Best Principles of Managing a Child with ADHD

Adapted from a presentation by Dr. Russell A. Barkley, Ph.D.

1.    Create a supportive environment around the child with ADHD to reduce conflicts and impairments and promote the child’s adjustment and positive psychological development as much as possible.

2.    Children with ADHD have an impaired ability to sense time and especially to use the internal sense of time to guide their behavior.  Make time external or physical by using timers or other devices that show the passage of time.

3.    The child with ADHD cannot self-organize to accomplish projects that occur across long spans of time. Break the larger project into smaller pieces, bring the task, the response and the consequence closer together in time.

4.    The child with ADHD can have very poor working memory (remembering what to do, what is needed to do it and when it is due). Use visual cues (stickee notes, signs, concrete reminders), have them verbalize what they are doing while they’re doing it.

5.    Because of poor working memory the child’s ability to plan, problem-solve, or otherwise mentally manipulate information in their mind is impaired. Make the solutions concrete and physical, use everyday objects or events to teach; draw it, picture it, verbalize it.

6.    Use immediate consequences: act swiftly to approve, praise, reward, correct, reprimand or assign a consequence.

7.    Make consequences more frequent – delayed gratification or consequences mean the child with ADHD won’t link the behavior to the consequence.

8.    ADHD causes a serious deficit in self-motivation. You may need to use tokens, privileges or other rewards to boost motivation. Keep the rewards interesting and motivating by changing them.

9.    Children with ADHD do not monitor their own behavior as well as others. They don’t know when they’re off-task or drifting into misbehavior and don’t anticipate time and consequences. This means increased supervision (support) by the parent while you teach your child increased independence.

10.  Make consequences more powerful. What is the currency for your child? What is meaningful, important, motivating? Use it.

11.  Act, don’t yak! Long-winded explanations, reprimands and instructions are of little value. Get your child’s attention with touch (if this is effective) or eye contact, make your communication brief and to the point. Ask your child to paraphrase so you know he got it.

12.  Be proactive – have a plan for anticipated problem situations.  Analyze what went wrong, check for triggers and then avoid them or talk it through with your child beforehand and rehearse how the situation can be handled in the future.