Tips for Keeping Things Consistent for Kids with ADHD

Mother and DaughterThis is second in a two-part series on the important role consistency plays when raising children with ADHD, as part of October’s ADHD Awareness Month. Read part one.

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be challenging for the adults in their lives. Their symptoms of inattentiveness, impulsive behavior and hyperactivity can cause disruptions and frustration.

It is important for parents and educators to remember the one word that can help make life with a child who has ADHD more manageable: consistency.

“Depending on the emotional maturity of the child, inconsistency can make their world a scary place,” said Brandi Paluska, a licensed clinical professional counselor at The Children’s Center, a program of Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois. “A consistent schedule makes their days as predictable as possible. Consistent discipline reinforces what behaviors are appropriate. But, most importantly, consistent love lets the child know you love them, even if you do not love their behavior all the time.”

Here are two examples of consistency Paluska encourages:

Consistency in schedules: Having routines is comforting for all children, but for children with ADHD and their parents, routines are a requirement. From the time a child wakes up in the morning until they leave for school, there should be a routine so they are doing the same thing in the same order every day. “This is one way parents and children can be certain everything is being completed in a timely manner,” Paluska said. “Having a checklist for morning and evening routines as well as a checklist for chores can be helpful for children with ADHD.”

Consistency with words: Be truthful with your child without being negative. If your child loves basketball and is always outside shooting baskets, but never makes any, do not say, “You are so good at basketball.”  As a parent, encourage them by saying “I am so proud of you. I am impressed with how hard you keep working.” If you tell your child they are good at something they don’t excel in, someone else will reinforce to the child that their parent does not tell the truth. It is important that your child know you are being honest.”

Paluska encourages parents and teachers to be creative and thoughtful with their words. For example, if a young girl with ADHD dresses herself for the day in a mismatch of colors and ruffles, instead of negatively critiquing her outfit, tell her without sarcasm, “Wow! You are so very colorful today. You look like spring.”

Inconsistency can have a negative effect on a child, especially one with ADHD. Paluska encourages caregivers to take the time to think about how they can be more consistent and implement those ideas

“If you are having to change habits that give children more rules and structure, they will consciously or unconsciously do whatever they can to drag you back into your old habits. That was when they were getting their way,” she said. “It will be difficult at times, but just remember, by being consistent with a child who has ADHD there is more stability and a better chance at a happy, productive and fulfilling life.”

For more information about ADHD, including symptoms and diagnosis, education and community resources, treatment and support, visit the ADHD Services & Resources page on