More strategies
What's the Purpose of Discipline?
Teach our children how to become INDEPENDENT by teaching them problem-solving skills, decision-making skills, self-advocacy, responsibility, building a good conscience, and how to maintain healthy relationships.

A Parent's Role:
Coach, Manager, Image Consultant:
  • how to fit in and get along
  • how to be successful
  • how to do what's right and fair
Before you can work on discipline issues with your child, you have to build a relationship of love and trust. How?:
  • Understand ADHD
  • Show your child that you understand
  • Let them know that you are going to help them
  • Let them know that you care
Your child needs to know that they can trust you to help them. They need you to be consistent so that they can live their lives with some measure of predictability about what will happen and how you will react. Without this sense of trust, they feel that they are left to fend for themselves and they will become defiant because they feel that they must take charge of their lives because no one else will.

ADHD Behaviours:
  • Hot, quick temper
  • Jumps to oppose Authority
  • Throws fits when he hears the word 'no'
  • Has trouble remembering rules and consequences
  • Behaves impulsively and inappropriately
  • Has difficulty making friends
Why Do They Act This Way?
Stimulus Overload Causes The ADD Child's Problems by Dr. Umesh Jain (CAMH) uses the analogy of an ADHD person's mind being like the filter on a camera. Typical people know how to work the filter so that they can focus on whatever they choose. ADHD people can't seem to work the filter so they can't focus on what they need to. They feel overwhelmed by impressions and what they see, smell, hear, feel, or think.

Can you remember a time when, for whatever reason, you just couldn't concentrate. Think about a time where you were trying to think and there was lots of background noise and multiple demands of you. How did you feel? What did you do?
The frustration and annoyance naturally leads to temper and unless we explain the cause, our children will blame the 'stupid filter' for the problem. We need to help them learn how to use the filter.

It's often been described by people with ADHD as trying to listen to a radio station with a bad signal. Imagine trying to listen to a radio broadcast on a topic that is very important to you but you're missing every other word because of the static or the lost signal or other radio stations over-lapping and you're trying to drive and the kids are in the back seat. How could you possibly learn what you need to? Wouldn't you find it frustrating and annoying?

To deal with this frustration, they try to 'turn up the volume' by behaving in ways that are 'louder' - provoking others so that they lose their temper or being louder themselves, or being more active or doing something else which causes an Adrenaline rush. (fires, dangerous activities/sports). They try to stimulate their minds to work. You use stimulation too. How many coffees do you need before you can 'think straight' in the morning?

Another child may feel so overwhelmed that he withdraws into depression, dreaminess or is given to rage when disturbed. It's their attempt to shut out all the other stimuli.

We need to help them learn how to 'tune in the radio station' and deal with all the other distractions.

When these children say 'no' or oppose our demands, it's because they are working so hard at managing all the things that are happening in their minds, that one more demand is often just too much to ask.

We need to teach them how to transition from one activity to another.
And we need to teach them how to communicate their feelings so that the people in their lives know how to help and what they need.

How Can We Help Them Learn to Control Their Behaviour?
Take a problem-solving approach. Not only is this sound behaviour shaping practice but it will also help your child to learn this skill for every challenge he encounters in life.

A pro-active, positive plan is always more effective than a punishing, after-the-fact reaction.

Find the 'Why'
Ask him, but realize that often he won't know why. That's why it's important for you to know and use the information above. You can offer these as 'starting points' or options. 'Are you angry because I interrupted your game?' 'Are you hyperactive because you're feeling frustrated?'

And don't enter into this conversation in the midst of a 'meltdown' by your child. In a crisis, the brain does not think logically - even in typical people. If your child is having a 'meltdown', your job is to give them an opportunity to 'grant' (swearing and blaming and yelling is permitted but no violence is permitted), give them some space (but they are not allowed to leave the house) and do not engage (do not argue with them).

In a calm moment, meet with your child to explain, without blame, how his behaviours are harming him and how they are affecting others.
'Dan, I've noticed that you seem very frustrated and angry lately. I want to help because your behaviour is scaring your friends away, your teachers think you don't want their help and it makes your dad and I feel that you don't love us.'
Be prepared for complete denial - it's self-preservation. You can counter this by explaining that you understand.

'Sometimes it's hard to admit that we have a problem, but it's important for you to know that you are not a bad or stupid person. You just need some help to learn some new skills. We all need help with things from time to time.'

Explain how you can help him. You're going to help him learn what behaviours need to change, and then you're going to teach him how he can do things better and you're going to be his 'life coach'.

Name the Behaviour
How can your child know what you're talking about unless you identify and define the behaviour?

Prior to your 'meeting', think about what behaviours are causing the biggest problems. Only focus on a couple at a time so start with the most serious. At your 'meeting', share the information with your child and give explicit examples. 'When I called you for dinner yesterday (specific), you didn't come and then when I reminded you, you yelled at me and got very angry.(naming the behaviour)'.

Explain Why it's Inappropriate
'When I call you for dinner, I'm doing YOU a favour. Can you see why it's hard for me to understand why you should be angry. I don't deserve to be treated this way. When you get angry at people when they don't deserve it, it hurts their feelings and makes them not want to be around you or help you. Do you see now how your inappropriate use of anger is hurting you?.'

Discuss Why You Think it's Happening
You can and should explain the challenges of ADHD to your child but do not give them the impression that they have no control over it otherwise they will use ADHD as an excuse for their behaviour.

MOM: 'When I call you for dinner, why do you get mad at me?'

'Well, YOU were the one yelling at me right when I was just about to beat my video game.'

'Ah, I see. You were concentrating on your game when I disturbed you and you were having lots of fun. And you were upset because I yelled at you? Is that right? Well, first of all, I wasn't yelling AT you. I had already called you once and I thought you didn't hear me so I yelled louder.'

'I never heard you call me.'

MOM: 'OK, I think I know what might have happened. When you are doing something that really interests you, ADHD lets you hyperfocus (naming an ADHD trait). That means that you shut everything else out of your mind so that you can focus on that one thing. (defining it) You can shut out everything else that's going on around you and you can lose track of time. It also makes you feel really, really alive and excited.(the benefit of the trait) That's one of the gifts of ADHD but it can be a problem if you have to stop and do something else.(the downside of the trait) That's why you didn't hear me when I called you. And when something makes you feel that good, you don't want to stop. Would you agree? Can you think of other things that make you hyperfocus?'

DAN: 'Yah, when I'm working on a project that I'm really interested in.'

MOM: 'That's a perfect example of how ADHD can help you with your school work and how it might help you in whatever career you choose. But you also need to learn how to control it or it can cause you some problems.'

Using this approach, not only teaches 'Dan' about his ADHD traits so that can use them as strengths but he also learns that they can become problematic. It also teaches him how to talk about his ADHD traits so that he can advocate (ask for) what he needs. And it takes the blame out of the situation so that you can get past the defensiveness and on to solutions.

Develop a Plan

Now that he knows what the problem is and why things need to change, you need to develop a plan. Depending on the age and maturity of your child, you should try to develop the plan together.

MOM: 'OK, when you are hyperfocusing, you need help to change your focus gradually. It's very difficult for you quickly change from one thing to the next. This is called 'Transitioning'. It's like driving a nice car on winding road and you're really enjoying the ride but you need road signs to tell you that there's a stop sign ahead so that you can prepare yourself by changing gears so that you can slow down gradually. If you didn't get any advanced warning, you'd have to slam the breaks on and that would be bad and upsetting.

'Transitioning' may be causing some of your problems at school too. Like when you're working on math and then the teacher says, 'OK, now we're going to do spelling.' it's hard for you to switch off your 'math brain' and put on your 'spelling brain'. Or when you come in from recess and you've had your 'running around brain' on and now you have to put your 'thinking brain' on. (ADHD kids need to be shown how to apply these skills to other areas of their lives.)

So from now on, I'm going to give you an advanced warning when you need to start 'changing gears'. I'll let you know 10 minutes before you need to finish up your game.

And because when you're hyperfocusing, I know that you shut out other noises, I'm going to come into the family room to tell you instead of yelling from the kitchen. And I'm going to need to you let me know that you've heard me. And in return, your job is to come to dinner when I call you without giving me a hard time about it. OK? So that I know that we both understand the plan, tell me what the plan is.'

DAN: 'You're going to tell me when dinner is 10 minutes away by coming into the family room and I'm going to let you know if I've heard you and I'm going to come to dinner without getting angry when you call me.'

MOM: 'And I'm going to coach you through this because it's going to take some practice.'

When 'Dan' does respond at the first warning, acknowledge it with a 'thanks' and when he comes to the table without a fuss, you should make a fuss - a positive fuss - and the both of you should celebrate with a hug or a kind word.

Think about how a coach gets her team to win. She teaches the players the necessary skills, tells them when they've made a mistake, reminds them what they should have done, let's them practice it and rewards them and celebrates with them when they've done well. Good coaches encourage and praise. Bad coaches shame and punish.

Why don't kids do what they're told:
  • Task is boring
  • Task is too big/overwhelming
  • Task is too hard
  • Nothing in it for them
  • Tired, Hungry, Medication, Stressed
  • Nothing to Lose
  • Something to prove
  • They don't know how to appropriately ask for what they need.
  • Is it non-compliance or is it Incompetence?
Strategies for Compliance

  • post rules
  • state what you want, not what you don't want
  • post chores
  • be specific, what, when, who, how
Giving Instructions:
  • be sure you have their undivided attention
  • give one instruction at a time (chunk big jobs)
  • tell them what you want them to do
  • not want you want them to stop - be specific
  • how, when, where - ask them to repeat it back to you
  • check on them - praise them for compliance and effort
Give kids a choice when they misbehave: 'You can stop being rude or you can leave the table and go to your room.'

Don't give choices when there shouldn't be any. 'It's time for bed, okay?' 'Would you like to take a bath now?' Instead say 'Bedtime' or 'Bath time'. Keep in mind that you will probably need to give transitional warnings prior to this.

Don't give unlimited choices. 'What do you want for breakfast' is too overwhelming. 'Do you want eggs or cereal?' is easier for them.

When, Then: 'When you have done what I've asked, then you can do what it is that you want to do or we can do something fun together.'

Side-tracking - do not let them change the subject at hand. Use the 'broken record technique' - repeat your instructions in a neutral tone of voice three times. If he doesn't comply, apply consequences.

Do not Engage
  • do not take their bait
  • stay neutral
  • do not let them get you mad
If you lose your temper, you will lose control and eventually, you will give up. They win! It should be a win/win conclusion. If either of you gets angry, say 'We can't think straight when we're angry. Let's take a break and discuss this later. (Please note: If they are 'raging' this will not work. Learn crisis intervention strategies.)

When they swear at you or you hear 'you're a horrible mother, I hate you', all you have to say is, 'I'm just doing my job.' Don't let this 'weapon' crack your armor. This is their way of saying 'Please help me. Please take control because I can't.'

Rewards and Consequences:
ADHD kids need lots of immediate feedback (specific praise, compliments, rewards, as well as tips on how they could behave more appropriately.)

ADHD kids need external motivators. (example: token reward systems, timers, consequences and rewards) Determine consequences for non-compliance ahead of time. Discuss them with your children before it is an issue. Explain that the goal is Cooperation. And make sure you compliment them when they do comply quickly. 'You made a good decision. You were very mature and responsible.'
Don't be surprised by non-compliance at first. Expect it. That's the way kids test the limits and see if you'll really do what you threatened.
'Stuff' may belong to kids but the right to use it must be earned. Make consequences reasonable, enforceable and linked to the behaviour.
Apply the consequence without emotion - do not escalate emotions. 'You knew what the consequence was for not doing what I asked. You chose to receive the consequence.' Be sure to follow through with the consequence or kids will learn that you don't mean what you say.

Don't protect your children from the consequences of their actions. If the natural consequences aren't dangerous, let them happen. If they have broken a rule at school, they should suffer the consequences with some coaching from you about how they can avoid future problems.

  • even for small improvements
  • build on successes
Social Situations:
When your child makes social mistakes: What happened? What went wrong? What should you have done? What can you do differently next time?

Model and Rehearse Replacement Behaviours
Self-talk - talking yourself through a situation - what just happened, why and what should I do about it. Help them practice this by having them think out loud. Will help them to slow down their reactions and avoid impulsive reactions.

Managing Children in Public:

Before you go out
  • tell them how you expect them to behave
  • review the rules
  • establish a reward and consequence
  • check their understanding and get agreement
While you are out
  • give frequent feedback
  • follow through on reward or consequence
Teach your child how to apologize and let them practice. And make sure that you apologize when necessary.

A parent's explanation should be;

Admit you made a mistake
Explain what you were trying to do or what you were thinking.

Acknowledge the wrong.
  • indicate that you are aware of the pain, hurt or inconvenience you caused. Say I'm sorry. (Apologize)
  • Ask forgiveness. Affirm the Relationship - 'I hope this doesn't hurt our friendship'. (Amend)
  • do something to make up for it (Adjust)
  • think about what you'd do differently next time.

Privacy Policy  Terms of Use