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8 Discipline Strategies for Kids with ADHD

Learn how to help manage symptoms and behaviors


Children who have been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder may require some slightly different discipline strategies to help them manage their behaviors. Children with ADHD may struggle more with following directions, managing impulsive behavior, sitting still, and completing tasks such as homework or chores. Parents of children with ADHD should have a discipline toolbox that allows them several options to choose from when disciplining a child.

1. Provide Positive Attention

Young Girl Kneading Dough with her Mother
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Providing positive attention can be a great way to reduce behavior problems. Sometimes, kids with ADHD can be exhausting. This can lead to their parents struggling to find extra time and energy to simply play with their child. However, providing your child with positive attention can be a great investment because it can reduce a lot of attention-seeking behaviors. Set aside time each day, no matter how difficult your child’s behaviors have been, to participate in an activity with your child.

2. Give Effective Instructions

Kids with ADHD sometimes need extra help following directions. Ensure that you have your child’s full attention before giving directions. Turn off the television, establish eye contact and place a hand on your child’s shoulder before saying, “Please clean your room.”

Also, give one instruction at a time. Kids with ADHD often struggle to follow chain commands where parents say something such as, “Put on your socks, clean your room and then take out the trash.” A child with ADHD is likely to put on his socks and then on the way to his room he’ll find something else to do rather than clean it.

3. Praise

Praise can be an effective tool. Make your praise specific. For example, instead of saying, “Nice job,” say, “Great job putting your dish in the sink right when I asked you to.” Praise kids for following directions, playing quietly and sitting still.

4. Time Out

Time out can be a great skill to teach kids with ADHD. Teach them to go to a quiet spot to calm down when they are becoming angry or when they are overstimulated. Time out doesn’t need to feel like punishment, instead, it can be a great life skill that can be useful in many situations.

5. Ignore Mild Misbehaviors

Sometimes kids with ADHD exhibit a lot of attention-seeking behaviors. Ignoring mild misbehaviors can be an effective way to get them to stop. Behaviors that you may want to ignore include whining, complaining, making loud noises or interrupting. Paying attention to these behaviors sometimes reinforces them and causes them to continue.

6. Reward Systems

Reward systems can be a great way to help kids stay on track. Kids with ADHD often aren’t able to wait until the end of the day or the end of the week to earn a reward. Instead, they may benefit more from a token economy system where they earn points or tokens throughout the day for positive behaviors.

7. Allow for Natural Consequences

When disciplining a child with ADHD it is important to pick your battles. You don’t want your child to feel as though he can’t do anything right or that he is constantly getting into trouble. Allowing some behaviors to slide can help you keep your sanity as well.

Sometimes allowing for natural consequences makes more sense rather than trying to convince a child to make a better choice. For example, if your child insists he doesn’t need to take a break from playing to eat lunch, you may consider allowing him to skip lunch as the natural consequence is that he will likely be hungry later and if you don’t allow him to eat then, he’ll learn that he should take a break to eat lunch on time.

8. Behavior Management Plan for School

When parents and the school work together to help a child with ADHD, it increases the chances that the child will be successful academically. Some children need modifications to their school work or to the classroom. Modifications such as being allowed extra time to complete tests or completing written work in a smaller, quiet environment can be very beneficial.

Behavior modifications may be necessary as well. For example, sometimes schools have children stay in for recess when they have not completed their homework. However, children with ADHD often need recess in order to manage their behaviors better.

A behavior management plan that carries between home and school can be helpful. For example, a child may receive points or tokens from his teacher that can be exchanged for privileges at home such as watching TV or using a computer.

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