Behavioral techniques for managing the child with ADHD are not intuitive for most parents and teachers. To learn them, caregivers may need help from qualified health care professionals or from ADHD support groups. At first, the idea of changing the behavior of a highly energetic, obstinate child is daunting. It is futile and damaging to try to force a child with ADHD to be like most children. It is possible, however, to limit destructive behavior and to instill a sense of self-worth that will help overcome negativity toward life, which is one of the great dangers of the disorder.
Bringing up a child with ADHD, like bringing up any child, is a process. No single point is ever reached where the parent can sit back and say, "That's it. My child is now OK, and I don't have to do anything more." The child's self esteem will evolve with an increasing ability to step back and consider the consequences of an action and then to control that action before taking it. But this does not happen overnight. A growing child with ADHD is different from other children in very specific ways, presenting challenges at every age.
Setting Priorities for the Parent. Parents must first establish their own levels of tolerance. Some parents are easygoing and can accept a wide range of behaviors, while others cannot. To help a child achieve self-discipline requires empathy, patience, affection, energy, and toughness. Some tips to help parents include:
Establishing Consistent Rules for the Child. Parents must be as consistent as possible in their approach to the child, which should reward good behavior and discourage destructive behavior. Rules should be well-defined but flexible enough to incorporate harmless idiosyncrasies. It is very important to understand that children with ADHD have much more difficulty adapting to change than do children without the condition. (For example, the child should do homework every day but might choose to start it after a TV show or computer game.) Parents should establish a predictable routine, and provide a neat, stable home environment (particularly in the childā ' s room).
Managing Aggression. Some useful tips for managing aggression include:
Establishing a Reward System. Children with ADHD respond particularly well to reward systems. One study reported that they performed equally well when encouraged either by a direct reward for a correct response or with the use of a system called response-cost. With this system, the child is given the reward first and allowed to keep it if their behavior remains appropriate.
Some suggested tips for rewarding the ADHD child are:
Improving Concentration and Attention. Research indicates that children with ADHD perform significantly better when their interest is engaged. Parents should be on the lookout for activities that hold the child's concentration. Options include swimming, tennis, and other sports that focus attention and limit peripheral stimuli. (Children with ADHD may have difficulty with team sports require constant alertness, such as football or basketball.)
Martial arts, such as Tae Kwon Do, which can also offer an appropriate and controlled emotional outlet, and help to focus attention, and teach self-restraint, self-discipline, and tolerance. Learning an instrument can help a child to develop a more rhythmic and balanced sense of self.
Even if a parent is successful in managing the child at home, difficulties often arise at school. The ultimate goal for any educational process should be the happy and healthy social integration of the ADHD child with their peers.
Preparing the Teacher. Although teachers can expect at least one student in every classroom to have ADHD, there is currently little training that prepares them for managing these children. The teacher should be prepared for the certain behaviors in the child with ADHD:
The Role of the Parent in the School Setting. The parent can help the child by talking to the teacher before the school year starts about their child's situation. The first priority for the parent is to develop a positive, not adversarial, relationship with the child's teacher. Finding a tutor to help after school may also be helpful
Special Education Programs. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires the school to identify and evaluate children who may need help and to provide special services. However, parents sometimes report pressure by the school to put their children on medication or force them into special classrooms without clear educational justification. The schools, in these cases, may be acting illegally.
High-quality special education can be extremely helpful in improving learning and developing a child's sense of self worth. However, programs vary widely in their ability to provide quality education. Parents must be aware of certain limitations and problems with special education:
If, in fact, ADHD is as common as studies are indicating, the best approach may be to treat the syndrome as a variant of the norm and train teachers to manage these children within the context of a normal classroom.
Special programs are also required under the Rehabilitation Act and by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for students at institutions of higher learning. It is the student's responsibility, however, to inform the administration at their college or university that they need such services.
Biederman J, Melmed RD, Patel A, McBurnett K, Konow J, Lyne A, et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of guanfacine extended release in children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pediatrics. 2008 Jan;121(1):e73-84.
Braun JM, Kahn RS, Froehlich T, Auinger P, Lanphear BP. Exposures to environmental toxicants and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in U.S. children. Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Dec;114(12):1904-9.
Hamilton SS, Armando J. Oppositional defiant disorder. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Oct 1;78(7):861-6.
Heinrich H, Gevensleben H, Strehl U. Annotation: neurofeedback - train your brain to train behaviour. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2007 Jan;48(1):3-16.
Jensen PS, Arnold LE, Swanson JM, et al. 3-year follow-up of the NIMH MTA study. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2007 Aug;46(8):989-1002.
Millichap JG. Etiologic classification of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pediatrics. 2008 Feb;121(2):e358-65.
Nigg JT, Breslau N. Prenatal smoking exposure, low birth weight, and disruptive behavior disorders. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2007 Mar;46(3):362-9.
Perrin JM, Friedman RA, Knilans TK; Black Box Working Group; Section on Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery. Cardiovascular monitoring and stimulant drugs for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pediatrics. 2008 Aug;122(2):451-3.
Pliszka S; AACAP Work Group on Quality Issues. Practice parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2007 Jul;46(7):894-921.
Steiner H, Remsing L; Work Group on Quality Issues. Practice parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with oppositional defiant disorder. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2007 Jan;46(1):126-41.
Swanson JM, Elliott GR, Greenhill LL, et al. Effects of stimulant medication on growth rates across 3 years in the MTA follow-up. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2007 Aug;46(8):1015-27.
Valera EM, Faraone SV, Murray KE, Seidman LJ. Meta-analysis of structural imaging findings in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Psychiatry. 2007 Jun 15;61(12):1361-9. Epub 2006 Sep 1.
Vetter VL, Elia J, Erickson C, Berger S, Blum N, Uzark K, et al. Cardiovascular monitoring of children and adolescents with heart disease receiving stimulant drugs: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young Congenital Cardiac Defects Committee and the Council on Cardiovascular Nursing. Circulation. 2008 May 6;117(18):2407-23. Epub 2008 Apr 21.
Weber W, Vander Stoep A, McCarty RL, Weiss NS, Biederman J, McClellan J. Hypericum perforatum (St John's wort) for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2008 Jun 11;299(22):2633-41.
Wilens TE, Upadhyaya HP. Impact of substance use disorder on ADHD and its treatment. J Clin Psychiatry. 2007 Aug;68(8):e20.
Williams JH, Ross L. Consequences of prenatal toxin exposure for mental health in children and adolescents: a systematic review. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2007 Jun;16(4):243-53. Epub 2007 Jan 2.
© 2011 University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). All rights reserved.
UMMC is a member of the University of Maryland Medical System,
22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. TDD: 1-800-735-2258 or 1.866.408.6885