Having a child with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD can be very frustrating. The parents of these children are often stressed due to the behavioral problems that they have to deal with. This stress can be worsened by the financial requirements of treatment and social stresses can result when other adults consider the child’s behavior to be a sign of poor parenting. Stressed parents are more likely to have tense relationships with their children, which can, of course, worsen the situation. Many parents of children with ADHD will have the condition themselves since this can be hereditary. A parent who thinks that he may have similar symptoms to the child should consult a medical professional, as coping with his own set of problems and those of the child could be impossible.
Children with ADHD function far better in a structured environment, so treatment often begins by training the parents. Modification of the physical and emotional environment of the child is used to help the child modify his behavior.
Understanding the problem
Helping a child live with the symptoms of ADHD begins with understanding that he has a problem with brain function. He is not deliberately being defiant or misbehaving. The neurotransmitters in his brain do not function as they should and this is what medications seek to correct.
“Unfortunately for those with ADHD, even relatively quiet settings can end up feeling like that crowded train. They feel inundated by external stimuli, thereby making it difficult to filter out the background noise and to concentrate on singular tasks,” writes Samoon Ahmad M.D.
Medications are effective in reducing the symptoms in 80% of the children that take them, but they do have side effects such as reduced appetite and insomnia. Side effects should be discussed with the child’s doctor.
Children with ADHD have problems planning ahead, controlling impulses, completing tasks and organizing themselves, so it falls upon their parents to do what they can to assist them with these functions.
“Even though a lot of these children are intelligent, they often underperform at school. This is because their distracted state of mind makes learning and paying attention extremely challenging,” writes Mark Banschick M.D.
Before they can help the child, parents should understand their child’s behavior. When he does not listen he may not have heard. Because he is disorganized, he frequently does not complete tasks or cleans up afterward. This is not deliberate. He may interrupt and can say embarrassing things. He can be overbearingly energetic, running and jumping, and can be difficult to put to bed.
The parents of the ADHD child should be willing to make compromises and must not have impossible expectations of the child. If they look, they will find the many positive attributes of the child. ADHD sufferers have many great characteristics, not least of all boundless energy and creativity, which can be harnessed.
There are two basic pillars to teaching acceptable behavior to the ADHD sufferer. The first is positive enforcement where acceptable behavior is rewarded. The other is negative enforcement, where rewards and privileges are removed for poor behavior. By establishing rules and outcomes, the child learns what is acceptable and what is not, and he is encouraged to behave in an acceptable manner. Rewards should be praise privileges or outings, and they should be changed to avoid boredom. Immediate rewards work better than future rewards.
Parents should set up attainable goals that are age appropriate. They must decide on what is acceptable and what is not because it is very important that there is consistency in the application of rewards and punishment. Rules must be simple. Rewarding the attainment of these goals will reinforce positive behavior. The goals should be broken down into smaller parts to allow for the celebration of small wins.
It is important to recognize that the child’s behavior is not always under his control. Because he is so easily distracted, he may forget to complete a task. He should never be punished for something over which he has no control. A team approach to solving problems can work well. By asking the child for input on how problems can be resolved he is included in the solution. Time-out should be used to modify aggressive behavior. The home must be structured and organized, driven by routines, as children with ADHD feel more secure in this environment.
Children with ADHD often suffer from low self-esteem, which results from always being in trouble. Unable to control their energy levels, their impulsive behavior or simply not paying attention gets them a fair amount of negative attention and feedback. It is therefore important for the parents to use positive reinforcement to encourage preferred behaviors. In this way, the behavior of children can be modified so that they can more comfortably fit in with the societal norms.
Working with the teacher to improve academic performance
The behavior patterns of ADHD sufferers can differ widely from daydreaming to not being able to sit still, to disobeying the rules, but all of them will find the classroom very challenging because here they have to do what they find most difficult – sit still, concentrate and keep quiet. These children will suffer from frustration as they really do want to learn, but the neurological disorder that they have makes this very difficult.
Teachers and parents can work together to give the child the best chance of making a success of their school career. Parents should plan to address their child’s problem with the school before the school year starts and should communicate at least once a month thereafter. Together, the teacher and parents should set goals for the child. Parents should listen carefully to what the teacher has to say. Information should be freely shared between teacher and parents.
As much as possible distractions must be removed from the learning environment of the child. Big tasks should be broken down into a number of smaller tasks. Lists of important information should be displayed where the child can see them.
Children with ADHD can be taught to behave in ways that are more acceptable at home and in the classroom. Parents must, however, remember that much of the behavior exhibited by the child is out of his control and a different set of parenting skills are required to modify their behavior. Parents are likely to find that they too require some help and should accept assistance from family and friends and if required should seek professional assistance.
“For parents who are concerned about their child’s behavior, the best course of action is to take them in to see a qualified mental health professional. ADHD should be diagnosed after a thorough psychodiagnostic testing process—not after a screener at a primary care provider’s office,” writes Daniel Flint M.A.