Why Disciplining a Child with ADHD is a Challenge

Why Disciplining a Child with ADHD is a ChallengeAre you the parent of a child with ADHD and feeling at your wits end because of your child’s troublesome behavior?  Do you need answers on why disciplining a child with ADHD is so difficult, and perhaps some tips that could help improve the situation?  Disciplining a child with ADHD—attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder—is a challenge to say the least, with many potential pitfalls and obstacles, but this does not mean it is impossible either.  Many parents have learned to effectively cope with their ADHD child’s behavior simply by consistently adhering to certain principles.  To help you do the same, below we will explain why disciplining a child with ADHD is such a challenge, followed by a list of some of the more common mistakes to avoid when disciplining your child.

Why Is Disciplining a Child with ADHD such a Challenge?

Disciplining a child with ADHD can be exceedingly difficult, primarily due to the nature of the disorder and the way it affects a child.  ADHD is typically characterized by three primary symptoms—inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity—that can either occur independently or simultaneously.  The symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity can often lead to behavioral problems at school and at home, but because of the inattention factor, many children will not even pay attention to the list of reasons why they are being punished.  Moreover, carrying out the consequences of that punishment can often prove difficult due to the fact that children with ADHD tend to become easily distracted.  This can often lead to parents lashing out angrily at a child, which only models the poor behavior parents are trying to correct.

Mistakes to Avoid When Disciplining a Child with ADHD

There is no question that disciplining a child with ADHD is complicated, requiring patience and consistency, but a child’s behavior can worsen unless certain mistakes are avoided.  Some of these mistakes include:

  • Failing to inform the child what he/she did wrong.  When disciplining a child with ADHD, punishment only conveys what he or she should NOT do.  It does not, on the other hand, convey to them the actions or behavior they should display instead. Make sure you tell your child exactly why he is being punished, otherwise, he or she is bound to repeat the behavior.
  • Losing your cool.  Once a child learns that he/she will only be disciplined when mom or dad finally loses their cool or “blows their top,” the child will continue to persist in the behavior until you do just that.
  • Inconsistency.  A common mistake when disciplining a child with ADHD (or any child) is inconsistency.  Carefully think through any punishments you threaten, but once the “threat” is out there, you must follow through.
  • Putting multiple people in charge of discipline.  As parents, disciplining your child with ADHD falls squarely on your shoulders.  Children with this condition will become confused if multiple people (siblings, grandparents, etc.) are constantly interfering with your disciplinary methods.
  • Failing to get your child’s attention.  When you are scolding or threatening discipline, how do you even know if your child is paying attention?  Inattention is a prime symptom of ADHD; therefore, it is crucial that you have your child’s undivided attention when instituting any disciplinary measures.

Disciplining your child with ADHD requires consistency, calm and good communication skills.  A good precept to remember is that negative usually begets negative, and as a result, you should attempt to set up a structure that includes both discipline when acting out, and rewards for good behavior, all based on clear and reasonable expectations.