One of the most frequently asked questions from parents of ADHD children is how to guide and discipline their children and still keep their cool! Child rearing methods used on other children just do not seem to work and many parents end up yelling far more than they would like to!
Does this sound like you? How do you get your child to do homework, stop tormenting brothers and sisters, do daily chores, pick up clothes and toys from the floor (not to mention wet towels from the bathroom floor!) – all those things that seem relatively easy for other children? Parents often feel useless, frustrated and incompetent!
Remember first and foremost you are not alone! There is a lot of support for parents who are struggling to cope with their ADD/ADHD and there are many tools at your disposal, if only you know where to find them
I have had many years of experience helping children and their parents cope better with ADD/ADHD and have compiled important coping strategies and discipline techniques that, when followed through, will help to turn your home and daily routine from utter chaos and stress back to ordered calm with moments of peace and quiet in sight!
Read on below and remember that you can CONTACT ME if you need any further help or support.
1. NEVER underestimate the importance of consistency and routine
Maintain as much routine and consistency in your child's life as possible. If you follow only one of my suggestions, let it be this one! ADHD children respond very well to routine and ritual as this helps them to use their limited concentration abilities on other things and also helps them to feel safer. If your child is little, have a definite bedtime and stick to it. Have a routine at night (dinner, bath, story, lights out) and keep it the same every night. Try to avoid major or frequent changes if possible. Ensure that family relationships are stable. All children need this, but ADHD children find conflict and chaos in the family even more difficult to handle and often show this by becoming out of control and disobedient.
Be very consistent in your discipline. If you are a two parent family, try and follow through and keep all rules the same and do not allow inconsistency. What applies to today must apply to tomorrow. Don't be tempted to allow your child to 'get away' with something because YOU are tired, for example!
While on the subject of discipline, try not to use physical punishment like hitting your child and try hard not to shout and yell. Rather work out a system of 'points' or rewards along with a system of 'consequences' and apply it very firmly. It is very easy to become frustrated with ADHD children and they are often punished and yelled at. Teachers and parents tend to say hurtful things like 'YOU NEVER listen!' or 'What's WRONG with you?!' and all of these things become part of the child's self concept, causing further behavioral and emotional problems further down the line.
2. Limit TV and video games!
Limit the hours spent watching television and playing computer games (Here the family will have to be disciplined as well). I advise no television on school nights and perhaps two hours in total during the weekend. No television before school. Television and computer games in excess affect the child's ability to concentrate at school and can also cause reading problems in sensitive children.
3. Develop their social skills
Younger ADHD children may have to be taught social skills more carefully than the average child. Most children learn about social cues and messages almost automatically. Children who are impulsive or have difficulty paying attention often misinterpret social cues. They may snatch toys, push in front of other children or interfere with their games. They may be labelled selfish or called bullies. Try and be patient and explain to them what the right thing to do is, rather than shouting at them. Say "Johnny felt cross with you because he was busy with a puzzle and then you tried to do it for him. Try and find one to do by yourself" or "People sometimes feel funny if we stand very close to them. We each have our own space that we like to keep. Pretend that you have a hula hoop around you and don't get closer than the hula hoop space!"
4. Make sure you are communicating clearly and distinctly
This may seem simple, but think about it carefully! GET YOUR CHILD'S ATTENTION BEFORE YOU GIVE AN INSTRUCTION! Do not communicate with your child from one room to another, for example. Some children may cope with this, but it is difficult for ADHD children to focus on what you are saying. Call your child. Stand in front of her. Look in her eyes and say her name - say "Jenny, look at Mummy. I want you to go and have a bath, OK?" Keep eye contact all the way through the instruction. Make sure your child replies to you and says "Yes, Mummy" before she runs off. If she fails to carry out the instruction, call her back and get eye contact again. Kindly but firmly say "What did I just ask you to do?" Repeat your instruction if necessary.
Tell your child WHEN you want something done. If you say "I want you to have a bath" or "Go and do your chores" your child will readily agree - and then not do anything! You must always try to give some warning to get your child used to the idea first - "In five minutes it will be time for your bath, OK" (Remember to do this with eye contact) Then when the time comes, say "I want you to get into your bath now"
Give ONE instruction at a time! Most parents are guilty of not doing this at the best of times! If your child struggles to pay attention and remember things it makes sense to say one thing at a time. So don't say "I want you go to your room, get undressed, put your clothes in the wash, have a bath and then do your homework. Oh - and don't forget to feed the dog!" The chances are good that your child will follow the first instruction ("Go to your room") and then get lost in some other activity!
5. Help your child learn how to prompt his or her memory
Help your older child to learn to use check lists and other prompts to assist his memory. (e.g. "Before leaving school, I must have three things - school bag, lunch box and sweater." "When I get home, I must tick off my chores on the list I have pinned up in my room"). Devise a reward system should the lists work for a whole week.
6. Keep in touch with your child’s teacher regularly
Speak often to your child's teachers. Tell them what works for you and hear what works for them. Communicate with the teachers on a regular basis so that you know what is happening in your child's life outside the home and don't only find things out when they are too far advanced. While on the subject of school, ADHD children tend to function better in smaller classes (less distraction) with teachers who are kind, consistent, patient, but very firm and who communicate clearly! It is usually better for them to sit in front of the class and in a place which has the least distractions.
7. Play games that promote concentration, listening skills and memory
A good one is the alphabet game. It can be played by two or more people. The first person thinks of an animal name that begins with 'A'. (e.g. Antelope). The next person repeats this and adds one with 'B', (e.g. bear). So she says 'Antelope, Bear'. The next person then thinks of an animal beginning with the letter 'C' (e.g. Cow) and says 'Antelope, Bear, Cow'. Continue until the whole alphabet is used up. It can be quite fun and is excellent for promoting listening skills, memory and concentration.
You can also play the Shopping List game. Again using the alphabet, each person thinks of an item of shopping beginning with the relevant letter and says "I went to the shop and bought some........." Turn by turn the list is repeated and a new item added on each time. The last round would look something like this "I went to the shop and bought some aniseed, butter, cabbage, doughnuts, eggs, fish, guavas, ham, ice lollies, jam, kleenex, lettuce, mayo, nectarines, onions, plums, quinces, rice, sausage, tomatoes, umbrellas, vitamins, whiskey, xerox paper, yams and zucchini!
For visual memory and concentration, ask your children to cut out pictures of five or more items and paste them on a page. Each child gets a turn to show her picture to the group for 10 seconds and then turn it face down. Every child then writes down the items that he can remember. See who can remember all the items! The older the children, the more items should be used. Games like 'Simon Says' and 'Statues' are familiar to all of us from our childhood and also help to promote listening skills. There are many inexpensive card games which one can buy which help to develop memory and concentration skills. Have a look at some of my recommendations HERE.
8. Treatment for ADD/ADHD: Explore your options
Consider alternatives to strong prescription drugs and inform yourself about the side effects in the long and the short term (see a recommended reading list HERE).
Some children respond very well to homeopathic remedies for ADHD. I have formulated a homeopathic remedy called 'BrightSpark' which I have used for years in my practice and which has helped many children, especially if the above guidelines are also followed. We also use a 100% herbal remedy called Focus Formula, a herbal brain tonic which helps to nourish and calm the brain, improving concentration and the ability to stay on task, without the negative side effects of prescription drugs.
9. The importance of diet and exercise knows no bounds!
Making sure your child is eating the right foods and getting enough exercise will help not only to keep them healthy but will also help them to cope better with their ADD/ADHD, which in turn will result in a more disciplined child both at home and at school!
Many parents ask if there is a special diet which can be followed for children with ADHD. My best advice is always for the family to eat healthy! This means cutting down on junk and fast over processed foods and going back to a basic healthy diet, with lots of fresh fruit and veggies, grilled fish, chicken and meat - organic if possible. Drink water and freshly pressed fruit juices and cut out sodas, sugar laden candies, snacks with MSG, Tartrazine and other artificial preservatives, colorants and flavorings.
10. Last (but certainly not least!) remember positive affirmations go a long way!
Above all, make a special effort to highlight positives in your child. It is something we all need! Make time to have fun and spend time with your child and keep the communication channels open.
Tell him that you love him and admire him and show him often by giving him smiles and a hug!
I hope that you have enjoyed reading this and that it has helped you. Thank you for spending some of YOUR Moments with Michele!
Over the years, I have formulated a wide range of natural medicines for babies, children, adults and even the family pet. Please visit Native Remedies for more information.