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What Can I Do To Help My Impulsive Child With ADHD?


Updated June 23, 2009

Question: What Can I Do To Help My Impulsive Child With ADHD?

“My 9-year-old son has ADHD and is an only child. Being a single parent, I feel guilty for having to work and wanting some time for myself, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed by his clingy attitude. He's not maturing in this aspect and, coupled with his hyperactivity, I feel like an incompetent mother. He asks for hugs all the time, doesn't let me go to the bathroom without knocking on the door, interrupts conversations...I'm in dire need of better methods to help my son.”

-About.com user


Tips for Parenting a Child With ADHD

Being a mom is a hard, but being a single mom with a child that has special needs is even harder. Try not to get down on yourself. All of us get fed up. All of us raise our voices at times. We are only human. You need time, too. You need time to take care of yourself and rejuvenate so you can take care of your son. Be sure to set aside time in your day for self-care. Though your son is 9, he is likely less mature than others his age because of his ADHD. He is also much more impulsive and will have difficulty waiting and being patient. You might try to tackle one thing at a time. What does he do that bothers you the most?

Set Up a Behavioral Plan

Pick one thing. Sit down with your son when he is settled and focused, and develop a plan together. What is the rule? For example:

    Rule 1: When I am in the bathroom, you may knock only once on the door to let me know you want time with me as soon as I am out.

What will be the positive reinforcement for following the rule? Try a simple chart. Your son gets to put a check mark or sticker in a box on the chart when he follows the rule. Talk with him and together come up with a fun activity to do with one another when he is able to get a certain number of boxes checked. Perhaps a trip to the library, a trip to the park, a picnic, an extra book at bedtime -- anything that would give him special, positive one-on-one time with you.

Set Your Child Up for Success

Remember to make it so he can experience success. Do you think he would be able to earn 5 checked boxes? Is this a reasonable amount, or do you need to lower it to 3? You will have to sort it out. If he is able to experience some success and feel good about himself, and he sees that his hard work on this task results in positive time with you, he will be more motivated.

What will be the consequence for not following the rule? He will not get to check a box if he does not follow directions.

I think that positive reinforcement works best. Of course, if his behavior is out of control or dangerous, you may want to develop a system where he goes to a time out chair to sit down and compose himself. Don’t make time out a punishment, per se. It is better to use time out as a way to gain control of his out-of-control behaviors. It teaches him the skill of using time away to settle and take deep breaths. He doesn’t need to stay in time out for a long time, just a few minutes until he is refocused. You will need to help him with this. Stay with him as he works to regain control. Model deep breathing exercises for him, calmly count out loud with him as he takes these breaths, and help teach him strategies for settling himself. Some kids like to hold an object in their hand during time out -- a soft stuffed animal, a tactile Koosh ball, etc. Together figure out what works best.

Create Routines and Predictability

To help with his anxiety, try to make things at home as predictable and structured as possible. When new things are going to occur, talk with him about them and plan for them so they don't feel unexpected to him. Put up a calendar and mark upcoming events.

Give Lots of Positive Attention

For some kids, negative attention is better than no attention. Continue to plan regular one-on-one time with your son so he can gain the positive attention he needs. You may even want to look into a mentor program, such as a Big Buddy program, that will allow him to connect with a college student or other trained adult. The nice thing about these programs is that they provide a child with a person specially designated just to him, giving him a real boost to his feelings of self worth. Having this "big buddy" is fun for a child -- plus, the time your child spends with his mentor can be downtime you can use to take care of yourself.

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