Good Discipline may help change misbehavior in ADHD Children


Misbehavior in children and teens with ADHD may improve when parents employ good discipline techniques.

As I pointed out in Mistaken for ADHD, discipline and punishment are not the same things and the two are not interchangeable. When a child is punished, he or she is subjected to either emotional or physical trauma-pain (or sometimes both) in an attempt to attach negative consequences to a behavior or misbehavior. Spanking a child is an example of punishment-not a form of discipline!

In contrast, the word discipline means to teach, to train, to instruct, or to educate in order to cause a change-in the case of a teen or child with behavior problems-a decrease in misbehavior.

Unfortunately, many parents and teachers confuse punishment with discipline. Too often, I hear them talk about how they disciplined a child to “make him or her study harder” or “force him to make better grades” by taking away video games or cell phones; or not letting them go to the movies or a party; or sending them to bed without dinner,; or well, you get the idea.

I hope by now, you realize none of the above tactics are principles of discipline-they are types of negative reinforcement or punishment.

Here’s a take-away point…punishment rarely causes a child to show a sustained improvement in grades or study habits!

In fact, punishment rarely improves misbehavior any longer than it takes for the misbehaving child or teen to get out of trouble long enough to get rid of the pain and suffering caused by the punishment.

Principles of good discipline usually include using positive reinforcement with good teaching skills to empower a child in his or her learning adventure. Which child do you think learns easier and remembers what he or she learns longer-the child who is afraid of being punished for not studying and making good grades or the one that feels in control of or empowered to make great grades?

This means that as parents and teachers, we should use positive reinforcement or discipline, not punishment, to help a misbehaving ADHD child, a child with learning problems, or “discipline problems” improve their behavior and keep it that way.

As we discussed in previous articles on using digital readers to improve reading grades in ADHD teens and in those with learning problems, teens who feel in control of the way they read, study and learn are less impulsive, more attentive, develop better study habits and skills and have improved language grades.

In my next article, we’ll discuss the principles of good discipline in ADHD kids and teens and children who misbehave. Learning these techniques might just help you to help your ADHD child improve his or her attitude-behavior-grades-social skills and live a happier more successful life.

Dr. Frank 

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