Parenting Fundamentals for Kids with ADHD

By Elaine Taylor-Klaus, CPCC, PCC 
Parent Coach, Speaker, Author
ImpactADHD.com®

Many years ago, Diane Dempster and I struggled to find effective help for parents to navigate the choppy waters of raising kids with ADHD.  We were determined to change that.  So we published a manifesto of sorts and co-founded ImpactADHD.com.

That proclamation is as on-point today as it was then.  Now, we have more evidence to substantiate it – and a whole lot more tools to help parents find calm and confidence in the midst of what all-too-often feels like chaos.  We’ll hit the highlights for you here.

The Power to the Parent Proclamation!

Our proclamation was based on three foundational assumptions:

  1. ADHD is an ongoing issue requiring management
  2. Kids need help from parents to learn to manage their ADHD
  3. Parents need support and guidance to help their kids most effectively

We proclaimed three fundamental beliefs:

  1. Parents are the missing link in ADHD treatment
  2. Parent training and coaching provides the tools parents need for ADHD management
  3. Confident parents can meet the challenges of raising kids with ADHD and rediscover the joy of family life

The Essential Steps  

To be the best parent you can be for a child whose ADHD complicates everything, there are a few things you need to learn, concepts you’ll want to embrace, and critical steps for you to take.

Before you start putting systems in place—whether you’re an old pro at this, or have a child who is newly diagnosed — I encourage you to review this list.   Get clear on what it really takes to effectively raise and empower kids with ADHD to become independent, successful adults.

Essential Resources for Parents:

  1. ADHD is complicated.  Take some time to understand what it is really about.  If you’ve never seen TotallyADD’s video series, The Comprehensive Guide To ADHD, it’s a great place to start!
  2. Figure out more specifically how ADHD is showing up for each individual.  Watching the video Parenting Kids with ADHD is an hour incredibly well spent.
  3. Parent management training is medically recommended treatment for ADHD (for kids of all ages).  Learn how to address your child’s specific challenges.  SanitySchool.com is available online, and is also taught in select local areas by certified professionals.

Essential Concepts and Immediate Strategies for Parents:

  1. Take a Marathon View. Getting a handle on managing ADHD takes time, so give yourself permission to slow things down a bit.  Stop trying to change everything at once.  Think in terms of gradual improvement.  You’re in this for the long haul – be careful not to burn yourself out.

Take Aim on one thing at a time, but not on something huge, like mornings or homework. Make it something specific, like waking up in the morning, or sticking with homework independently.  Focus on the little successes that lead to lasting change.

  1. Is it Naughty or Neurological?  More often than not, our kids’ annoying behaviors are a result of their ADHD.  That is because most of our kids are 3-5 years behind their peers in some aspects of their development.  This does not mean that ADHD is an excuse.  But when you understand in what ways the cause of a child’s problems are actually neurological, you’re more likely to help your child learn to address them constructively.

Don’t get Frustrated, get Curious. Whenever you hear yourself think or say something like, “why can’t he just…” ask yourself if there is actually a good explanation for the behavior. ADHD can explain why kids don’t remember to do what they’re told, why they do something impulsive, why they lose their homework, or even why they over-react or talk-back rudely. Try to understand their “why” without asking them – because if you ask, they’ll tell you, “I don’t know” – and they really don’t. That’s part of the problem!

  1. Make it Okay to Make Mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, but it happens more frequently for kids with ADHD – and it is pointed out more often.  These kids are re-directed from sun up to sun down, and that gets exhausting.  It also begins to put them on the defensive, and tends to discourage them from taking responsibility.  So create an environment that makes mistakes “matter-of-fact.”  Don’t make mistakes a big deal; instead, help them learn from them without feeling shame, embarrassment or judgment.

Stay Calm and Don’t Take it Personally.  These two strategies go hand in hand.  When we get upset and lose our cool, we often turn the attention on ourselves, instead of keeping it on our kids.  So learn ways and get the support you need to stay calm (Sanity School can help with that!), and try to keep your focus on what is happening for your child.  For example, instead of getting upset when she’s rude to you, remind yourself that she’s having a hard time being respectful and avoid getting triggered in response.  When we stay calm, we keep things from escalating – and to do that, we have to stay focused on helping our child.

It’s not easy to raise a complicated child in a way that keeps peace in your whole family.  But it can be done!

I encourage you to get the help you need.  Learn to effectively Understand ADHD, Parent ADHD, and Manage ADHD.  Because with that understanding and management training comes the greatest gift of all – enjoying the ride of raising your complex, quirky, funny, creative, smart, caring kid.

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