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Great Parenting Advice, especially for ADHD April 23, 2007

Posted by edukfun in add, adhd, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, children, discipline, education, ld, learning disability, parenting, school, underachieve.
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Here’s some rubies of wisdom for all parents, and teachers too. Kids can be challenging, kids with ADHD can be mini-hurricanes, but an adult with a pack full of disciplining tools can make a huge difference.

When children break posted classroom rules, remain calm, state infraction of rule, and don’t debate. It is important to have pre-established consequences for misbehavior. Administer consequences immediately and monitor proper behavior frequently. Praise specific behaviors. Avoid non-specific praise statements. Enforce the rules of the classroom consistently. Avoid “getting personal” with the Attention Deficit child after poor behavior. Avoid ridicule and criticism. Remember, ADD children have difficulty staying in control. Teach the child to reward him/herself. Encourage positive “self-talk,” i.e., “You did very well remaining in your seat today. Don’t you feel proud!” This encourages the child to think positively about him/herself.

Don’t underestimate the power in that passage from http://www.findcounseling.com/journal/attention-deficit-disorder/special-education-lesson-plans.html

There is enough in there to save the sanity of an entire family. Let’s break it down and perform what Rick Lavoie would call an autopsy.

When children break posted classroom (or household) rules, remain calm, state infraction of rule, and don’t debate.

This tenet can save you many headaches.

  • “posted classroom or household rules”– Children and adults, especially those with ADD, ADHD, or learning disabilities need reminders. Posting the rules enables them to remind themselves. Great locations are the fridge, bathroom mirror, front door, and wherever the rule applies (like “Wipe crumbs off counter” in the kitchen).
  • “remain calm” – No yelling, no screaming, no huffing and puffing. Why? Kids will intentionally misbehave if they know that they can push your buttons. If you get upset, they win. Kids who feel neglected (even if it isn’t true), will act out in order to get an emotional response from the parent. Giving them an emotional response reinforces the misbehavior.
  • “state infraction of rule” – They may not realize what they did wrong and they need to see that the consequences are objective, fair and not arbitrarily being doled out because mom is in a bad mood today.
  • “don’t debate” – If you debate you are engaging the child and reinforcing misbehavior. It sends the message: “If you are bad, I will pay attention to you.” The odds are good that your kids feel starved for attention. Give them some! Yes, I know you are starved for time. That’s life!

It is important to have pre-established consequences for misbehavior. Administer consequences immediately and monitor proper behavior frequently.

  • “have pre-established consequences” – Nobody likes surprises, especially challenged children. Letting them know up front what will happen lets them absorb that into their thinking so that, hopefully, they will be deterred. The idea isn’t to catch kids messing up and then punish them. The idea is to set clear consequences so that kids will choose proper behavior!
  • “administer consequences immediately” – This is classical conditioning. You have to have the consequences delivered as close to immediately as possible in order to get maximum effectiveness. Punishing 24 hours later does not create the subconscious link between behavior and deterrent needed for effective discipline. Kids are notoriously rotten at making conscious choices in their behavior. They rely primarily on the subconscious. You will achieve better results by disciplining them on that level and to do so requires you to administer consequences immediately.
  • “monitor proper behavior frequently” – Sporadic discipline is as ineffective as sporadic exercise. Consistency is the key! If a kid breaks a rule once, and nothing happens, he raises an eyebrow. If he breaks a rule three times and nothing happens, he raises hell!

Praise specific behaviors. Avoid non-specific praise statements.

  • “Praise specific behaviors.” – If you like what they are doing, you need to be clear about what you like. Do you like that they are putting away their toys, or that they did so without being asked to? The kid can’t tell unless you tell him. Do you like that they got an “A” or that they studied for the exam? Be careful what you praise for: there are some dangers to praise that are addressed here.

Enforce the rules of the classroom consistently.

  • Kids with ADD or ADHD or LD never try to walk through walls, but they’ll walk all over parents and teachers. Why? Because the wall is always solid, it is consistent, and parents and teachers are inconsistent. If they think they can get away with something, they will try. Be consistent like the wall, and you won’t feel like beating your head against one.

Avoid “getting personal” with the ADD child after poor behavior.

  • I say this applies to all children, and especially with the ADD or Learning Disabled child. By getting personal, you have shifted focus from the behavior to the person. It changes discipline from, “this is what you did wrong” to “this is why you are bad.” This shames the child, which is unnecessary, hurtful, and ineffective.
  • For the challenged child, such criticism is especially harsh, since the child had a condition that makes it impossible for him or her to completely control their actions. We don’t tell people who need crutches that they are bad because they don’t walk fast enough. Likewise, lets not tell children that they are bad when they have a condition that to some degree causes them to misbehave.

Avoid ridicule and criticism.

  • Again, I think that this applies to all children, and especially to challenged children. Parents and teachers are tasked with training children, teaching them the skills needed for a happy life. Correcting a mistake does this. Ridicule and criticism do not; instead they teach the child that there is something wrong with them.

Remember, ADD children have difficulty staying in control.

  • It is unfair and unrealistic to expect 100% compliance from an ADD child. Put perfection out of your mind. Praise improvement. Praise performance. Handle mistakes for what they are: mistakes. Everyone makes them.

Teach the child to reward him/herself. Encourage positive “self-talk,” i.e., “You did very well remaining in your seat today. Don’t you feel proud!”

  • This is important and one of the challenges in my work with challenged children. Early on, it is easy to obtain compliance through rewards, especially for children who are subject to a disproportionate amount of punishment in the name of discipline. However, if a child is motivated merely by the prospect of reward, then that is the mode they will internalize. People obtain far more in life when they are instrinsically motivated, such as by feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction, pride, and challenge. Studies even show that if a child is intrinsically motivated to, say, learn to play guitar, but then parents offer a reward for practising, then the child’s intrinsic motivation will whither away and they will stop practising without the reward!
  • Encouraging positive self-talk is an effective technique to train children to tap into their intrinsic motivation to stay on task and use self-discipline.

That’s all for now. These are great tools for any parent or educator. Good luck!

-Allen Dobkin

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