Monday, July 6, 2009

Sue Scheff: Parenting ADHD Children: Advice from Moms Like You

Source: ADDitude Magazine

Moms' advice for parenting ADHD children, creating an ADD-friendly household, and smoothing out daily rough spots with discipline and behavior.

by Arlene Schusteff

It’s the stuff attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD) days are made of: You’re trying to get your daughter to finish her homework, but she insists on doing cartwheels across the living room. Or you’ve already had two big dustups with your son — and it’s only 9 a.m.

Sound familiar? Parents of ADHD children have a lot on their plates. And while doctors, therapists, and ADD coaches can offer helpful guidance, much of the best, most practical advice on parenting ADD children comes from those who have been there, done that.
In other words, from other ADHD parents.

For this article, ADDitude asked members of support groups across the country (both live and online) for their tried-and-true parenting skill tips for monitoring behavior problems, disciplining and smoothing out the daily rough spots. Here’s what they said.

Number One: The Morning Routine

The Morning Routine

In many families, the friction starts soon after the alarm clocks sound. It’s not easy to coax a spacey, unmotivated ADHD child out of bed and into his clothes; the strategizing required to get the entire family fed and out the door on time would test the mettle of General Patton.

Getting off to a slower start can make all the difference, say parents. “We wake our son up a half-hour early,” says Toya J., of Brooklyn, New York, mother of eight-year-old Jamal. “We give him his medication, and then let him lie in our bed for a while. If we rush him, he gets overwhelmed — and so do we. Once the meds kick in, it’s much easier to get him going.”

Some parents aren’t above a little bribery. “In our house, it’s all about rewards,” says Jenny S., of New York City, mother of Jeremy, age seven. “Every time we have a good morning, I put a marble in the jar. For every five marbles, he wins a small reward.”

Amy B., of Los Angeles, mother of Jared, age seven, is another believer in reward systems. “If the TV is on, it’s impossible to get him moving. Now the TV stays off until absolutely everything is done and he’s ready to go. He moves quickly because he wants to watch that television.”
Another way to keep your morning structured and problem-free is to divide it into a series of simple, one-step tasks. “I’m the list queen,” says Debbie G., of Phoenix, mother of Zach, 10. “I put a list on his bedroom door that tells him step-by-step what he needs to do. I break his morning routine down into simple steps, like ‘BRUSH TEETH,’ ‘MAKE BED,’ ‘GET DRESSED,’ and ‘COME DOWNSTAIRS FOR BREAKFAST.’ The key is to make it easy to follow.”

What about kids who simply cannot, or will not, do what’s asked of them? When 10-year-old Liam refuses to comply, his mom, Dina A., of New York City, shifts into “if-you-can’t-beat-’em,-join-’em” mode. “I can’t believe I’m admitting this,” she says, “but I wake him up and bring him cereal in bed. Once he’s gotten something to eat, he’s not as crabby.”

Behavior Patterns

At first glance, a child’s misadventures may seem random. But spend a week or two playing detective, and you may see a pattern. Pay attention to the specific situations that lead to trouble and — even more important — to the times of day when trouble usually occurs.

“You may find that tantrums come at certain times of the day,” says Laura K., of San Francisco, mother of Jack, eight. “With my son, we found that it was right after the medication wore off. So we asked the doctor for a small booster dose to get us through. It’s worked wonders for cutting down on the bad behavior.”

Sometimes children simply fail to see the connection between how they behave and how they’re treated. In such cases, behavior charts are a godsend. The idea is to post a chart, specifying the behaviors you expect and the rewards the child will earn for toeing the line.

Renee L., of Northbrook, Illinois, mother of Justin, nine, explains: “Once children see that good behavior gets them privileges and bad behavior gets them nothing, they’re more likely to comply.” It helps to focus on only a few behaviors at a time.

Saying 'No' to Screen Time

For a weary parent, the sight of a child quietly watching TV, playing a video game, or working on a computer can seem heavenly. But too much screen time is not good — especially for kids who tend to hyperfocus.

Once these kids have entered the video or computer “zone,” it’s hard to switch their focus to something important — homework, for example.

For these kids, placing limits on screen time is a must. But how do you do this without triggering a battle?

“My husband and I decided that the only way to control our son’s screen time was to have consistent rules,” says Lisa L., of San Francisco, mother of Corey, 12. “So we started a ticket system. At the beginning of each week, we give Corey 10 tickets. Each ticket is good for an hour of screen time, whether it’s used on TV, video games, or the computer. He knows that, once all 10 tickets are gone, that’s it. It has helped him learn to budget his time.”

Like Lisa, Kate W., of Los Angeles, mother of 10-year-old Alex, requires her son to ask before he turns on the TV or picks up his Game Boy. “If he has homework to do, or if we’re getting ready to go somewhere, he knows that I’m going to say ‘no,’” she says. “When he asks, I tell him to move on to something else.”