Expert Q&A: Discipline, Depression, ADHD, and More

Sibling Relations with ADHD Child

Q. How do you handle certain behavior issues in an 8-year-old with ADHD, such as hitting younger siblings, throwing balls against the wall, throwing toys (out of fun, not anger)? Telling him it is wrong doesn't help, because he knows it is wrong. It gets me so frustrated. Any tips on how to cope or help? The younger siblings are 3-year-old twins. --katsmeow1213

A. I spent a number of years teaching ADHD children and I learned more from the mothers than the children! The single greatest piece of advice I can give any parent of a child -- whether they have a disability or not -- is: DO NOT LET THEM GET AWAY WITH AN INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR. DO NOT. Any aggressive behavior (hitting) will become a habit. It will destroy your child's reputation with other kids and their parents.

So here's what to do instead:

  1. The hardest: BE CALM. ADHD children need calmness and predictability (so do all kids, but ADHD kids even more so).
  2. Prevent incidents. You can! Keep the number of other peers to a minimum. Instead of three think one. Keep activities shorter. Keep activities less physical. You'll eliminate 50 percent of problems.
  3. Tell your child the consequence ahead of time. IF YOU HIT, THEN.... Yes, he knows it is wrong, but he can not be allowed to get away with hitting.
  4. Discipline him CONSISTENTLY every time. Be calm. Keep his dignity intact. Remove him from the situation. In some cases, take him home.

I know this is hard stuff but it's really important that you do it for your child. Change in behavior does not happen overnight -- don't expect it to. Keep track of how often you have to stop the hitting; step in and reprimand. Target one behavior at a time, and be consistent with your approach. One of my books, No More Misbehavin' has 21-day-makeovers for 38 difficult behaviors (hitting is certainly one of them). The key to a makeover is 21 DAYS. That's usually how long the behavior takes to turn around. Don't expect perfection -- just improvement. And reinforce any and every effort your child makes to be calm or peaceful or stop himself.

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