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Parenting ADD/ADHD Children

Parenting is the most complex and difficult job we ever do as adults and few of us have any real training in what works and what doesn’t. Most of us rely on what our parents and significant adults taught us even though these strategies are scientifically proven to fail. Parenting is even more challenging when we have children who have more difficult temperaments or are impulsive. What we know from scientific studies is yelling and reasoning with your children is equally ineffective.

Sadly, many family therapists and parenting educators aren’t aware of the best research, either, which means that even when parents do seek professional help they often won’t get the advice that is most proven. In fact in a review led by Sheila Eyberg at the University of Florida and published in the January Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, only 16 programs designed to treat children with disruptive behavior have been shown to be “well established” in randomized clinical trials.

The Eight Biggest Mistakes Parents Make

  1. Parents Don’t Consistently and Powerfully Set Limits Not setting limits has been shown to create more rebellious and defiant children. This because they feel unsafe without limits and the push the envelope to get their parents to respond.
  2. Parents Nag, Lecture, Nag, Lecture, Then Yell Studies show that humans tune out when commands or requests are repeated. Nagging is actually a form of “negative reinforcement” and children often continue misbehaving to get parental attention. We tend to ignore good behavior and focus on the negative because it creates discomfort which we naturally try to avoid. Praise on the other hand is one of the most powerful tools we have to influence a child’s actions. Typically praise is used poorly by not being specific enough with our praise so that children understand what you want repeated. Using positive reinforcement—to praise your child immediately, specifically and enthusiastically works and creates a happy home. Encouragement is more powerful than praise because it leads to children to self validate rather than needing someone else to recognize their worth.
  3. Parents Overprotect it’s difficult to see your child struggle or experience disappointment. Parents often jump in too quickly which doesn’t allow the child to learn resiliency. We have to show kids we believe that they are capable and allow them to face the consequences of their behaviors as well.
  4. Parents Aren’t Specific with Their Praise and Praise Too Frequently Most praise children get from parents and teachers is far too generic (i.e. great job, You’re a good boy) and the praise is far less frequent than we think. In fact, children receive 45% more negative feedback in a day than positive. Praise that is non specific make children less motivated, less self-confident and they will have a harder time dealing with failure.
  5. Punishment is Too Severe 90% of parents believe spanking young children is acceptable. Discipline is about teaching; not punishment. The goal is to help the child to develop the inner voice of discernment and make choices based on that voice rather than the threat of punishment or the need to have adult supervision to make the correct choices. Harsh punishments (i.e.. grounding for a month or spanking) work only in the short term but teach children to be unfair or to use physical violence to solve problems. Discipline works best when it is immediate, fair, logical or natural (or set up in advance such as through an early warning to shift behavior). When discipline is too severe it breeds anger and resentment and a desire to get back at the parent. Punishment erodes the relationship with the parent.
  6. Place Attention On Changing Behaviors Rather Than Teaching Compassion Research shows that the most important quality to develop for success in managing relationships at work, in school or in our families is compassion. Children need to learn to be aware of how their actions and words will affect the feelings of others and themselves. We help children to learn empathy through being empathized with. Modeling this behavior for children and discussing feelings in different situations is critical to this development.
  7. Grades Take Precedence Over Creativity and Results Trumps Effort Too much emphasis is placed on learning facts and rules. Those who learn to read early and parrot back information while sitting quietly impress us more than those who are creative and learn and process differently. Yet creative thinkers are more likely to be resilient when the first idea doesn’t work. When we reward “getting the answers right and right away” children who struggle or take longer to learn something lose he will to keep trying. Effort is more important to success than knowing facts. Using open-ended questions or having children explore more than one way to solve problems helps them become independent thinkers and life-long learners.
  8. Parent’s Don’t Focus Enough on Fun Life is serious enough. Laughing and playing together are key to a healthy family and to raising emotionally healthy children. Planning regular outings and things like family game night strengthen your relationships and build trust and love.

The Gift of ADD – Transforming Liabilities into Possibilities