7 Tips for Correcting Your ADHD Kid's Behavioral Problems


Raising a child with ADHD can be very trying at times. There are, however, many tips you can utilize to help correct any undesirable behavior that your child is displaying. Try these tips to see if they work for you and your child.

The 7 Step Program

If you have a child who suffers with ADHD, then you know very well some of the behavioral issues that can come along with this developmental disorder. Thankfully there is an abundance of ongoing research with these special needs children, and there are many things we, as parents, can do to help correct some of these behavioral issues. Read on to learn about seven great tips that should help with adjusting certain behaviors that are common in children with ADHD like impulsivity, inattention, hyperactivity, and interrupting.

1. Utilize Proper Forms of Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning involves rewards and punishments for certain behaviors immediately when the child is displaying the behavior. Reinforcement comes in two forms - positive and negative.

  • Positive reinforcement is the most common one used by parents, and it involves the application of a reward for good or desirable behavior.
  • Negative reinforcement involves the removal of an unpleasant stimulus with desirable behavior.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is punishment. Just like reinforcement, there are two types of punishment - punishment by application and punishment by withdrawal.

  • Punishment by application involves presenting a punishment such as time-out or even something as simple as scolding. If you use scolding, just make sure it is explanatory and encouraging instead of verbal abuse. In order to correctly scold a child, it is important that you address their behavior rather than their character. Your child is not 'bad.' Their behavior is. Make sure that you calmly, yet assertively, address their behavior while letting them know that they are a good kid and that you are proud of them. It is best to coolly explain that certain behaviors have certain consequences and clearly explain those consequences.
  • Punishment by withdrawal involves removing a pleasant stimulus such as a toy or game time or anything the child wants.

Proper operant conditioning has helped a tremendous number of parents and children, especially with behaviors that result from impulsivity and hyperactivity. The rewards and punishments help a child to think about the consequences of their actions beforehand. Always remember to stay on a consistent schedule of reinforcement and punishment. Skipping a reward or punishment here and there can worsen behavioral issues. Be sure to always be cognizant of the conditioning you are providing for your child.

Positive reinforcement is often more effective than negative conditioning.

2. Focus on Praise Rather than Criticism

Dr. Thomas Phelan, who is accredited with the counting technique, encourages all parents to focus more on praise than criticizing your child. Too often parents will focus on pointing out bad behavior but may neglect to reward and encourage good behavior. This constant criticism with little praise can begin to take a toll on a child's confidence levels and can lead to many other behavioral and cognitive issues. Dr. Phelan has a book on the counting technique called '1-2-3 Magic' as well as many other materials that parents can utilize to help correct their ADHD child's behavior.

3. Use the Counting Technique

As mentioned above, the counting method is a great way to correct behavioral problems, because it gives your child a chance to correct their own behavior before a punishment is delivered. It gives them the opportunity to think about their impulsive behavior and correct it on their own. It may take several times of using this method before they begin to correct their behavior with counting alone. To utilize this method simply say, 'one' and raise one finger when they are exhibiting undesirable behavior. If they do not stop, then follow with two and then three if needed. If you get to three, raise the three fingers and say, 'three - take five.' Take five is the signal for a time-out. Some people do choose a number smaller than five, as even short time-outs have been shown to be just as effective. This is a great way to introduce operant conditioning. Soon enough the counting alone should suffice to correct behavior more often than not, and punishment can be avoided much more frequently.

The counting technique is a great way for a child to self-manage.

4. Do Not Ignore Them

This is a method that many parents of ADHD children use, not knowing how detrimental it can be to their child. This method is not only fairly useless when it comes to correcting behavior, but it can actually be quite damaging. Many children interpret ignoring as neglect. This can cause even more behavioral issues in an attempt to gain your attention, whether it be positive or negative attention. If you frequently ignore them, they won't care what kind of attention they are getting as long as you are willing to offer it. Ignoring can actually encourage behaviors such as lashing out in anger and yelling. Bottom line, never ignore your ADHD child.

5. Set the Right Example

Children with ADHD are not severely disabled in the learning department. They will mirror the behaviors of others just as other children will, especially the behavior of their parents. For this reason, it is critical that you are setting a good example. If your ADHD child resides in a home where yelling and losing one's temper is the status quo, they will mirror this behavior, because it is what they will see and know. You are the driving force behind your child's behavior issues. Find ways to help yourself alleviate stress and tension and get your child involved in these activities. You can meditate or do yoga with your child. You can do aromatherapy or take turns giving each other back rubs. Get creative with stress-relieving activities and involve your kid. This is a great way to bond with them and teach them healthy ways to decrease stress levels.

6. Make Sure They Are Getting Plenty of Exercise and Sleep

Exercise is good for everyone, especially children suffering with ADHD. Many ADHD children seem to have much more energy than other kids, so make sure they have ample time every day to burn off some of that energy. This is also a great opportunity to bond with your child in a positive way. Get outside and get involved in physical activity with them. These can be activities as simple as throwing a ball or even taking a nice walk in nature or around your neighborhood. Ensuring plenty of exercise will greatly help with symptoms of hyperactivity.

Getting enough sleep is another very important lifestyle habit for ADHD children. Cranky kids are hard enough, but cranky kids with ADHD can be even more of a handful. Make sure to have a set bedtime and do not waver from this schedule. Reading is a great bed time activity that can help your child get into a nightly routine to help them fall asleep on schedule. You can even read to them or have them read to you, which creates yet another great opportunity for bonding with your child.

A pet can teach your child responsibility and learn about love and relationships.

7. Get a Pet

This is one option that many people often overlook. A pet is great for ADHD children in so many ways. Not only will the pet provide hours upon hours of fun and entertainment, but they will also help your child to learn responsibility and consideration for others. Give your child certain tasks that involve the pet like feeding and cleaning. Make sure that you are involved in these tasks at the beginning so that you can teach them how to properly care for an animal. Over time begin to let the child take over while you monitor for safety. Pets have even shown to reduce stress levels in human beings, so they can offer much more than companionship and responsibility for your child.

By Kyle Aken
December 2016
k-12 parenting tips & tricks

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