When therapists work with parents and families in behavioral therapy they will typically discuss a number of behavioral and disciplinary techniques that have worked well in other likewise-affected families. Below are 10 recommended behavioral therapy techniques when dealing with ADHD children:
1. Consistency with Rules and Discipline
Parents of ADHD children would be well-served to practice consistency with rules and discipline. Rules and consequences that regularly vary can confuse ADHD children, and parents who fail to follow through with disciplinary measures are only asking for the inappropriate behavior to be repeated.
2. Modulate Your Voice and Actions
Parents who are able to project a calm voice and reserved demeanor generally have more success implementing discipline and mitigating problem behavior. Raising your voice constantly and/or acting violently merely models to ADHD children that their behavior is “not too far from normal.” Obviously, this does little to correct the problem behavior.
3. Plan for Turmoil
Parents in general, and specifically parents of ADHD children, need to plan ahead for inevitable turmoil. Even in the best of situations, there are bound to be outbursts, which is why it would benefit the parents of ADHD children greatly to have a calm and unemotional “disaster plan” ready, one that doesn’t send an aggressive message to ADHD children.
4. Avoid Negatives at All Costs
The simple truth is that negative words, phrases and admonitions only reinforce the negative. Some of these terms include “stop,” don’t” and “no”—words that ADHD children hear all too often, and words that seldom produce the desired results. Instead of saying, “Don’t touch that,” for example, try saying something like, “I would really appreciate it if you could avoid picking that up; the (object) means a lot to me. Thank you.” This type of language almost always yields better results than the alternative when living with ADHD children.
5. Try to Separate the Behavior from the Child
There can be no debate that some of the behaviors displayed by a child with ADHD can be downright maddening, but parents need to remember that ADHD is a behavioral disorder—a disorder of the brain causing symptoms that are almost entirely out of the child’s control. While negative behavior must be consistently addressed, parents need to keep in mind that they are disciplining the behavior, and not the child.
6. Stick to a Routine
The research on ADHD is very clear: Children with ADHD tend to perform better when they are living with a set routine. In therapy for ADHD children, specialists urge parents to institute a routine, one with the same bed time, homework time, meal time and activity time each and every day. This routine should be adhered to by every member of the family for best results. Changes to this routine could result in impulsive actions, often leading to inappropriate behavior.
7. Model How to Handle Difficult Tasks
Difficult tasks can often cause frustration in ADHD children, which can then prompt children to act inappropriately as a way to vent that frustration. Parents who demonstrate to ADHD children how to handle difficult tasks calmly and logically are effectively teaching valuable problem-solving skills by modeling the appropriate response to that challenge.
8. Designate a Special Room
Many ADHD children may require a special room for tasks such as homework and other activities. This designated room is ideal for reducing distractions and should be painted in calm, soothing colors for best results; Very bright and bold colors, as well as color patterns that are very complex, can be an unnecessary distraction that will ultimately take away a child’s focus and concentration.
9. Limit the Number of Playmates
ADHD children, whether at school or at home, have a difficult time socializing in very large groups, largely due to the way their hyperactive and impulsive symptoms affect them. Limiting an ADHD child’s playmates to 1 or 2 children creates a more optimal environment for them to learn how to make new friends and forge relationships.
10. Try Not to Pity Your ADHD Child
Perhaps the number one rule in behavioral therapy for ADHD children is to never pity your child. Pitying and coddling type treatment only reinforces that his behavior makes him/her different in your eyes—a message which is the direct opposite of what you are trying to accomplish through therapy.
Instituting these 10 behavioral therapy techniques can go a long way towards improving your child’s behavior at home and at school, and may ultimately limit the number of emotional outbursts that can often bring disharmony to your family.