Principles of Good Discipline in Children and Teens with ADHD


Parents and teachers can use good discipline techniques to improve ADHD behavior.

In a previous article we discussed how parents might employ good discipline techniques to improve misbehavior in their ADHD children and ADHD teens. Once again, let me reiterate discipline and punishment are not the same things. They are actually 180 degrees apart in intent and in improving behavior.

The Latin word discipline literally means to teach, while punishment in both ADHD kids and those who are not ADHD is often defined as giving pain or attaching negative consequences to a particular event or behavior. Unfortunately, more than 75% of parents, caregivers and teachers consider the two words and actions to be the same.

It’s been often said that children learn best when nurtured in a positive manner, not when punished or provided with negative reinforcement! If you pause to think about what things were like when you were growing up, I’m sure you can clearly remember learning better and being able to recall what you learned when you were relaxed, not afraid, praised, encouraged and given that proverbial pat on the back for what you had done.

With your childhood experiences firmly in mind, let’s take a look at what I consider to be the essential principles of good discipline in ADHD kids and teens. These include:

  • Consistency
  • Fairness
  • Accountability
  • Flexibility.

Let’s take a look at each of these and explore how you can apply good discipline to improve your ADHD child’s behavior and even use them in dealing with your non-ADHD child or teen.

Most of us have a pretty good idea of what we consider to be fair. Unfortunately, fairness is like beauty-it’s all in the eye of the beholder. When I explain how to be fair in dealing with the behavior of an ADHD child or teen, these are the key points:

  • Consistency-For some reason, it’s very difficult for many of us to practice what we preach. But…if you want to use excellent discipline in dealing with a child’s, teen’s, or another adult’s behavior; you must learn to do so.Great discipline techniques must include you doing exactly what you say you are going to do. If you tell little Frankie that he can’t play his PSP until his room has been cleaned; you should not give in just because he pitches a temper tantrum. Conversely, in order to insure he understands exactly what you mean by the words “clean your room”, you should show him how you expect him to clean his room. In fact, helping him do so the first couple of times will turn the whole event into a real learning experience!

The show and tell type of learning is essential when dealing with discipline in children and teens with ADHD! Most ADHD kids learn best when they hear, see and touch what they are expected to learn-kinesthetic learning.

  • Fairness-If you truly want to be fair to your child, then don’t ask them to do something that you would not do yourself! Likewise, you should not expect them to achieve the unreachable-don’t set their bar too high by expecting them to meet your goals. You should have agreed upon goals that belong to them, not you.If you want your ADHD child to reach for the stars, then you must be willing to invest your time in helping him or her soar to such great heights. And, if you’re unable or not willing to invest the essential time, then you should be willing to find someone who is, even if you must pay them.Setting unrealistic expectations and goals for your child (and for yourself) is a surefire recipe for disaster. Just like when you fail at something, your child becomes depressed, anxiety and gun-shy when it comes to trying to do something similar in the future. In many cases, it simply destroys self-esteem and that innate ambition that normally drives up to succeed.

Ironically, inconsistent and unfair discipline techniques can actually cause a child to show behaviors that look just like ADHD, confusing the real diagnosis, thus causing the misdiagnosis of ADHD. When good discipline replaces bad technique, many of these faux ADHD children will mysteriously seem to lose or out-grow their ADHD.

In my next article we’ll discuss the other two elements of good discipline-Accountability and Flexibility. Both of these are just as important as Consistency and Fairness when it comes to dealing with misbehavior and training behavior in ADHD children, teens and adults.

I bet you have dozens of ideas about how you can use all of the above to get started in shaping your child’s ADHD behavior into something more acceptable-a behavior pattern that will help him or her become a success in life, instead of a failure. Please share!

Dr. Frank

Here are a couple of previous articles that deal with discipline principles:

Why Kids Don’t Show Respect


Teaching Positive Attitudes for Kids 

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