Create a Simple List of Rules
Focus on the most important behaviors by creating a short and straight forward list of rules. Let the small stuff slide. If your child completes their homework and chores but forgets a dirty dish, focus on accomplishments rather than mistakes. Perfection is an unrealistic expectation.
Use Praise….Sort of
Praise is a very delicate tool in a parent's tool box. Praise your child for simple good behaviors that you would like them to continue. A simple “good job” or a smile can go a long way. However, this type of reinforcement should be for young children (4 years old and under). Their attention span is short and we want to quickly reinforce the behavior that is targeted.
However, praise can be somewhat of a metaphorical double edged sword. If we simply say “good job” after a child completes something it lacks specificity of what you are actually praising. Children will have little to no idea why they are getting a ‘good job’. If they did recognize why they are being praised; it is focused on the outcome. We want to focus on process and the steps they completed so they know exactly what they should do next time.
So, next time you want to praise your child, don’t get caught in the ‘Good Job!’ trap. Try something like “ Wow! You did such a great job picking up your toys and putting them in the toy box. Thank you!”, “You worked so hard on that project.”, “You were so generous and thoughtful sharing with your brother when he got upset.”.
Create a Reward System
Rewards are more effective than punishments to motivate a child to change their behavior. Reward systems can be as simple as a token for each day of the week a specific good behavior is completed, which can then be exchanged for a reward. Talk with your child to figure out what reward they want, and how many tokens it will cost. Reward systems, similar to discipline, need to be scaled to the developmental level of your child.
Set aside time each school day for your child to complete homework. If there are no assignments for that evening, they can still spend that time studying or reading. This routine reduces the chance that your child will forever avoid their homework. Additionally, homework hour reduces the reinforcement that children usually receive for completing their homework as quickly as possible. I almost forgot.. Make it FUN!!
Children with ADHD do their best when they know what to expect. Establish a routine for homework, meals, playing, bedtime, and preparing for school. For example, your child may learn to brush their teeth at a specific time, get a glass of water, and then lay out their clothes for the next day. You can use a reward system to begin establishing these routines.
Use Consequences effectively
Consequences should be explained in advance, they should occur immediately after the unwanted behavior, and you must always follow through with your stated consequence. Time-out and removal of privileges are effective. Be careful not to over punish - depending on the developmental level of your child, they will not remember why they are grounded or being punished after anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 weeks. Remember, you have no leverage if your child has nothing.
Please keep an eye out for an upcoming blog post on How to effectively utilize punishments and rewards!