Children with ADD present unique parenting challenges. Those challenges are often seen as frustrating by the parent who is trying to get a child to behave or cooperate. Does anything work? Yes, and it’s easier than you might think.
What are the biggest problems when working with an ADD child?
“He never listens, or at least acts as if he hasn’t heard a word I’ve said!” – Kids with ADD often appear to be “in space” or daydreaming. You can tell your child 15 times to do something and he may appear to be listening, but in reality, he is not. He’s not being rude or disrespectful, as many parents believe. His attention is simply not there or it is on something else.
“She loses everything!” – Yes, ADD kids have a tendency to be disorganized. Have you taken a peek at your child’s school back pack lately? It’s the perfect metaphor for what is happening in her brain. She is disorganized. She has no sense of order, another common symptom of ADD.
“His moods are unpredictable. It’s hard to take him out anywhere!” – Unless on a schedule, ADD kids can become quite irritable and anxious. Why? The ADD brain craves structure. When there is no routine to his day, it sort of “throws him off.” Once this happens, he gets irritable, impatient, and anxious.
“She’s like a little time bomb if I don’t let her go outside and play!” – When hyperactivity is part of your child’s ADD, her brain is much like a boiling pot of water. If the top to the pot isn’t lifted regularly, it will bubble over and make a mess. Your child needs a safety valve for letting off her steam, too!
“He just won’t mind me.” – Most kids, with or without ADD, have a tendency to test the limits. For an ADD child, there’s the extra issue of impulsiveness that makes him act before thinking most of the time, thus making him appear even more disobedient than the other kids.
1. Get your child on a schedule. Because of her need for structure, your child will thrive much better if she knows what is expected of her. Have a regular bedtime and morning rising. Try to have meals at about the same time every day (this will cut down on irritability). While we cannot always control everything that happens, ADD kids don’t always handle surprises well. The more she knows what the day will be like, the easier it will be on all of you!
2. Give lots of “recesses.” Whether your child is hyperactive or not, the ADD brain is working hard to handle all of the information that is overwhelming his brain. Make sure he gets lots of breaks throughout his day. This may mean going outside and running off a lot of that excess energy. Or it may mean a quiet activity is needed. Whatever works for your child is the goal because his brain needs the rest.
3. Help her stay organized. Seldom is there a child who was born knowing how to stay organized, but with the ADD child, it can be even harder for her to learn. Keep a calendar on the refrigerator with dates written in for all of her activities. Teach her, if she’s old enough, to check the calendar daily so she knows what is expected that day. If morning routines are particularly chaotic, help her lay out her clothes, make her lunch, etc. the night before. Have a special place where she puts her books for school, toys, or jackets, such that they are always in the same spot.
4. Set limits that are appropriate for your child. Consider what your child needs the most in terms of discipline and do what is best for him. Resist the urge to compare your discipline with other parents. Good and effective parenting is always the result of taking your child’s particular needs into account. Don’t over- discipline as this creates too much of an “unknown” for your child.
5. Practice patience. ADD kids rarely mean to drive you crazy, but they can! Try to remember that the ADD brain works differently from that of others. She can’t always control her impulsivity or her hyperactivity. Yes, she can ultimately learn techniques to keep these things under control, but that takes time, practice, and more time. Do both of yourselves a favor, take a deep breath, and give her a break!
6. Celebrate his successes. Unfortunately, much is written about the trials and tribulations of kids with ADD. But not everything they do is bad, misguided, or intentional. Catch your child when she does something good and tell her you noticed. Reinforce the learning that she is doing to get her ADD under control. In fact, she will respond better to positive reinforcement than to your yelling and scolding.
ADD kids are truly great gifts. Yes, it may take some extra work, and yes, they can bewilder even the savviest parent! But with a little forethought and lots of planning, you can make things easier on your child and on yourself!