Disciplining a child with ADHD
Discipline takes on a whole new meaning when your child has ADHD. Here's how to cope.
Children with ADHD can be difficult to discipline for a number of reasons.  They often blame their behaviour on the ADHD itself, parents tend to feel sorry for them because "they can't help it", and there is always the underlying frustration of having a child that simply doesn't seem to listen. ADHD children don't respond to punishment well and will often behave worse when disciplined using traditional methods. That means you need to think outside the box.

What not to do:

  • Don't resort to yelling, threats or bribes. This only escalates the bad behaviour.
  • Lectures and arguing also only further the war between parent and child.
  • If you are too controlling and judgemental, your child will probably rebel. On the other hand, if you are too placid and spoil your child too much, the ADHD child will throw tantrums and show disrespect for you. The ideal balance of control is where you are able to respect your child and give him/her a certain degree of freedom, mixed with loving and firm discipline. In other words, you are IN control, but not controlling.
  • Never give in. ADHD children are extremely persistent and you need to match that. If you give in, even once, you will drive your child to keep pushing.
  • Never make a rule you cannot enforce. Once your child learns that "no" means "no", then he/she will give up a lot quicker.
  • Go slow on the reward charts. Loss of privileges or rewards for good behaviour works well in the short-term, but it also prevents children developing inner discipline. In other words, they are only behaving well for the pay-offs. Bribery is just another way for your ADHD child to get what he/she wants.

Techniques that work:

  • Give your child a choice. Allow him the power to choose between two options and then appear disinterested when he decides. This gives him a limited amount of freedom which he craves, while still providing the structure he needs for a sense of security. For example, instead of yelling at your child to clean his room, make a clear rule: He can only play computer games when his room is clean. So if he asks if he can play computer games, say, "Sure, if your room is clean." When he realises that HE holds the power to choose when he plays computer games, suddenly cleaning the room becomes something he can hyperfocus on and he will feel like he is doing it for himself, not for you.
  • Abuse it, Lose it. This method was created by the psychologist, David Keirsey. The premise is that if your child abuses a privilege, he loses it.  For example, if your child makes too much noise while the family is watching a movie, then she needs to leave the room. You need to stress that she is being removed because everybody else doesn't want to be disturbed - not as a form of punishment (she can still go play in her room for instance). The goal of most misbehaviour is to get attention, so if you quietly remove her from her "audience", then she can't get the attention she was looking for. She mustn't get a lecture, dirty looks or a raised voice. As soon as she realises her bad behaviour doesn't get attention, and that it actually makes her feel left out, she will start keeping quiet during family movie times.
  • Logical consequences for their actions. This must not be seen as a form of "getting even", but rather as the logical next step. This is particularly useful when your child backchats you, reacts sarcastically, rolls their eyes or makes "wise-ass" remarks. Basically, if your child hurts, embarrasses or annoys you, or if he/she makes you feel helpless, you need to show him/her it was unacceptable and that there will be a consequence.  
Rude behaviour automatically means that the child will not do what she wants or has planned to do (visiting a friend, going to soccer practice, etc.).  Be sure that they understand the connection between what they did and what they are losing. For example, when he was sarcastic it irritated you and now you need to go to gym to work off your frustration, so you won't have time to take him to his friend's house.  

It is important to always act on the consequence and to not give second chances. Don't argue or justify why you are doing what you are doing once you have explained the situation clearly. Be careful that you don't become angry or hostile and don't lecture the child on what they did. Focus on how it made you feel (annoyed, hurt) and that this means the next activity is now cancelled because of that.

•    Be consistent.
•    Try and keep your emotions and reactions cool and calm.
•    Separate your child's behaviour from who they are. For example, "I love you. I don’t love your toys lying all over the floor."
•    Keep a structured and clear routine.  
•    Read their pre-explosive warning signals. Removal from the "battle zone" to the sanctuary of their room for a few minutes is often useful.
•    Remember that ADHD children forget more often and need to be reminded of their chores and responsibilities.
•    Do one thing at a time. Telling your child to "clean your room" may make her frustrated because she has no direction and can become confused when she sees more than one task that needs to be completed. Instead, have your child do one step at a time - pick up the blocks, then put away the books, etc.

Does your child have ADHD? How have you dealt with discipline?

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