ADHD Parenting: 3 Communication Tips for ADHD

Parenting ADHD kids requires good communication skills.

ADHD Parenting Requires Good Communication Skills

And I admit, it's not always easy!

ADHD kids can drive you crazy, and it's easy to say something that only makes everything worse.

I admit to blurting things out that I regretted and even screaming at my son. I worked on saying something appropriate. I stopped screaming. And I apologized, reminding him that I did love him. We lived through it, and he's now one terrific parent himself.

So don't beat yourself up. Get some effective strategies and move on.

Try my 3 Communication Tips for ADHD:

See if you don't find an improvement in your ADHD kid's behavior, not to mention an improvement in family harmony.

Does this happen at your house? You've told Chloe to stop running in the house, to settle down, and to do it now. She continues running in the house and knocks over your favorite coffee cup. It's broken and can't be fixed.

You respond screaming, "I told you not to run in the house. Now look what you've done. I've had it with your behavior. Go to your room immediately."

Tip 1. Talk about your feelings and what to do, rather than blaming.

Say: "I'm very sorry that my favorite coffee cup is broken and can't be fixed. Please pick up the pieces and put them in the trash. Then let's sit down and talk about what happened."
Don't Say: "Look what you just did. You broke my favorite coffee cup. Go to your room."

Chloe didn't mean to break the cup. She knows it's your favorite coffee cup. She's looking at the pieces. And she may be worried about what you are going to do. Screaming is not ok. It's not an effective way to change behavior. The brain shuts down, and kids literally can't hear you.  In addition, the situation often escalates.

You and Chloe need to come up with strategies that will help Chloe stop running in the house. Explain to Chloe why running in the house isn't a good idea. Tell her what might happen. You know she's excited and having a good time. You like that.  What are other ways she could show she's excited and happy?  Have her come up with places where running is fine, even a good idea.

Jason is having trouble with reading. His siblings don't. He doesn't do very well in school in general and you've been told it's because he has ADHD. His siblings don't have  problems in school. They don't have ADHD. Jason just brought home his report card. It's not good. His teacher suggests he get special help at school. His siblings' report cards were fine. You're at you're wits end and say "Why can't you be like the other kids? Just Normal. We're not asking for straight As here. You need to try harder and stop being so lazy. Is that asking too much?" 

Tip 2. Gently Acknowledge the problem and reassure Jason that you will help him find ways to do better in school. Never compare one child to a brother or sister. EVER!

 Say:  "Jason, I'm so sorry you're having trouble in school. I want to help you. You're a good kid and smart. We just need to understand why school is hard for you."

Don't say: "Look at this report card. What's wrong with you? Sage and David don't have these terrible grades. You're grounded until you can bring up your grades."

Jason would do better in school if he knew how. It's not his fault. He'd like to do better if he just could. Contact his teacher and find out what she's suggesting. Have him tested for learning disabilities.

Grounding won't help him. It will make him feel even worse about a problem he can't solve.  Find out more about helping ADHD kids do better in school. For example, have him do homework for a short period of time, then take a break and run around outside, work some more, take another break.

Seems that Caleb can't focus on getting dressed in the morning, eating his breakfast, and getting ready for school. He's always late.  Standing at the foot of the stairs, you've just reminded him for the umpteenth time to get dressed, brush his teeth, come down stairs, and eat breakfast. You've reminded him he's going to be late.  You have that sinking feeling he's still in his pajamas. (The morning routine needs to include a healthy breakfast.)

Tip 3. Tell him one thing at a time, preferably in person in his room.

Say: "Caleb, please put your school clothes on now."

Don't say: "What do you mean you aren't even dressed now? What have you been doing? Can't you ever stay on track? What's wrong with you? Get dressed now, eat your breakfast, put your homework next to your jacket. And by the way, don't forget to empty the trash."

Many ADHD kids have a difficult time focusing on a single task. It's just part of ADHD. They can't help it. You, however, can help by making only one suggestion at a time. And by telling your child what to do in person when possible. Standing next to him, say "Caleb, please take out the trash now."

If mornings are difficult--and I've yet to meet a Mom of a kid with ADHD who didn't have difficult mornings--get school clothes out the night before, put homework next to the jacket the night before. Stay in the room until your child is out of bed and in the bathroom.

If there's little progress, go back into their room and direct getting dressed or at least stay until they've got jeans in hand. Is this a nuisance? Well, yes, I suppose so but is it worse than standing at the bottom of the stairs with endless reminders that don't help? For young children, bringing all the school clothes into the room you're in and putting clothes on in that room can help keep the focus on getting dressed.

Oh, and by the way, never any TV before school. And keep TVs out of children's bedrooms. Watch for my blog post later this week: "TV: Just Say No." Includes my "10 Rules for TV" and why lots of TV watching isn't a good thing. (The reason may surprise you!)

Try these 3 communication tips for ADHD that I've just outlined

Find out what works best for you and your child. Remember that screaming, criticizing, blaming, and comparing to brothers and sisters doesn't help. And that kids have an easier time staying on track if you tell them what to do one task at a time.

Leave a comment. Ask a question. Let my readers and me know what's working for you.

P.S. If you don't already have my complimentary "12 Common Conditions that Can Cause ADHD and ADHD-like Behavior" checklist, pick it up now. The sign up is here on this page in the upper right corner.



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About Dr. MaryJo Wagner

MaryJo Wagner, PhD, helps you help your kids transform ADHD behavior for success. Sign up at Coaching & Accountability to get your questions answered with a complimentary Transformation Session.

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