Parenting is hard. Adding ADHD to the mix can make parenting extra tricky. Some kids seem to follow the beat to their own drum – a beat which seems to change daily. The ADHD brain is different from other kids, which can make it hard for them to make good behavioural choices or keep cool when frustrated. And, typical parenting strategies don’t always work. In this article, I offer you 99 parent tips for kids with ADHD to maximize your parenting success and promote your family’s well-being.
Relationship, Relationship, Relationship
We get along best and are most willing to follow through when we have good relationships with people. This is true for adults and children alike. Have you ever had a demanding, mean, disagreeable, and/or micromanaging boss? You might follow through in the short term, but chances are you will get fed up over time and either blow up or leave. (For those who stick around, the incentives must be worth it.)
1. Strengthen your relationship
Nothing is more important than your relationship with your kids and no strategies will work unless that relationship is strong. Strengthen this relationship will not only make parenting be easier, your connections are the #1 protective factor for kids’ long-term success, resilience, self-esteem, and overall well-being.
You likely already have a strong relationship. But, it is easy to get weighed down in stressful or negative interactions. Balance things out by having a happy or fun moment every day. It doesn’t need to be a full day of excitement and joy… moments here and there are all it takes.
Of course, spending 1:1 time with your child every day is helpful. Even a quick fun card game after school can make all the difference in the world. Doing family activities is great too. When you interact, don’t get sidetracked by email or texts. Give your kids your full attention. Here are various ideas you can do with your child to boost your relationship.
2. Understand ADHD
Relationships are strongest when people understand each other. The key to parent effectively is understanding your child’s needs. There is no one parenting manual because every child is different every child is affected by ADHD differently. It is therefore critical to have a solid understanding of ADHD and how it affects your child.
Completing a comprehensive assessment is essential to fully understand your child’s strengths, challenges, what skills they still have to develop, and what supports they might need to demonstrate the skills they do have. These assessments are also critical to ensure that other disorders that might look like ADHD or commonly occur with ADHD are considered as well.
Whether you get an assessment or now, ask teachers and other caregivers their perspectives on how ADHD affects your child. Ask about your child’s areas of strengths and challenges and what strategies work or don’t work in other settings. This helps you see the full picture of how your child is managing.
3. Talk to your kids about ADHD
Knowledge is power. If ADHD is making it hard for them to manage their behaviours, telling kids about ADHD helps them to understand what is happening in their brain and may even stop negative thinking (e.g., that they are bad kids) and promote empowerment. See what they say about how ADHD affects them from their perspective. Then, together you can work on developing goals and see what strategies works or does not work for them.
4. Advocate effectively
Many kids with ADHD hold things together so much during they day while at school, their behaviours become difficult and even explosive by the end of the day. Therefore, becoming an advocate so ensure your kids get what they need at school can make their day go smoother (and help limit behaviours later on).
If you have a full understanding of your child’s needs, you can advocate effectively with doctors, teachers, and any other adults who oversee your child’s well-being. Start off with keeping a record of all information pertaining to your child. This would include report cards, teacher emails or notes, progress reports, evaluations, meeting notes, treatment summaries, and so on.
Meet with the school to advocate for a team of supports including people who understand ADHD, as well as those who know/are working with your child. Maintain open lines of communication with the key people at your child’s school. Let them know if there are changes happening in your child’s life or even if they are having an off day. Working together, create a plan that best supports your child’s needs. Be actively involved in the development of your child’s Individualized Program Plan (IPP).
Read more about how to be an effective advocate.
Kids do good when they can. Ensuring they are healthy physically and emotionally is essential to doing good.
5. Promote physical activity
All kids need to get at least an hour of physical activity every day. This time is critical for kids with ADHD to burn off excess energy and promote attention, reduce impulsive behaviours, and stimulate their brain in positive ways. Physical activity also helps boost mood, limit anxiety, keep aggression at bay, and control behaviours.
You can do family activities like going for walks or bike rides. But you can also encourage physical activity through simple challenges, such as having to hop from one room to the other, making a hopscotch court using painters tape in the hallway, and having balls, skipping ropes, or hoola hoops on hand.
6. Get outside
Spending time outside is also critical in every area. Being outdoors promotes physical health, but also cognitive, social, and emotional development; attention; and overall happiness.
7. Establish consistent sleep routines
Kids with ADHD can have a hard time getting the sleep they need. Unfortunately, lack of sleep makes it hard for them to regulate the next day, it can contribute to irritability, and it can make ADHD symptoms worse.Therefore, it is critical to establish healthy sleep routines. Here are a few key things to remember:
- No screens two hours before bed – it stimulates the brain, stops the release of melatonin, and can release stress hormones in the body; all of which makes falling asleep hard.
- Eliminate sugar and caffeine
- Create a calming bedtime ritual. Dim the lights the last hour before bed. Engage in calming activities like reading, meditating, or listening to soft music.
8. Identify strengths
I have so many “defeated” kids with ADHD, where they don’t think they can do anything right, so why bother? It is therefore critical to build on their confidence and experience with success.
Identify, and focus on, your child’s strengths. Our brains are wired to be on the lookout for bad and what we do wrong – it is easy for us to identify holes. However, making a concerted effort to identify and capitalize on your child’s strengths helps build their confidence (and your relationship).
All kids have some strengths, whether it is athletically, theatrically, artistically, mechanically, or with technology. Build on these strengths and give your kids multiple opportunities to practice them to promote pride and confidence. (Never take away activities they are good at as a form of punishment). Also find ways to incorporate these strengths into areas that are more challenging for kids. Create a success journal or some other visual to help you and your kids remember what they are great at.
For them to remember (and believe in) their strengths, it is important you remember their strengths and positives all the time, even in the times of bad. Whenever something bad comes up, whether your child fails a test or gets called to the principals office, remember all the positives about your child first.
9. Support social success
Kids with ADHD often engage in difficult behaviours at home if they have had a hard day socially. Unfortunately, they often have a hard time keeping friends and may feel rejected because of their impulsive behaviours.
Therefore, help your kids experience social success. Teach skills, if needed, create opportunities for socialization, and support them to ensure their interactions are successful.
10. Reduce arousal levels
Kids with ADHD often run off a higher arousal level, meaning they are quicker to (over) react emotionally and behaviourally. Therefore, help them reduce their overall baseline arousal levels.
Create a quiet space for your child to relax and read to take time to unwind from a busy day or to regulate if they are becoming frustrated.
Managing behaviours effectively helps maintain your sanity and household peace but also actually help your kids learn to manage the associated symptoms of ADHD and reduce symptom severity and future associated risks (e.g., school failure or underachievement, poor self-esteem, delinquency, accidents, and disrupted relationships). Therefore, promoting adaptive behaviours as early as possible is critical to promote kids’ success and to prevent associated risks with ADHD.
There are three key areas to focus on when managing behaviour. The first is your relationship, as already discussed. The next is environmental changes to support your children, followed by either proactive or reactive behaviour strategies to promote adaptive behaviours.
Kids want to do good but often there are things getting in the way. One major thing getting in their way is their environment. Support their success and manage behaviours by optimizing the environment.
11. Structure and routine
All kids need structure and routine. Structure helps establish predictability, which contributes to self-confidence (kids with ADHD often feel like they are missing things, always trying to play catch-up, and can get easily stressed out when things feel chaotic).
Structure and routines also help minimize distractions, which further contributes to their success and sense of accomplishment and responsibility because they can actually get tasks done.
Keep a calendar to record any notable events/activities. Establish consistent routines with consistent times as much as possible. For example, always do homework at 4:00 and always start getting ready for bed at 8.
Focus on one routine at a time and practice consistently every day with your kids to make them automatic as much as possible. The more automatic routines become, less brain power is needed (e.g., attention, working memory, motivation etc.) and the more likely they will follow through (and less likely to engage in problem behaviours).
12. Break tasks into small steps
Any task, even simple ones, can easily become overwhelming for kids with ADHD. Therefore, teach them how they can break tasks down step-by-step. Any task can be broken down, from morning routines, to cleaning their room, to school assignments.
13. Use visuals
Kids with ADHD have a hard time seeing the end result of what they need to do. For example, they can not visualize what a clean room looks like (especially based on your expectations) and may believe that picking up one pillow off the floor means they have cleaned their room.
However, one pillow is likely not what you had in mind. Therefore, give visuals of what a clean room looks like. You might have to clean their room exactly how you want it and then take a picture to show them in the future. That way, they can match their room to the picture and not worry about getting into a fight about whether or not they cleaned their room. If they are vacuuming, sprinkle baby powder everywhere so they can see their progress.
14. Optimize homework zones
See what works best for your kids. Some like having music in the background, where others need absolute silence. Kids with ADHD often like to be around others (and tend to need and adult hovering around to keep them on task), so being alone in their room is not ideal for them. Make sure lighting is good. That all materials they need are ready. Distractions are minimized. The space is not too warm or cold. Have your kids create their optimal zone.
15. Make tasks interesting
Remember Mary Poppins and her song about a spoonful of sugar? The kids easily cleaned up their room once they turned it into a game (though magically dancing your clothes away is pretty awesome).
If homework is inherently boring, find ways to make it more interesting. For instance, my daughter hated practicing printing. However, we embedded writing within a science experiment where she had to figure out what took longer – her writing a sentence or jumping up and down 10 times.
16. Limit distractions
Adults often get frustrated when kids don’t follow through. But it is often not because they are being defiant. It can be hard for kids with ADHD to avoid distractions. Therefore, set up the environment for them to be successful. Make sure things like the TV or Lego are inaccessible when they are meant to be doing other things.
17. Limit screens
Screens rob kids of opportunities to be doing other things they should be doing that are important for development, mood, and overall well-being. And, screens are a major culprit to acting out behaviours – especially when kids have to transition away from them.
Proactive Behaviour Strategies
Proactive strategies are set up before problem behaviours occur. These are typically the most effective because everyone is calm and able to learn.
The key with effective behaviour approaches is helping your kids understand the link between their own behaviour and the consequences of their behaviour. Often times, they don’t learn that connection (or forget it the next time).
18. Have clear expectations
Think about what behaviours you want to see more of. Being very clear about your own expectations is critical before you can expect your kids to know what is important.
19. Make rules together
Once you know what behaviours are important to you, collaborate with your kids to make behavioural rules. Kids tend to feel empowered when they are part of the process and may be able to follow the rules easier when they come up with them themselves.
20. Focus on the most important
Avoid having too many rules. The more rules there are, the harder it is to follow them. Therefore, focus on the most important ones. In my house, any bullying/name calling, hitting is absolutely not allowed. Think of what your “redlines” (absolute no-nos) are and stick with those.
When establishing rules and/or trying to change behaviour, focus on the most important behaviour first. If you try working on everything at once, you and your kids will get too overwhelmed, they won’t be successful, and you will have a hard time following through. Things will fall to the wayside and not get any better. The hardest part is to let other things go while you focus on one thing.
21. State rules in the positive
It is easy to identify the behaviours you do not want to see. However, kids often have a hard time knowing what they should be doing instead. (And, our brain has this ironic processing where it tends to do/think about exactly what we don’t want it to).
Therefore, ensure the rules are positively stated – what kids should be doing vs. not doing. Then they know exactly what choices they have in the moment (e.g., walk away) vs. what they shouldn’t do (e.g., don’t hit), which can result in other problem behaviours (e.g., screaming or throwing something).
22. Avoid vagueness
Be very explicit about what kids should be doing. General phrases like “be good,” “grow up.” or “be nice” or not helpful. It should be very clear to your kids what they are to do. Clear examples of expectations include:
- Turn the TV off the first time I am told
- Clench my hands at my sides and hold the seams of my pants (vs. hitting)
23. Establish clear consequences
Also establish clear consequences for behaviours – with your kids. Kids are actually pretty insightful and can come up with good ideas for consequences. Their punishments are often more severe than what we’d do.
24. Avoid power struggles (using appropriate consequneces)
When you make the consequences appropriate, you can then let go of the reigns and avoid a power struggle and let your kids choose their behaviour.
When I was a kid, I had to get all my chores and homework done before the TV was turned on. A simple rule. So, I got everything done by 6:20 but my show started at 6, I missed more than half my show. There was no power struggle – I knew if I made the choice to dawdle (and ultimately waste time), the show would start without me and I’d miss it until the summer reruns.
It wasn’t my parents being mean – I made the choice to mess around and miss the first half of my show. I know this can be harder now when you can stream anything anytime, though you can establish something similar.
If your kids don’t want to help clean the table after dinner – totally fine, that’s their choice. But cleaning the table is part of getting ready for dessert. So, if they don’t want dessert, that is fine. (If they continue to not participate, start making their favourite desserts – after missing a few (or even one), they may come around.)
25. Make the rules and consequences visual
I find this tip is more for parents than kids. Kids forget, but so do we, especially in the heat of the moment. Unfortunately, when we forget, we tend to change the rules and consequences. As a result, kids a) learn they cannot trust us and b) may as well do whatever they want because they can’t do anything right and we are going to be mean/find fault anyway.
Be sure to place the rules in a place where everyone can see and refer to them as needed.
26. Create a flowchart
I’d even go one step further and create a flowchart of how you will respond in a given situation. This way you can follow through as you said you would and your kids know exactly what choices to make. I love flowcharts more for parents so you know if this happens then this is what happens (and how I respond).
27. Evaluate the rules regularly
Sometimes our rules are not great. Maybe they are too hard or poorly defined. Once you establish the rules, find a time you can all come together in a few days (or week) to see how they are going and if they need to be adjusted. Doing this together helps your kids know you are there to support them (and not just be mean), but can also help empower them and make them invested in the process.
Most of the time kids know what they are not supposed to do. However, they often need to be taught specific strategies of what they can do instead when they are upset or how to control their behaviour. For examples, kids will often whine to get our attention but need to be explicitly taught how to get our attention appropriately in a way we will consistently respond to. Instead of whining then, we can teach them to quietly say, “hey mom” and then wait as they look at us while standing in front of us to get our attention.
We often establish rules but then don’t give our kids the chance to practice them. They likely already know the rules anyway, so it’s not necessarily a matter of not knowing.
They also often have the skills but are unable to use the skills they have in the heat of the moment, when they need them the most. In general, kids with ADHD have trouble with the point of performance, meaning they can’t follow the rule when they need to.
Talking about expected behaviour is not enough. We need to make those behaviours automatic (instead of their current automatic responses, such as yelling). And the only way the expected behaviours become automatic is through lots of practice.
Therefore, set up the practice situations for them to be successful. If your kids always hit whenever a sibling takes their toy, set up a practice situation in which their sibling will come and take their toy while your other child practices the strategies to keep cool, ask for help, or whatever other “expected” responses you come up with.
30. Practice some more
To be successful, your kids need repeated pracice. At first, the practice sessions will be short and structured. Your child will know exactly a) what is going to happen b) when it is going to happen and c) what they need to do to respond appropriately.
As they become successful, you can start expanding expectations (e.g., “Sometime in the next 5 minutes your brother is going to do something you don’t like” to “Sometime today your brother is going to do something you don’t like”).
31. Teach pause
Often kids with ADHD don’t get the chance to practice their strategies because they react impulsively. Then, it’s too late because they have already misbehaved. Therefore, help your kids create a pause so they can start to choose their response vs. acting impulsively.
For example, if they automatically yell when upset, have them learn a rote phrase they can say right away instead. Examples include counting to 10 or saying, “It’s ok” or “I’m frustrated.” Sometimes adding a physical response is helpful too, such as clasping their hands together or grabbing the seams of their pants.
32. Practice pauses
Then, of course, have your kids practice their pauses so they start to become the automatic response instead of the impulsive behaviour.
33. Let them practice choosing their own behaviour (and avoid power struggles)
Unless we are helping them be successful and avoiding triggers in the early stages, let kids learn to choose how to respond for themselves. Without you jumping in to remind them or save them – even when you see them making a dicey decision. Yes, sometimes they will make the wrong choice. But unless they make mistakes, they will never learn self control.
Therefore, once you establish the consequences, let it go. It’s totally up to them what they choose. Obviously you want them to make the right choice, but that will come with time and practice. When you do this, you help avoid power struggles, which often only make the situation worse.
Therefore, remain neutral. Indifferent even. Taking the stance that “it is no skin off of your back” if they choose one behaviour or another (even though you may be boiling with rage inside).
34. Remind versus threaten
Again, once consequence are established, kids know the rules. Do what you can to make them successful. They may still choose to break them, but don’t threaten them.
35. Explain vs. command
Kids with ADHD like to know the why’s – why they may need to do a chore or homework task, for example. It is easy for adults to get into the power struggle and headstrong belief “I am the adult so you do what I say.” However, giving an explanation can be really helpful for your child but also can promote positive behavioural choices.
36. Remind for success
Kids forget. And, kids with ADHD are often timeblind and have a hard time seeing into the future. As a result, they have a hard time remembering things they need to do, even in 20 minutes. Therefore, provide reminders (as a coach would, rather than a nagging parent) of their behavioural choices.
If Sunday dinner at grandma’s house always turns into a nightmare, talk about the expected behaviour right before you go and discuss what they would find helpful to support their ability to follow through. Then, have little reminders (you can agree on nonverbal cues if that helps) as you enter the house, and then right as you sit down for dinner.
37. Reward good behaviour
A high rate of reinforcement is especially important in the early stages of trying to change behaviours. Negative consequences (e.g., punishment), especially early on, only defeats kids and makes it hard for them to make the right choices later on. Reward what you do want to see frequently.
38. Make sure rewards are reinforcing
Kids with ADHD need to have extrinsic motivation because their internal motivation systems don’t work as effectively as other kids. Therefore, it is important, to make any change, that what you reward your child with is actually something meaningful to them. You don’t always need to buy things. Some kids are good with praise. Others would enjoy having more time with you, playing a special game, going for a bike ride, or screen time. Get creative.
39. Change up rewards
Kids with ADHD get bored easily and thrive off of novelty. So, if you find a reinforcement system works initially but starts to falter, don’t throw out the system altogether. Changes are it is still working, they just need a bit of variety of things they are working towards.
40. Surprise reinforcement
The most effective reinforcement are those that are intermittent and variable. So, while you may have a system in place where a behaviour relates to a direct reward (e.g., 10 minutes of homework = 5 minutes of TV), unexpected rewards that they don’t know are even coming are usually more valuable.
41. Ensure success
If you do set up a reinforcement system in which your kids are working towards some reward, it is critical that they achieve success right away to build momentum. Otherwise, kids will get frustrated and give up.
42. Curb explosions
We can often see our kids are having an off-day and easily avoid behaviours from exploding in the first place. Learn their early warning signs (e.g., change in voice pitch, scowling, sighs) and intervene accordingly.
Similarly, anticipate when something may go awry. Plan ahead rather than wait for things to happen! If your kids have trouble sitting for an entire meal at a restaurant, bring an activity bag that you put together to keep them entertained.
44. Establish a code word
With your kids, identify a code word that anyone can say if they see someone starting to losing their cool (and yes, kids can say it when they see their parents getting mad too… it’s actually best if you establish it for them to say to you first anyway). If they get really good, they may be able to realize it for themselves as well. Then, identify what you can do to support them if they are having a hard time. Perhaps it’s a hug, an offer to play a game, or even a snack.
Using the cue word is more effective than telling them to stop or cool off (or saying no), which could elevate the upset faster. In my house, we use the word “puppy!” if we see anyone getting upset. It helps create awareness and space.
45. Maintain consistency
We all know about being consistent… and it is critical for kids with ADHD. Being consistent helps kids develop self-control over time because they know behaviour A will always lead to parent reaction B.
If you are inconsistent, so too will their behaviours because they never know what might happen. And, when we are inconsistent, we are likely reinforcing problem behaviours, meaning we are only making them stronger and increasing the likelihood they will continue to occur in the future.
46. Modify expectations
If you can tell your child is having a hard time, perhaps look at how you can modify things so that they can be successful before behaviours occur. Don’t wait for behaviours to occur and then modify because then you may reinforce the problem behaviour (i.e., teach kids that throwing their pencil across the room will help them get out of it).
Modifying proactively, and on your terms, before your child loses it is key (and may even instill gratitude and love). For example, if you start to see your child getting frustrated with math, you may say, “I can see you’ve really been working hard on these questions. You know what, just do these two questions, and then you can be done.”
47. Give choices
Kids want to feel like they are in control and have some power over situations. Choices helps them feel like they have some control. Choices can come into any situation, such as being allowed to choose one thing on their plate they don’t want to eat, what math questions they want to do, or when they want to do their chores.
48. Give structured choices
Sometimes there is no choice in the matter: kids have to brush their teeth and go to bed. However, structured choices creates choices within the “musts.” An easy way is to create choice in the order kids do things, such as brushing their teeth first then putting on their pajamas.
49. Minimize triggers
In the early stages of changing behaviours, you want your kids to be successful as possible. Therefore, you may initially need to avoid potential triggers that cause behaviours. Perhaps not leaving your kids alone without adult supervision or leaving your child alone with the iPad. Once they start having success demonstrating positive behaviours more frequently, they will need to start practicing making positive choices in the face of these triggers though (which goes back to practice).
50. Be flexible
If you see your kids working and trying hard, maybe you can allow certain things to go to the wayside. There should, for example, never be hitting. However, perhaps you can put their dishes away for them one night because they did so many other helpful things through the day.
51. Take a break from constant feedback
One of the biggest frustrations for kids is that they feel like they are constantly nagged. It seems everything that comes out of adults’ mouths is to point out something they have done wrong or forgot to do. Take this challenge: for one whole day (and if you really want to see a fast change in behaviours, do this for an entire week), don’t give your child any corrective feedback. Even nicely reminding them. You may be amazed how much corrective feedback you constantly give your kids.
52. Find an alternative to saying “no”
No is one of the most stressful words in our language and immediately triggers stress hormones in our brain as well as our kids. Kids may immediately put up a fight or rebel – especially if they hear a lot of no’s through their day.
Therefore, finding an alternative may make all the difference from a positive interaction to an argument. Sometimes, if is not a big deal, yes might be a great alternative. Or perhaps praise the good idea they had and try to find a good time you both agree on to do whatever it is they wanted to do. Or collaborate together to make a plan that works for everyone. Use your no’s wisely, when it really is needed.
53. Support successful transitions from screens
Telling a child to get off a screen is very jarring. Their brains are so hooked into the screen it is really like dumping a bucket of ice on them. Of course, you will have established what the expectation was in the first place (e.g., you get 20 minutes), but you will also need to gradually shift their focus away from the screen once they start.
If they are playing a game, you can sit next to them and start asking questions and commenting. What are you playing? What is that coin for? Oh, that guy looks mean! Ask them to show you something or perhaps show you what each button on the controller is for. As they start to engage with you more, you can remind them it is time to start shutting the game down but look forward to the next time, when they can show you another cool thing.
Reactive behaviour strategies
Reactive strategies are those you implement after a problem behaviour has occurred. Essentially, how you respond to kids’ misbehaviours.
54. Stay calm
How you respond to any behaviour makes all the difference. Stay as neutral and calm as possible no matter what the behaviour. As soon as you get upset or freak out, the situation will quickly elevate to out of control.
Disarming is just as it sounds – taking away the potential threat. Taking the fight out of the fight. The easiest way to disarm is to find some way to agree with your child. So, if your child says “you are so mean!” replying with something like, “You know, I can see how may seem mean right now since I took away your toy.” You’re not agreeing that you are mean, but acknowledge that you can see their perspective.
A key part of disarming is listening to your child’s side of the story. Kids so often feel like adults don’t listen to them. So, take the time to listen. Without judgment. Without jumping in. Without correcting or giving advice.
Get down to their level as you give them your full attention. See what they have to say. Doing so shows that you still love them and care for them and also helps reduce further conflict. You can also gain better insight into what is going on for them and why they behaved the way they did.
57. Ensure safety
Sometimes, if kids are really upset and aggressive, you may need to move them to a safe space to protect themselves and others. Again, remain calm and as neutral as possible. Avoid talking/lecturing/nagging. Their brain is in no condition to learn anything right now.
58. Have a calm down period
I don’t like using time-outs – kids only tend to brood over how much of a jerk you are rather than think about their own behaviours when sent to time out. What kids (and us!) do need though, is the chance to calm down.
59. Remain silent
Don’t engage, lecture, scold, or punish in the heat of the moment. Again, when upset, your kids rational part of the brain is offline so no learning is going to happen anyway. That is why cooling down first is critical before you can go back to address the behaviour later on.
60. Discipline vs. punish
If you consider the root word of discipline, it is disciple, or student. And, we are the teachers. Our job is to teach our kids how to behave in the first place, but then capitalize on those teaching opportunities after a behaviour has occurred by showing them how to fix things as a result of their behaviour and how to respond differently next time.
Part of teaching is helping your kids learn from their mistakes. Mistakes are a key part of learning and getting better – but only if we can stop long enough to recognize and learn from them. Kids with ADHD often have a hard time making a connection between their behaviours and the outcome of their behaviours. Therefore, we need to make those connections very explicit. And, brainstorm ways on how they a) can fix the mistake, b) recognize they might make the same mistake again, and c) what they can do next time. To instil the lesson, it is helpful to practice the alternative behaviours so they have first hand experience doing the very thing that you expect of them.
61. Be the teacher you always wanted to have
Remember your own experiences with teachers (or bosses). How did you respond to mean, aggressive, overbearing, and controlling teachers? Conversely, how did you respond to warm, engaging, forgiving, compassionate teachers? The best way to correct behaviour is to encourage and support.
62. Let your kids identify the consequences when calm
If you have consequences for certain behaviours in place, your kids should already know they consequences to their behaviour and therefore don’t need a reminder and definitely not additional nagging. If they do forget, then go to the written rules and see what it says. That way it is not you being mean – they can identify for themselves the agreed upon rules.
63. Separate the behaviour from the child
Your child is not the behaviour, yet they often see themselves as bad or mess-ups that can’t do anything right. It is critical that we highlight that it is the behaviour that is not acceptable, not them.
64. Avoid labels
Any label can be detrimental for kids, whether we call them lazy or a space cadet. In my house my youngest was often called slow, which she really hated. Any label can be very hurtful and kids tend to internalize them, really taking it to heart and crushing their self-esteem.
65. Don’t make it personal
I can’t say it enough. Kids are going to make mistakes. We all do. Our goal is for them to learn from those mistakes. What we don’t want to do is crush their self-esteem. So, focus on the objective and don’t add unnecessary comments like “when will you ever learn?” “can’t you do anything right?” “why do you always have to ruin everything?” Be respectful and objective. Similarly, avoid criticizing your kids. Help them fix their mistakes.
66. Always be on your child’s side
No matter what the behaviour. If they get in trouble at school, they already got in trouble, so why give them more trouble at home too? Listen to their side of the story – theirs is just as important as what others might have to say.
67. Help them when they do make mistakes
Whenever you are working on changing behaviours or teaching new skills, kids are going to make mistakes. They really need extra patience and support to be successful. Let your kids know that you are there to support them and help them build the skills so things get easier.
Whenever my daughter whined, I’d remind her I didn’t understand the language of Whine and was happy to listen when she came to me with a calm, quiet voice and said… (I would then model exactly what I wanted, such as, “hey mom, may I have some ice cream?”)
69. Catch them being good
It is easy to identify whenever your kids are doing something wrong. And we often miss all of the great things they do the rest of the time, taking those behaviours for granted. Unfortunately kids will feel pretty defeated if none of the good they are doing is highlighted. Therefore, be sure to respond to the positive things they do, even if they are expected behaviours. Acknowledge whenever they do something right. Kids will learn more about what they should be doing that way (vs. being scolded all the time for what they should not be doing).
70. 5:1 rule
Kids learn from their behaviours best when they are given 5 positives to every one corrective feedback. And, this ratio also helps promote resilience, positive well-being, and strong relationships.
Whenever a behaviour happens, first remember that there are no such thing as bad kids. Kids do good if they can. Remembering this in the heat of the moment can help you respond effectively. There is something getting in the way of your child being good.
72. Why now?
Next, you can ask yourself, why now? Figure out why the behaviour is happening. What function does it serve? Is it for attention? Is it because your child is hungry? Or tired? Or is there something getting in their way of making a positive choice?
Once you understand the why of the behaviour, you can help intervene effectively (or what skills need to be taught). And, understanding the why helps you maintain patience and even empathy.
73. Teach skills
Some behaviours have an easy fix. If they are hungry, you can easily give them a snack. However, sometimes there are skills that need to be learned. If, for example, you realize your child is engaging in attention seeking behaviours, teach them how to gain your attention appropriately.
74. Give them the benefit of the doubt
Again, kids really don’t want to be bad. Sometimes they simply cannot follow through. Sometimes they really did forget. Give them the benefit of the doubt and see how you can support them so they are more successful next time.
75. Do something different
If you find your kids making the same mistakes over and over, you may have to do something different. We will, for example, always tell our kids the three things they need to do today for them to ultimately forget what they needed to do. And yet we will tell them again tomorrow. Obviously telling them is not effective. Find a different way to help them be successful. After they make a mistake, talk about what you and they can do differently for next time.
76. Let them express themselves
Also remember that kids need to express themselves! Kids will protest. Kids will talk back. Kids will scream. Don’t try to quiet them. Use these ways of expression as great learning opportunities. Acknowledge how they are feeling to ensure you don’t minimize their upset. Then, teach your kids more effective means to express themselves (i.e., so that others will listen without becoming upset themselves). Otherwise, if we tell them to be quiet, they may start to internalize their feelings (which only leads to anxiety and sadness) or express them with even more explosive behaviour.
77. Avoid blaming ADHD (or their meds)
Even if they have ADHD, which can make it hard for them to maintain self-control, kids still need to take accountability for their actions. This is where proper discipline, choices, and natural consequences come into play.
Develop Executive functions
ADHD is essentially an executive functioning disorder. Executive functions are the brain’s director and an important part of managing behaviour. Much of the frustrations parents have are with the difficulties our kids with ADHD have with these skills. I have already touched on a few environmental supports we can implement to support these skills. But, one of the greatest things you can do as a parent is to help your kids develop these skills to promote their long-term success. Here are a few areas you can help target.
Help your kids stay organized by creating an environment that promotes organization. Make things easy and accessible for kids, such as using clear storage bins (or bins with labels), and the same homework file (also labelled) so kids know where things go. Having a consistent place for everything is definitely helpful. This will help reduce distractions and losing things. Read more here.
79. Establish a clean 30 (or 10)
The very word chores is awful, so of course it elicits groans anytime it is mentioned. And, kids are often expected to do them on their own when others are busy doing other things (that kids will believe are way better than what they have to do and then create a self-pity party about how much life sucks for them).
Think about how you can change up the whole energy around chores. In my house, we have a clean 30 everyday, where everyone pitches in to tidy up at the same time. I put every task that needs to be done on a sticky, so kids can grab the sticky note of the task they want to do in that time. (And any leftovers can be used for the next day!)
80. Delayed gratification
Most kids have trouble with delayed gratification, wanting what they want right now. Our society doesn’t help, with on-demand everything. However, kids who can delay gratification tend to be more successful in all areas of life than those who cannot. Therefore, we essentially need to teach our kids patience.
There are lots of ways to do this. An example is creating a patience jar. Whenever your kids need to wait for something, they can go to their jar and pick out three ideas and choose the best one in that moment (i.e., based on what they think will be the most fun or depending on the location or materials needed). Read more here.
81. Impulse Control
Kids with ADHD have a hard time controlling their impulses, which is what typically causes problems. Therefore, it is critical to help them develop impulse control. As noted elsewhere, we need to set them up for success. A key way is to set up the environment for their success. We also need them to practice new, adaptive behaviours to do instead of the old problem ones. A great way to do this is through resistance training, where they can practice engaging in new behaviours.
82. Responding thoughtfully
Encourage kids to respond thoughtfully. Start by reading a book or watching a show and asking them different questions that get them thinking. Then, take time to help them with homework and have them talk about their responses first before writing them down.
Self-talk is often an important part of having kids respond thoughtfully (vs. impulsively). Then, they need to problem solve the different ways they can choose to respond to a given situation. Read more about problem solving and controlling impulses as well as decision making.
Unfortunately, kids with ADHD often a hard time getting started on things and tend to procrastinate. Therefore, you will have to help them learn the tools they need to get started. For example, creating warm up activities to get their brain wrapped around the task, breaking tasks down and establishing mini-timelines can all be helpful. Here are more ideas to help with initiation.
84. Sustaining effort
Kids with ADHD have a hard time sustaining effort, especially during neutral or non-preferred tasks. Having a minute manager, however, can be helpful. This means an adult in close proximity promotes their likelihood of following through with the task until it is done. If your child is doing dreaded chores, do some tidying up around them. If they have to do boring homework, do your taxes or some other similar task nearby. Having you nearby can help keep the brain engaged but also helps to reduce frustration.
85. Working memory
This is where you understanding ADHD becomes critical. As you know, kids want to do good. But kids with ADHD often have working memory difficulties, which makes it hard for them to remember rules, things they are supposed to do, and even routines. Therefore, we need to help support their working memory, and especially their nonverbal working memory.
It is important to note that we cannot really develop working memory, but we can implement lots of strategies to support them. Always remember though – their brains are not meant to hold hold hold information. Their brains are meant for creating lots of ideas. So, don’t expect them to remember things in their head. Externalize the information outside their brain (e.g., write it down).
I know I said this already, but how you present yourself really affects kids’ presentation. Kids with ADHD often feel they aren’t adequate, that they disappoint others, that they do everything wrong, and/or that they are bad. They often look outside of themselves (to you) to see how well they are or are not doing. Therefore, your behaviours and interactions with your child affect their personal outlook. Protect your kids’ self-esteem by being as patient, understanding, and accepting as you can. Highlighted their strengths and positives. And let them know you are all working together to get better together.
Vs. direct. Or take over. Or nag. Or control. In any situation, ask yourself what a coach would do? Ask questions about the situation. Figure out what is going on. And be there to support and encourage your kids. If a coach doesn’t like what they are seeing, they don’t immediately bench the kid. They give them an opportunity to fix it and let them know that if they can’t fix it then they will bench them.
87. Patience, Empathy, and Affection
All things you need to do. Find ways you can be a little more patient, a little more empathetic, a little more affectionate everyday.
88. Unconditional positive regard
No matter what the behaviours, you have to show your kids you still love and accept and support them, no matter what. It is not enough to simply say these words. Your kids need to actually know and feel this.
There will be days when you may not feel this yourself. So those are the days you need to work a little harder to acknowledge the difficulties your child faces and show your love. Sometimes it is helpful to look through pictures of happy times with your kids to help remind you how much you love them.
89. Seek support
There is a lot of pressure on parents these days, but it truly does take a village to raise a child. Especially a child with ADHD. Seek counselling for yourself if you need help managing stress, mood, or anxiety. Seek behavioural support for your child if that will help. But also build a support network of family and friends, people you could call on with the drop of a hat if the need arises.
Part of that support system is having a solid babysitter or respite worker who can come watch your kids whenever you want to run errands, go for a massage, or connect with others. You may also want to join a support group. You have the chance to learn more about ADHD and how to support your kids, as well as receive support from other parents.
We all know we need to take care of ourselves first. Yet, our own self-care is usually takes the back seat. Exercise. Meditate. Whatever you need to do.
91. Take breaks…
…from your kids. You need your own time. Find a babysitter and go out once in a while to help recharge your batteries. Get away if you can, whether for night or a week. If you can’t get someone to watch your kids, you can try to find ways to have kid-free time at home. I have a parent-free night once a week where parenting duties are done by 6. It is up to the kids to get themselves to bed while I do my own thing.
92. Develop (and model!) your own regulation skills
When we’re not able to cope effectively, we cannot help support our kids and follow through with parenting effectively. And, if you cannot maintain control, how can you expect your kids to?
Further, you are an important role model in your kids’ lives and they will watch how you manage stress and maintain self-control. You will, of course, feel frustration and anger. But yelling and controlling our kids doesn’t model how to express these feelings in healthy ways (and they don’t help the situation anyways – kids will only push back).
Think about what you would want your kids to do when big emotions take over. Leave the room, take a break, go for a walk, take some deep breaths. Go practice them yourself!
93. Apologize and amend
Just like kids, we make mistakes and will likely lose our cool too sometimes. When you do, show your kids how to fix things. Apologize in a genuine, meaningful way. Make any repairs you need to as a result of your outburst. Another great lesson to show your kids. We all make mistakes – they key is to fix our mistakes.
94. Co-parent effectively
No matter what the family situation, if you all live together or are separated, it is critical that parents maintain a united front in front of their kids. Also try to maintain as much consistency as possible between parents. The more you are on the same page, the easier it is for your kids to learn and consistently engage in appropriate behaviours. This again helps promote predictability, which helps ease stress and subsequent fighting.
We are often so stressed with everything going on in our lives. Our schedules are jam packed and we are always on the go. Unfortunately, stress makes it hard for us to parent effectively and busy schedules leaves little room for us to connect with our kids. Find ways to simplify to ease some of the burden.
Developing a strong sense of gratitude will help you acknowledge all the good in your life and in your kids, which will ultimately help you be the best parent you can be. Sharing your gratitude exercises with your kids will also help them develop gratitude, which is actually a key ingredient to promote their perseverance. Simple things like talking about the five best parts of the day every night is all it takes. You could also answer these three questions everyday: What did someone do today to make you happy? What did you do to make someone else happy? What have you learned today? I also love the book Magic, which offers daily exercises to optimize gratitude.
Building compassion together with your kids is an amazing way to build connection and resilience. We tend to be most compassionate to people we see as similar to ourselves. The best way to therefore build compassion is by creating belonging in as many ways as possible. It can be as something simple as wearing the same colour or jersey. Giving and receiving help.
98. Find out if you have ADHD
Since ADHD is often inherited, there is a chance that at least one parent has ADHD. If you do, it may be hard to implement a lot of the strategies outlined here, such as maintaining structure, establishing routines, responding proactively, and being consistent. If you do have ADHD and can manage it effectively, you will be able to maximize your parenting success.
One of the best things we can do for our kids is help create resilience. Kids need to be challenged, so it is important to remember that our role is not to make life stress-free. We need to ensure our kids have opportunities to face and overcome challenges. Make sure you help them stretch beyond their comfort zone as often as you can. Here are a few things you can do to help build resilience.