Parenting for Success in ADHD Children



As we discussed in my previous article; Parenting Style Can Cause ADHD Behavior in Children; the manner in which a parent applies parenting skills, whether good or bad, can cause behavior problems that mimic ADHD in their children, thus leading to the misdiagnosis of ADHD.

In this article we’ll discuss some of those parenting mistakes previously mentioned and in more detail discover ways to help your children, whether ADHD or not, grow emotionally, academically and socially-all without you having a nervous breakdown.

Some of the most common parenting style mistakes we see in our medical practice include:

•  Parents expecting their child to be perfect or almost perfect-in school, in social settings, in getting along with friends and siblings, even when doing so creates undue stress and anxiety for the child and sometimes for everyone else involved.

Several years ago I interviewed a ten-year old child with ADHD whose mom had him on “restriction” as a disciplinary measure for a total of 3 out of 5 months of the school year for failing to do a book report and thus getting his first “f” in English. Unfortunately, she used “restriction” to mean he was not supposed to have fun of any type, not supposed to play, not supposed to watch TV, not supposed to visit friends and not supposed to go on school and church outings-a harsh form of punishment .

Of course, this type of discipline rarely works, because in this case, it was actually punishment, not discipline, as it exceeded  the one day per year of age limit on restricting things that we discussed in an earlier article. Likewise, it did not define exactly what it meant that he couldn’t do anything fun or have fun and didn’t provide a way in which he could right the wrong.

I later discovered his brother and sister also suffered from this parenting mistake, because to insure Geoffrey didn’t have fun, mom had placed similar restrictions on the other two siblings. (Siblings of ADHD kids are prone to suffer directly just because their brother or sister has ADHD!) She told me she had to do that because she couldn’t figure out a way to punish Geoffrey and still let them have unrestricted fun by playing with him. Are you confused? So was I! Just think about how confusing all of this must have been to Geoffrey, his brother and his sister.

• Both parents and teachers of children with ADHD and sometimes those who are not ADHD, many times unilaterally decide they must be the ones to set goals for the child. Unfortunately, more often than not, they tend to set a child’s goals just out of his or her reach thinking that by doing so, the child will try harder. Wrong!

What usually happens? When they set the bar higher than the child could possibly reach, these adults are just setting the child up to fail and to do so miserably. Almost all children will become terribly frustrated and disillusioned when they can’t see a way to get out of failing or losing something, when they can’t see a way to make their parents happy, and when they fear they will be labeled dumb or stupid.

The majority of these kids will just simply give up, suffer loss of self-esteem, and have to live with damaged egos and depression-anxiety-guilt. In addition, their parents and teachers will suffer as they have to deal with the child’s emotions and continued academic and social problems.

Good parenting skills can prevent misbehavior and behavior that mimics ADHD in children.

The parenting skills most suggested for preventing the above two discussed catastrophes include:

  • Using reasonable methods of discipline when trying to change a child’s behavior and temperament, instead of using harsh punishments
  • Following restriction-punishment guidelines of one minute per year of age up to age 6 years for time out and one day per year of age for loss of toys and privileges
  • Allowing the child a reasonable way-out, a way to make amends and restore his or her place in your life-all without guilt
  • Involving each child age three and older when setting goals so that the bar won’t be set too high. Some psychologists recommend a stepped goal plan that allows the child to easily achieve a couple of things while working toward the ultimate goal. I know a few adults that have used this approach in helping their employees reach production goals.
  • Making sure that whatever parenting skill or style you use is not designed to cause frustration, anger, guilt, anxiety, depression, damage egos, have drastic consequences, or place blame on the child. Once a child suffers from any of these self-esteem damaging events, he or she will be much more difficult to parent and will sometimes fulfill your worst fear, becoming a failure in school and in life.

In the next article of this series, we’ll discuss more common parenting mistakes and how to avoid them.

Dr. Frank

Here are a couple of articles you might have missed that will help build great parenting skills:

Good Discipline may help change misbehavior in ADHD Children

Principles of Good Discipline in Children and Teens with ADHD 

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