The Single BEST Intervention for Children with ADHD
and Oppositional Defiant Disorder
(Some of)the principles outlined in Howard Glasser's book:
"Transforming the Difficult Child - The Nurtured Heart Approach"
This is the most influential book in helping parents successfully raise their Oppositional Defiant Child. Oppositional Defiant Disorder is the most common co-occuring disorder that accompanies ADHD.
Reflections on creating success by Leanna Steiner, based on the book, “Transforming the Difficult Child” by Howard Glasser.
In order to create success and help guide positive behaviors, sometimes we have to start at a point where it is impossible to not succeed. When training Shamu, trainers started by placing the rope on the bottom of the pool. It was impossible for the killer whale to not swim over the rope. When it did swim over the rope, accidentally, it was rewarded. Despite the fact that the killer whale had no idea or intention to do anything in particular, the trainers were able to make that accidental swimming over the rope a successful moment. Then they were able to use this success to develop skills they wanted to see in the animal – jumping higher and higher over the rope. Yet, this time, on the heels of the initial success, the animal understands which behavior is rewarded and acts with intention to succeed. This story illustrates how we can still create moments of success even for children who have no intention of doing anything we say.
A great starting point in creating this type of success with children, especially those who do not respond to traditional methods, is to simply observe out loud what the child is doing when things are going well. For example:
- I see you are sitting quietly at your seat.
- I notice that you are putting away your supplies.
- I see that you came right over to group when I asked.
- I notice that you are already working on your paper.
A step further is to take that comment and connect it to positive qualities that you want to develop in your child.
- I see that you are sitting quietly in your seat. That is so respectful to me and to your friends who are working hard.
- I notice that you are putting away your supplies. That is so helpful!
- I see that you came right over to group when I asked. That is great listening and following directions!
- I notice that you are already working on your paper. That is so responsible of you to get started right away.
Through these comments, you will show the child that they are able to be many of these qualities (helpful, respectful, etc.), and you will encourage them to do it again with intention. (I accidentally swam over the rope, but hey that was easy, and it was rewarded! I can do that again, and maybe even better!)
In order to make the process of saying these comments easier, I organized a table. First make the observation of what they are doing. Then connect to a quality that is related to what they are doing.
I am so proud of you for…
I am impressed by …
That is very...That’s so....
It is important to note that comments can be made for things that the child is doing right, but they can also be made for celebrating when the child doesn’t make a poor choice. For example, “I noticed that you walked over and sat in group, and you didn’t grumble or complain at all! Wow! What a great attitude!” or “I see that someone was upsetting you, and you didn’t say anything mean! That is great self-control!”
ENERGY – POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE
Some children (especially those with Oppositional Defiant Disorder) will seek out "energy" (intensity) regardless of whether it is positive or negative. If they do not get positive energy or they get more from negative energy, they will seek out negative. Negative energy can be more of a payoff for some, as it is typically full of more emotion and higher levels of energy. Some children recognize that they get more with negative behaviors – more energy, more emotion, more connection, more attention, more visits, more rewards (as incentives for good behavior), etc. When these children are behaving properly, we might even avoid interacting with them so we don’t accidentally cause it to stop.
These children, therefore, start working to obtain that negative energy. They might purposely break a rule. Or say something naughty. Or do something dangerous. They know that doing this will get a strong reaction, a lot of negative energy.
It is very important with these children to de-energize negative behaviors. If there is a negative behavior, give it as little emotion, time, and energy as possible. Quick, short, low-energy consequences are ideal. As soon as the consequence is over, start celebrating positive behaviors. “You did your consequence, even though you didn’t want to. That was very responsible of you.” Show them they can get your energy only through positive behaviors. Demonstrate that negative behaviors will not result in a high-energy pay-off.
* It is helpful to state your requests clearly. For example, “I need you to sit down in group.” Requests should not be stated in a way where the child could interpret that there is a choice. For example, “Would you mind sitting down in group?”
* There is a great deal of literature out there saying to state rules positively, such as “Keep your hands to yourself.” However, rules are clearer to some children by using a “No” statement, such as “no hitting.”
* “Difficult” children are not simply the result of a lack of discipline. Even when parents work hard at traditional methods, using methods that are widely advocated and work successfully for other parents, these methods do not work for every child. With some children, these methods not only don’t work, they can make the situation worse.