When dealing with your children, it is important to use a problem solving approach rather than getting into frequent power struggles. A win-win attitude can have better results than a “do it, because I said so” attitude. As parents we would all like to have our kids be respectful and do what we ask of them. When parenting ADHD kids however, we may have to let go of some of our illusions of what the perfect parent/child relationship may be. Although it may appear to be an oxymoron, consistency and flexibility seem to be key words to live by when parenting ADHD children. These kids certainly need structure, routine, and consistency in rules so they know what to expect. However, they seem to do better when a certain amount of flexibility is also introduced.
We know from various studies and from interviews of children that they greatly appreciate a teacher who understands their limitations and can bend the rules a little in order to help them be successful. Parenting is no different. Contrary to popular belief, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) occurs at higher rates and is more severe when children are raised by inflexible strict parents than when children are raised by parents who are too lax. Of course these are also not the type of kids who do well with no structure and total freedom, for obvious reasons. A balance of structure, predictable, consistent rules and discipline with understanding, flexibility and support for ADHD impairment seems to work best
These kids are great at arguing their point. Therefore it is important to get into as few debates over rules as possible. If your child is old enough to negotiate rules, or at least have some input when rules are decided on, their rate of compliance increases. But once rules are set, negotiations should stop until rules are formally reassessed. Rewards, rather than punishment, positive consequences, are the most affective discipline tool, but feedback needs to be immediate and frequent. For young children, ignoring annoying behaviour and consistently rewarding good behaviour is the way to go.
Unfortunately as parents involved in our own busy, hectic schedules what we do is usually the opposite. This is human nature. When our child is playing quietly we rarely go up to them and say, “I really like the way you are playing quietly by yourself and not bothering your sister”. We either totally ignore good behaviour or are so relieved and enjoying the peace that we stay quiet. Unfortunately we are missing a perfect opportunity for positive feedback. Of course when they are doing something wrong they become the focus of our attention.
Due to the nature of ADHD children with the disorder often do not have a well-developed intrinsic reward system, so we need to externalize rewards for them. There are all sorts of reward strategies, such as stickers, poker chips etc. with rewards attached, but remember that kids with ADHD become bored easily so the system you use may need to be changed up frequently to keep it exciting.