If your child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), disciplining them poses a special challenge. Children with ADHD are easily distracted, impulsive, and may have trouble following directions.
As you learn more about the disorder, you can find effective ways to discipline your ADHD child, especially by working with your child’s teacher, doctor, or therapist.
What are the signs of ADHD in a child?
Children with ADHD find it difficult to develop the skills required to control attention, behavior, emotions, and activity. This can cause them to have issues at school and in other social settings. Common signs of ADHD in children include the following:
- Have difficulty paying attention or following instructions
- Constantly need reminders to complete tasks
- Poor effort in schoolwork
- Have difficulty sitting still
- Run, jump, and climb when it's time to play quietly or complete a task
- May be disorganized
- Rush through things
- Make careless mistakes
- Constantly interrupt when others talk
- Do things without thinking or things they are not supposed to despite being told
- Have difficulty waiting or sharing
- May have emotional outbursts or lose their temper
- Lack self-control
9 tips for disciplining a child with ADHD
- Educate yourself about ADHD: Equip yourself with knowledge about ADHD. It is important to know how ADHD affects children, and that the disorder affects each child differently.
- Follow treatment recommendations: Keep all recommended therapy appointments and follow the advice given by your child’s doctors and therapists. For example, if your child has been prescribed medication, make sure to keep to the advised time and dosage, and don’t change anything without first checking with your doctor.
- Teach one thing at a time: Since kids with ADHD have difficulty listening and focusing, pick one thing to focus on at a time.
- Set clear expectations: Explain to your child clearly and firmly how they are expected to behave. Focus on teaching your child what they should do, rather than what not to do.
- Discipline with purpose and kindness: It’s important to remember that your child may be especially sensitive to criticism. While you want to be clear about your expectations, make sure to correct your child’s behavior with warmth and support rather than yelling and harsh punishments. A “time-out” session may help make your child think about what they did wrong.
- Spend quality time with your child: Making time to talk and enjoy bonding activities with your child every day is important. Children with ADHD often suffer from low self-esteem, as they may feel they are doing things wrong all the time. Make sure to give your child a few minutes of undivided attention each day, and let them know that you love them no matter what.
- Praise positive behaviors: While it’s important not to overpraise, make sure to let your child know when they have done well. Compliment them on their efforts, even if they are small, and avoid getting frustrated when progress seems slow.
- Work with your child’s teachers: Stay in touch with your child’s teacher on a regular basis to discuss your child’s behavior and help each other to develop strategies that will help.
- Join a support group: Connecting with others for support and awareness can help you cope with unique challenges that arise. Take advantage of therapists who specialize in coaching parents through dealing with a child with ADHD.
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