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March 1999 - Volume 2 - Issue 3

Parenting A Child With Attention Deficit Disorder

Parenting a child who has ADD can be an exhausting and, at times, frustrating experience. Parents play a key role in managing the disability. They usually need specialized training of behavior management and benefit greatly from parent support groups.


  • Parents often find that approaches to parenting that work well with children who did not have ADD, do not work well - or at all - with children who have ADD. Parents often feel helpless, frustrated and exhausted. Too often, family members become angry and withdraw from each other. If untreated, the situation only worsens.
  • Children with ADD often need their parents to identify their areas of strength. By focusing on these areas, children can develop the confidence and skills to tackle other, difficult situations.
  • Parents of children who have ADD must work on the task of not overreacting to their children's mistakes.
  • Parents of children with ADD often find parent support groups, such as those offered by a local CH.A.D.D chapter, an invaluable aid.

Parent Training

  • Parent training can be one of the most important and effective interventions for a child with ADD. Effective training will teach parents how to apply strategies to manage their child's behavior and improve their relationship with their child.
  • Without consistent structure and clearly defined expectations and limits, children with ADD can become quite confused about the behaviors that are expected of them.
  • A technique called "charting" is often the first step in any behavior modification program. It requires that parents specifically define the behavior they are concerned about so that it can be observed and counted. Charting makes parents more aware of their own behavior and children more aware of a behavior problem.
  • Parents are encouraged to designate 10 -15 minutes of each day as "very special time." Parents use this time to focus on being with the child, attending to what he is doing, listening to the child, and providing occasional positive feedback.
  • Parents are taught how to effectively use positive reinforcement by attending to their child's positive behavior while ignoring, as much as possible, negative behavior.
  • Parents are also taught how to decrease inappropriate behavior through a series of progressively more active responses - ignoring behavior, natural consequences, logical consequences, and time out.
  • Parents learn to give commands and directions that can be understood and attended to by the child with ADD.

Editor's note: ALL of our children can benefit from this type of parenting. ADD or not, clear expectations, designated "special time", positive feedback, logical and natural consequences are all positive parenting skills.

Peer Relations:

  • Making and keeping friends is a difficult task for children with ADD. A variety of behavioral excesses and deficits common to these children get in the way of friendships. They may talk too much, dominate activities, intrude in other's games, or quit a game before its done. They may be unable to pay attention to what another child is saying, not respond when someone else tries to initiate an activity, or exhibit inappropriate behavior.
  • Parents of a child with ADD need to be concerned about their child's peer relations. Problems in this area can lead to loneliness, low self-esteem, depressed need, and increased risk of anti-social behavior.
  • Parents can help provide opportunities for their child to have positive interactions with peers. There are a number of concrete steps parents can take:
    • setting up a home reward program that focuses on one or two important social behaviors.
    • observing the child in peer interactions to discover good behaviors and poor, or absent, behaviors.
    • directly coaching, modeling and role-playing important behaviors.
    • "Catching the child" at good behavior so as to provide praise and rewards.
  • Other strategies include structuring initial activities for the child and a friend that are not highly interactive, such as trips to the library or playground, using short breaks from peer interactions when the arousal level becomes high, and working to reduce aggressive behavior in the home.

Copyright 1995, CH.A.D.D.

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~ Reprinted excerpts with permission from CH.A.D.D. (Children and Adults With Attention Deficit Disorders). Information obtained from the internet 11/26/98 -

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