Parenting Skills Training for ADHD
Parenting Skills Training provides parents with tools and techniques in order to manage their child’s behavior. For example, immediately rewarding good behavior with praise, tokens or points that can be exchanged for special privileges. Desirable and undesirable behavior is identified in advance by parents and/or teachers. Parents can try using “time-out” when the child becomes too unruly, but also sharing enjoyable quality time each day.
Through this system, the child’s behavior can often be effectively modified. They can be taught how to ask politely for objects rather than grabbing them, or to complete a simple task from start to finish. The expected behavior is made clear to the child so the decision of whether to earn the reward or not is in their hands. The rewards should be something that the child truly wants, and with ADHD children they may need to be given more often than with other children. Over time, the child will learn to associate good behavior with positive results, so will control their behavior naturally.
Some lessons from parenting skills training which are particularly relevant to ADHD are: to structure situations in ways that will allow the child to succeed (e.g. avoid allowing the child to get overstimulated), help the child divide large tasks into small steps, provide frequent and immediate rewards and punishment, set up a structure ahead of potentially problematic situations, and provide more supervision and encouragement during unrewarding or tedious situations.
The parents themselves can benefit from methods of stress management, including meditation, relaxation techniques and exercise.
Suggestions to help children with ADHD with organizing:
- Have the same schedule every day, from the moment the child wakes up until they go to sleep. The routine includes homework time and playtime. Keep it written down somewhere prominent, like the refrigerator door or a noticeboard. Changes should be planned well in advance.
- Use organizers for homework and other activities which need to be given thought. This will highlight the importance of writing assignments down, and gathering the necessary books.
- Keep everyday items in the same place, so they are easily found, “a place for everything and everything in its place”. Include clothing, bags and school items.
When consistent rules are in place, the child with ADHD is more likely to understand and follow them, at which point small rewards can be given. This may work particularly well if the child has previously become used to criticism.
Issues around schooling
The better informed you are as a parent, the more effective advocate you can be for your child. Take advice on how ADHD affects your child’s life at school, and meet with teachers to discuss management techniques.
If you are unsure whether ADHD is the problem, you can either ask the local school district to conduct an evaluation, or you may prefer to seek the services of an outside professional.
When requesting that that the school system evaluates your child, send a letter including the date, your and your child’s names, and the reason for requesting an evaluation, and keep a copy of the letter in your own files.
It is now the law that schools must conduct an evaluation for ADHD if one is requested. This is their legal obligation, but if the school refuses to evaluate your child, you can either get a private evaluation or enlist some help in negotiating with the school.
Help is often as close as a local parent group. Each state has a Parent Training and Information (PTI) center as well as a Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agency.
Following diagnosis, the child will qualify for special education services. This includes a joint assessment between the school and parents, of the child’s strengths and weaknesses. After the assessment, an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) will be drawn up, which will be regularly reviewed and approved.
The transition to a new school year can be difficult, bringing with it a new teacher and new schoolwork. Your child will need lots of support and encouragement at this time, so never forget — you are your child’s best advocate.
Learn more: Medication Treatment for ADHD
Barkley, R.A., Murphy, K.R. & Fischer, M. (2010). ADHD in Adults: What the Science Says. New York: Guilford Press.
Hallowell, E.M. & Ratey, J.J. (2011). Driven to Distraction (Revised): Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder. Anchor Press.
Millichap, J.G. (2011). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Handbook: A Physician’s Guide to ADHD (2nd ed.). New York: Springer.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2018). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml on February 27, 2018.
Nigg, J.T. (2017). Getting Ahead of ADHD: What Next-Generation Science Says about Treatments That Work—and How You Can Make Them Work for Your Child. New York: Guilford.