Know how ADHD affects your child

ADHD generally causes inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Discipline a tween with ADHD by setting clear rules, having reasonable expectations, and reinforcing positive behavior.
ADHD generally causes inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Discipline a tween with ADHD by setting clear rules, having reasonable expectations, and reinforcing positive behavior.

Parenting tweens with ADHD can feel overwhelming. Tweens are growing up and learning to become independent, but they also live with symptoms they can’t control. But there are tips for parenting your tween without causing more stress. Know how ADHD affects your child

One of the most important parts of parenting tweens with ADHD is understanding how the condition affects your child. ADHD generally causes inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Kids might be forgetful, distracted, and energetic and have chaotic, fearless, and impulsive behaviors. They might also seem disorganized and have trouble listening to and following instructions. 

These behaviors can be tiring and hard to manage, but these are symptoms of their disorder. Learn more about your child’s diagnosis and ask your therapists for information and tips. When you learn more about ADHD, you can better understand what to expect and how to manage it.

Set clear rules 

Tweens with ADHD need clear rules and structure because they easily forget and get distracted. Following a reliable pattern can help them manage some behaviors. 

Keep the list short

Let your tween know exactly what behavior is acceptable and what is unacceptable. Give clear instructions and expectations. Kids have trouble reading between the lines, so the clearer you are, the better. But keep the list short and work on one or two behaviors at a time. If there are too many rules to follow, or the rules are confusing, your tween will lose focus or be overwhelmed.

Set the consequences

You can help manage your frustration and stress if you plan the consequences and how you will react. Know what you will do if your tween yells at you, calls you names, or suddenly hits their sibling, for example. Explain the consequences and make sure they’re something you can enforce and can stand living with.

Warnings are useful for tweens with ADHD, too. You can use “if you do this, then this will happen” instructions. It gives your tween a chance to correct their behaviors, but you both know precisely what is coming next. Warnings make boundaries clear so that there are no surprises. 

Have reasonable expectations

Tweens are moving from being close to you to being independent, but they still need help and guidance. They’re going through a lot as they grow. Your tweens are thinking about how others view them and where they fit in the world outside the family. They have more demands at school and with friends, which can be stressful. 

Tweens with ADHD go through this process, and they also live with ADHD. Stress makes ADHD symptoms worse, so it’s important to know what behavior is normal for a tween and for ADHD and to make appropriate rules. 

Be flexible

Before you get upset, remember your child’s symptoms. Hyperactive kids have to work hard to overcome their urges, so they might need lots of repetition. Inattentive kids might need more reminders because they forget a lot. 

Rather than getting angry about it and punishing them, be flexible and adjust your expectations. Maybe they can’t manage five different tasks, but they can manage two. Know their strengths and their limits and set them up for success with rules and instructions that are appropriate for their age and skills. 

Reinforce positive behavior right away

Tweens with ADHD don’t link behaviors with consequences. They don’t always see why or how their actions lead to a particular outcome. They also can’t control their symptoms, so punishment can be frustrating and confusing. For kids with ADHD, rewards work better than punishment. 

See the success and give praise

Positive reinforcement is a parenting concept in which you reward the behavior you want to see. When you do this, you show your child exactly what is acceptable and why.  Instead of pointing out what you don’t want to happen, notice when they do something well and praise it the right way. Praise also helps motivate your child and builds confidence. 

Use an incentive system

Coach your tween with a reward system. You can use a points system where they earn points for doing tasks and then spend their points on certain rewards. For example, they might earn 5 points for taking out the garbage right away or 20 points for doing 20 minutes of homework. Set the rewards and let them spend their points. It can be anything from extra screen time or allowance to having a friend over. 

Work on one or two behaviors at a time and be generous with your points. If they do something that’s even slightly better than before, reward them well. This way, you encourage more of what you want to see. 


The abbreviated term ADHD denotes the condition commonly known as: See Answer

Enforce consequences

There will be times when you need to correct your child and follow through on your boundaries. But keep your correction positive. 

Watch for symptoms, don’t punish symptoms

Some behaviors are symptoms of a condition that your child didn’t choose and has a hard time managing. If you punish their symptoms, they might get frustrated and give up. Instead of punishment, teach them how to manage their symptoms. Look for warning signs they’re about to lose control and step in early. Point out the signs and teach them what to do next. 

For example, if they get irritated and restless, which could lead to a problem, point it out. Say, “it looks like you’re restless and need to move around. Go ride your bike for 10 minutes, and then we’ll try again.” This approach teaches them to recognize their symptoms and teaches them how to help themselves before there’s a problem.

Be consistent and calm

Once you set reasonable boundaries, use a warning, and then follow through. Be consistent, and don’t suddenly change the rules. Don’t react to problems with big emotions. Instead, be patient and calm and let them know they overstepped. 

Bottom line

Parenting tweens with ADHD takes a lot of work, and the way you parent can make it better or worse. Focus on clear boundaries, positive guidance, and consistency. Be calm and patient and try not to react. If you or your child are struggling, ask your doctor or therapist for help.

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Medically Reviewed on 4/6/2022

Center for ADHD Awareness Canada: "Parenting Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Steps for Using Consequences."

Child Mind Institute: "Parenting Tweens: What You Should Know."

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD): "Parenting a Child With ADHD," "Feeling Stressed? It Can Make ADHD Symptoms Seem Worse."

Children's Health Orange County: "Kids and ADHD: What parents should know."

National Health Service: "Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — Living with."

Nemours Children's Health: "Parenting a Child With ADHD."