Are There Effective Techniques for Helping an ADHD Child?


This is first in a two-part series on raising children with ADHD as part of October’s ADHD Awareness Month. Read part two.

ADHD – an acronym may parents and teachers know well.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common mental health disorders of childhood. The symptoms of ADHD – inattention, impulsive behavior and hyperactivity – can be challenging for parents and teachers.

During ADHD Awareness Month, it is important for adults to remember the one word that can help make life with a child who has ADHD more manageable: consistency.

Importance of Consistency

“Consistency is important with all children, but especially for children with ADHD. Consistency makes things predictable for them,” said Brandi Paluska, a licensed clinical professional counselor at The Children’s Center, a program of Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois. “Children with ADHD have a lot going on in their brains. We see it when they jump from one activity to another or hear it in conversations when they cannot stay on topic. External consistency, from parents and teachers, may be the only stability those children have in their day.”

Here are three examples of consistency Paluska encourages:

  • Consistency in discipline
  • By having predictable consequences for negative behaviors, children with ADHD are less likely to be caught off guard when they are disciplined. Having a consistent plan for how discipline is handled keeps parents emotions from overriding their logical thinking.  For example, a parent who is upset about a situation at work might ground their child for a week for a behavior that really only deserved a consequence for the rest of that day. “Do not punish them based on your feelings in the moment. Work hard at looking at the behavior objectively and punish based solely on the behavior,” she said.
  • Consistency in praise
  • Praise should be given often and parents should be specific about why they are giving praise. If possible, praise should always be given directly after positive behavior. “Praise them for little and big things,” Paluska said. “Praise them every day at every opportunity. Your child will make mistakes. Don’t let those mistakes be your only interaction.” Parents who consistently praise their children, however small the act may be, have a better foundation with their children when negative consequences occur.
  • Consistency in rules
  • Discipline and rules are closely connected. A child cannot be expected to follow the rules unless they are told what they are. Because children with ADHD struggle with retention, they have to be told often. Rules should be very specific and tell a child exactly what is expected. Telling a child “Be good” in the store does not tell them how to behave. Telling a child “One hand always on the cart and quiet voices” lets them know exactly what is expected.

“Consistency equals stability. The more stability in a child’s life, the more likely they are to do as well as they absolutely can,” Paluska said.

Importance of Working Together

It is imperative for all adults in a household to work together when dealing with a child who has ADHD. Take the time to sit down with the child and explain the rules. Let them know about the positive and negative consequences for their behavior.

“Write it down and put it somewhere everyone can see it. Then work hard at following through,” Paluska said. “It is not easy for anyone to change a habit. As parents and caregivers, we have developed habits in how we interact with our children and to change those takes time and effort. If you revert back, catch yourself, acknowledge that it happened, and then try again. Don’t give up just because you make one or two mistakes.”

Dr. Ross Greene, author of the highly acclaimed books “The Explosive Child” and “Lost at School,” will be in Springfield on Oct. 16 and Oct. 17 to talk about a compassionate, collaborative and effective approach to understand and help behaviorally challenging kids.

Dr. Greene’s presentation on Oct. 16 is from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and open to the community, including parents and educators. You can register online for this free event. It will be held at Erin’s Pavilion located at Southwind Park. A light dinner will be provided.

Dr. Greene’s presentation on Oct. 17 is from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and geared toward mental health and social service professionals as well as healthcare providers and educators. You can register online. The registration fee, which includes a continental breakfast and lunch, CEUs and training materials, is $70.00. The conference will be held at Erin’s Pavilion located at Southwind Park.