Behavioral parent training programs, which are often part of a multimodal treatment approach for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), have been used for many years and have been found to be very effective.
“One of the areas that children with ADHD really struggle with is executive function,” says Preeti Parikh, MD, chief medical officer at HealthiNation and pediatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital. “This is where parents can really help … Teaching them organization [and] structure can make their life much better.”
Behavioral strategies can help your child improve:
Behavior and learning at school
Relationships with friends, parents, and siblings
Following through with adult requests
Here are some key parenting strategies to help shape the behavior of children with ADHD:
Establish structure and consistent routines. This includes reviewing their homework each night or setting weekly tasks and regularly going over them. “Every Sunday, come up with a plan for the week and go through what is due this week,” says Dr. Parikh. “The more they have an understanding of their schedule and the structure that’s in place, the better.” Learn more about building a healthy routine for a child with ADHD here.
Limit distractions. When your child is doing homework, make sure they’re in an environment that can help them focus. “When they are doing homework, don't have the TV or radio on in that room,” says Dr. Parikh.
Set small, reachable goals. Instead of giving your child a large goal, like getting a certain grade in a class, set smaller goals, like getting their homework assignment in on time. This is important for managing expectations, because you want to make sure they feel like they're accomplishing things, says Dr. Parikh. (Besides, getting their homework in every day will help them get better grades anyway.)
Reward positive behavior. Setting routines and goals can also help you find specific things to praise your child for. “Sometimes we focus on the negative and don't realize that what they really want is some positive reinforcement,” says Dr. Parikh. “So when they're doing something good, acknowledge that.”
While some of these techniques may seem like common sense parenting strategies, many parents need careful teaching and support to learn these skills and use them consistently. It can be hard for parents to learn this behavior modification and implement an effective program on their own. Often times professional help is needed.
"A child with ADHD doesn't always have control of what's going on, or staying still, or focusing, so making sure when they are accomplishing those simple tasks, or getting things done, or focusing, that we acknowledge it, and say, 'What a great job you just did,'" says Dr. Parikh.