7 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR ADHD CHILD’S BEHAVIOR
1. Maintain a behavior program.
We believe it is imperative for all families of ADHD children and teenagers to maintain a behavior modification program. Both simple and elaborate programs can work, the most important thing is that they be started and maintained. Targeting a specific problem behavior and rewarding the child for not exhibiting that behavior two to three times per day is the simplest way to intervene. More elaborate programs using a point system and a menu of reward items can also be very effective. The details of these programs would be too elaborate to discuss in this newsletter, however, there are numerous books on the subject.
2. Catch them being good.
We conceptualize this as making "deposits" and "withdrawals". Deposits are compliments, positive attention, positive time spent with your child or anything that enhances your relationship with them. Withdrawals are discipline, losing your temper, ignoring your child when they need your time or anything that depletes the quality of the relationship. Relationship research indicates that relationships in which there are three to four times more deposits than withdrawals are the healthiest relationships. Since ADHD children seem to ask for more negative attention and positive attention it is imperative that we work extra hard at making deposits. A pat on the back, a wink, saying, "I love you", need to occur in abundance.
3. Fifteen minutes of positive time per day.
ADHD children and teenagers may receive less positive attention than other kids may. It can be very productive, in the long run, in helping to develop self-esteem and a positive self-image for a parent to spend fifteen minutes of nonjudgmental time, doing something that their child likes to do. It can be as simple as playing cards, watching your child's favorite show with them, playing their favorite game or doing anything that they want to do. Creating something together such as a model or a pan of brownies is an excellent way to spend this time. This is a great way to make deposits. This small amount of time together helps the parent/child relationship develop, resulting in improved communication, more mutually positive feelings and improved listening.
4. Build on strengths.
We also refer to this as identifying your child's "islands of competence". One of the ways we maximize this was to keep a "photo gallery of accomplishments." Have a separate photo book in which, over the years, you put pictures taken of your child in positive and successful situations. Underneath each picture write a short (one sentence) narrative explaining the positive situation. As the album grows, your child will have one place they can refer back to, to remind themselves of their accomplishments. Having them all in one place provides a great boost to self-esteem and self-confidence.
5. "The game."
Complete these four steps daily with your child or adolescent. 1) " Tell me one thing you like about yourself". 2) Tell your child one thing that you like about them. 3) "Tell me one thing that you like about me". 4) Tell your child one thing that you like about yourself. Initially, children tend to resist playing this game. However, if you play with them consistently and without pressure in a short period of time, they will practically insist that you play this game. Things that you like about your child, about yourself and that they like about themselves can be very small things (e.g. "you have a nice smile"). If your child resists telling you something that they like about you go on to the next step, in time they will complete the step without a problem. This is the most compact, yet most comprehensive self-esteem building exercise we have found. Within these four steps, the child acknowledges things that they like about themselves, the parent helps them build their self-esteem repertoire, the parent models positive self-esteem, and the parent helps the child give compliments and recognize positive qualities in others.
6. Coordinate with school and others.
Keeping the lines of communication open with school by communicating with teachers, the school principal and special education personnel helps the parent stay on top of any difficulties that arise in school. This allows parents to help make changes before big problems arise. Joining organizations like CHADD or other local support groups helps a parent with information and support. Don't be shy about hand selecting teachers who understand and work well with ADHD children.
7. Take care of yourself.
Recent research indicates that depression is higher in mothers of ADHD children than in mothers of children in the normal population. Raising an ADHD child is a "high maintenance" job. The ADHD child needs more attention, more discipline, sometimes provides fewer parental rewards than a non-ADHD child. Because of the chronic nature of this disorder parents are never off-duty and must be in this for the "long haul". It's easy to burn out in a situation like this. Finding other parents with ADHD children and trading baby sitting services with them so that you can go out is very important. Hiring tutors, aligning with advocates, trading services with friends and finding time for personal stress relief is critical to your child's long-term success. Joining a local support group or meeting regularly with some close friends are some ways to minimize the chance of depression and take care of your self.