chronological age. For example,  for a  9–year–old child with ADHD, you might want to assign chores appropriate  for a 6  or 7–year–old. A 13–year–old with the social skills of a 10–year–old  would  benefit from coaching on social skills.
  2. Give Time outs  Sparingly: For ADHD  children, time outs should be used sparingly  for serious situations (harming  property or persons) and should be brief. My  rule of thumb is that a time out  for an ADHD child should be one–minute times  your child’s age, less three  years. In other words, a time out for a child of 7  would be 4 minutes. (I explain how to do this in more detail in my Total  Focus program for parents of kids with ADHD.)
  3. Choose your battles. Sometimes it may be better to ignore the unwanted  behavior and pay  attention to appropriate behavior, rather than fight over  every misbehavior.  Behavior is often rewarded by attention whether the  attention is positive or  negative. With ADHD kids, studies have shown that ignoring  a behavior removes  reinforcement and leads to a decrease in the inappropriate behavior.  On the  flip side, paying attention to appropriate behavior will cause it to  increase.  Teaching your child more appropriate alternative behavior such as “Please  use  words to let me know what you want rather than screaming” lets her know  what  you are expecting and what will be rewarded.
  4. Praise and reward. Praising  or rewarding for appropriate behavior works best for these  children. You can  set up a chart and give your young child a happy face or star  in a square for  each time they do something the first time they are asked, for  example. When 30  squares are filled, they might receive a simple reward. The  accomplishment is  then celebrated by all and the chart is taken down. From then  on, occasional  praise will keep the newly learned behavior going. Older  children and teens  will benefit from praise, and if necessary, earning new  privileges based on  demonstrating readiness for them. In more complicated  situations, a token  economy can be set up to get things going in the right  direction. A token  economy uses a point system where appropriate behavior earns  points,  inappropriate behavior causes points to be lost, and the point balance  is used  to buy privileges such as TV or video game time, staying up late on the  weekends, etc.
  5. The  importance of a few  moments. For years parenting experts have said that  parents need  to provide love and limits for children, which is true—but the  emphasis is  usually on providing the limits. I have found—and research has  proven—that  spending a few moments a day (15 to 20 minutes) doing something fun  with your  child (no matter how bad the day has been) can do miracles in  changing behavior  and lives. Practice “catching your child being good.” Tell  them you love them.  Give them a hug or a pat on the back. Praise a special  skill or quality.  Provide praise for moving in the right direction even though  the finish line  has not yet been reached.

Related:  Learn how to parent your ADHD child more effectively.

Finally,  parenting a special needs child requires patience and endurance. Be  sure you  have support from those around you. Find time to take a break for  yourself. Take  a step back and look for positive changes and remind yourself  that this task is  always going to be “a work in progress.”


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