Punishing Children with ADHD – What is Effective?

To Spank or Not to Spank…

Rules

Effective discipline goes a long way.

This is a hot topic. Punishing children with ADHD can be very tricky and also very stressful. I won’t get into the debates over whether to spank or not to spank. The experts don’t even agree on this one. I will, however, state my position on the matter. I believe that physical punishment should only be used when the child is doing something unsafe and only if it can be done with parental emotions under control. It should never, ever be done out of anger. Physical punishment done out of anger is more harmful and not effective and tends to precipitate abuse. That’s my position. That being said, I’ve spanked my son three times in his life. He is nine years old now, his last spanking was when he was three years old.

Rules and Consequences

To apply effective punishment, we need to understand why we are punishing. It isn’t because they did something we don’t like. Our job, as parents, is to teach our children to follow the rules. They must conform to society’s laws. They must learn that, whether they agree or not, breaking the rules is not acceptable. This is the reason we punish. This must be considered each time.

We shouldn’t be punishing children for breaking rules that aren’t clear. The rules should be established first and they should be very clear. Do not do this and do not do that. We should be teaching them that for every action there is an equal and appropriate consequence. In other words, the punishment should fit the crime. So spanking them for not cleaning up their toys doesn’t fit.

Consequences

Consequences should fit the crime.

Examples of Appropriate Consequences

Rule                                    Consequence

  1. Pick up your toys before bed.          Toys are taken away for a week.
  2. No hitting your brother.                   No playing together for the rest of the day.
  3. TV off by 8pm.                                    No TV tomorrow.
  4. No throwing food.                             Eat in the kitchen alone.

The consequence should naturally fit with the rule that was broken. You may have to be creative with it but it should always be a natural fit. My son kept slamming his bedroom door in an angry fit, so he lost his door for a week. That was at four years old. It hasn’t happened again. Notice also, we are punishing behaviors. We’re giving consequences for actions. We are not telling them they are bad. We are not destroying their sense of self-worth by putting them down or losing our temper and yelling at them. I know it’s easier said than done, they can really push our buttons. I’ve done my fair share of yelling and I can tell you from experience, it’s not effective. All it does is scare him and it doesn’t make him remember what he’s supposed to do.

Warning

Warning

One simple warning is enough.

When my son breaks a newly established rule, he gets one warning. Honey, you’re late. Remember your curfew is 7pm. If you’re late again without calling, you won’t be allowed to play the next day. “Okay Mom. I forgot, I’m sorry.” Beyond that, he gets the appropriate consequence. Repeated warnings send the message that you don’t mean what you say. You don’t want them to get that message. Things need to stay clear and simple for children. One warning and then take action.

We also don’t want to over explain. Remember, children with ADHD have short attention spans. We want them to know why they shouldn’t do something. So explain that when the rule is set. But when the rule is broken we should be firm and brief. You did this, it’s against the rule, here’s the consequence. No negotiating, no explanations, no giving in. Remember that if you give up your authority to your child, it will be a nightmare trying to get it back. This is the rule, you follow it, or this is the consequence. Period.

Attitude

Attitude

Pick your battles.

This can be one of the most frustrating things. We’re trying to teach them and they get this bad attitude with us. I don’t necessarily have this as a rule in my house. Children have emotions too but the big difference is that they haven’t learned how to properly cope with them. When my son was three, I explained to him, you can get mad at me, that’s perfectly okay. But you cannot hit me. You can tell me you’re mad, but you need to do so respectfully.

Respect is a rule in my house. He’s allowed to pretty much say whatever he wants to as long as he does so respectfully. That means no name calling, no yelling, and no putting down. Respect is very clearly defined. He’s allowed to roll his eyes or roll his neck all he wants, I ignore that. It doesn’t happen often anymore. Rolling his eyes at me really doesn’t hurt anything so I’ve chosen not to fight that battle because there are so many other battles to fight that are much more important. Pick your battles.

A Creative Approach

When my son gets an attitude with me, I give him a warning. I say, “Attitudy.” It stops immediately. I’ve never had an issue with him pushing it beyond that. I’m sure that will change when he becomes a teenager. But for now, the warning works. I taught my son to respect me when he was three years old. It was the hardest lesson ever to teach him. The consequence for being disrespectful was time alone. This was his currency, and still is, because he can’t stand being alone. However, I couldn’t just send him to his room for a time out. He wouldn’t stay in there so things would escalate out of control.

Instead, I would go to my room for an hour…and lock my door. It wasn’t punishing me because I had a TV, stereo, books, and a computer in my room. I could do whatever I wanted, and he couldn’t stop me! The first two or three times, he stood at the door throwing an absolute fit. Screaming, crying, and beating on the door. I ignored him the entire hour and let him throw his fit. Then suddenly the disrespect stopped and hasn’t reappeared since. He figured out I meant it. Now a simple, one word, warning does the trick. Every time.

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Do you have similar methods?  Different methods that work?  Please don’t hesitate to share your own experiences below by clicking on the response link next to my name.  I welcome all feedback.


Children with ADHD – How Routines Lead to Success

Setting Routines Leads to Success

One of the first things I learned about having a child with ADHD was that they need structure. My son was highly destructive when he was a toddler and getting him to stop playing in order to eat dinner or brush his teeth or take a bath was like pulling teeth with a spoon. Switching from one task to another was very hard and would cause a total meltdown.  I had never thought of setting routines for children with ADHD. I was just trying to survive one moment to the next.

After reading The Difficult Child, by Stanley Turecki, M.D., I came up with a system that actually worked. And by following the same guidelines, I am still able to get my son functioning in a somewhat routine manner now at 9 years old. The foundation of this system, though, is that you focus on positive reinforcement.

Yes, spankings and groundings worked for most of us adults when we were little. However, having a child with ADHD has taught me that sometimes what worked in the past may not be so effective with every child. When I spanked my child, he laughed at me. When I spanked him harder, he put a hole in my wall. This was not going to be an effective form of punishment. As Stanley Turecki put it:

“Negative attention reinforces negative behavior-which in turn increases negative attention.”

The book suggests using the Star System. This system teaches the child to follow an established routine. It does take consistent effort for the parents as well. As parents, we need to make the rules and routine clear to the child so that they completely understand what is expected of them.

The star system works like this:

  1. Decide on a routine you want to follow.
  2. Establish the order for the routine, let the child help you do this. (Never stray from the sequence)
  3. Allow the child to help you make a chart of the activities within the routine.
  4. Set the expectation that each time the child completes the full routine, they get a star or sticker.
  5. Decide how many stars or stickers need to be earned for a reward.
  6. Be sure the expectations are clear and make it fun.
  7. No punishment for not following the routine aside from not earning the star or sticker.

Keep in mind that a routine is a sequence of events that happens in the same order, every day. Decide what you want the routine to be. It could be something like: pick up your toys, eat dinner, take your dishes to the sink, brush your teeth, take a bath, put your pajamas on, play quietly for an hour, go to bed. Whatever you decide on, help your child pick which order the steps are performed in and then stick to it. Switching up the sequence messes up the routine and you’re trying to teach them to follow a routine.

Work with the child to develop a chart for the routine. It should list each step separately and have something like a checkbox for each day of the week. It should be attractive to look at and draw their attention in. Allowing them to help you make it gives them a small sense of ownership in making sure it is followed and filled out each day. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment. Having a chart up where they have access to it will help prevent them from forgetting a step. This is very important, you want them to succeed.

Clown Fish

By choosing the fish, he had his very own pets as a reward.

Talk to your child and decide how many stars or stickers they need to earn for the week in order to earn a reward. Rewards can be anything you want: a small toy from the grocery store, a book, a coloring book, a movie. For my son, it was a new fish for the aquarium. He really enjoyed going to the pet store and picking out a new fish each week. Most importantly, don’t expect perfection. Reward for 5 out of 7 or something like that. Everybody has a bad day or off day sometimes, give them an actual chance to earn a reward.

Lastly, understand that this is not another reason to punish your child. If they mess up the routine, they don’t earn the sticker for the day. The only consequence should be that they don’t earn the sticker and they shouldn’t get reprimanded. I would say something to the effect of, “No star today Honey, try again tomorrow.” This really is enough. If you’ve found a reward system that they are actually interested in, they will try hard to earn it. Don’t be overly hard on them when they mess up, they already do that to themselves. Just encourage them to try again.

Instead of punishing our kids for doing bad, we want to put more focus on rewarding them for doing good. This will naturally make them want to do it more. By changing my mindset when he was a toddler, I now have a child that aims to please and very rarely gets into trouble. The caveat here is that I started when he was 3 years old. I started young. And there was quite a bit of resistance at first. But I’m persistent and it paid off. This system still works very well with my son. This is not to say it will work perfectly for everybody, but it is a proven system that has worked well for many.

 

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If you have similar experiences to share, or have any questions, please share with us below by clicking on the response link next to my name.  I welcome feedback and will be sure to respond to each and every post.


ADHD Help for Parents – How to Stop a Fit

Sad

Overwhelmed

We all know that children, especially toddlers, have fits.  They’re called fits, temper tantrums, meltdowns, you name it.  In this article, I will make it easy and just call it a fit.  These can be one of the most stressful things for parents, especially when we’re out in public when the fit starts.  It’s frustrating, it’s embarrassing, and you can’t help but notice all of the evil bad mommy glares coming straight at you from strangers that seem to have never seen a temper tantrum before.  Right?

Well, here’s some help for parent, I’m going to talk about how to stop a fit.  My son had many of these.  They started right around age 2 and I think we finally got a good handle on them by age 5.  That doesn’t mean they stopped happening.  It means we learned how to better cope with them and stop them before they got out of control.  And they did get out of control.  Without intervention, my son’s meltdowns would turn into hyperventilating.

Fit

Throwing a Fit

Now when I first started doing this, I had no idea it was a technique that somebody had already thought of.  I just started doing it on my own and later found out it was the right way to go.  The thing about tantrums is that we want to start teaching self-control early on.  Many parents tell their kids to calm down.  But do the kids really know what that means? Do they know how to calm down?  We forget that they don’t have our experience.

So we need to teach them self-control, and we need to teach them how to calm down.  To do this effectively, we must remain calm when teaching them how to behave.  Yeah, I know, that’s easier said than done when your boy is kicking, screaming, and throwing a fit.  So here’s what I do, I use the S.T.A.R. technique.

STAR

S.T.A.R.

Stop

Take a deep breath

And

Relax!

The first time I did this, I got down on my knees in front of my upset 3 year old.  I didn’t touch him, I looked him in the eyes and very calmly said, “Stop.”  Amazingly enough, he stopped screaming.  I stayed calm and somewhat quiet and I said, “Take a deep breath.”  I showed him how to take a deep breath and I did it with him as I said, “Just relax.”  It took less than 60 seconds to get him from a full fledge meltdown to a somewhat calm boy that could talk to me in a slightly upset tone.

Now that the fit had stopped, I told my 3 year old, “It is okay to get mad at mommy.  It is not okay to throw a fit.  Now take another deep breath and tell me quietly what it is that you want.”  He took another breath and his little eyes welled up again and he said, “I don’t want to go night-night.”  I tried as hard as I could not to grin from ear to ear knowing that I had just won this battle for the first time ever.  So I smiled, just a little, and said to him, “Well what is it that you do want?”  He said he wanted to play.  I said, “It’s too late to play tonight.  If you want to play, then you have to go night-night first.  And then you can play as soon as you wake up.”  It worked.  I got him to stop the fit.  I also changed his focus from what he didn’t want, to what he did want.  And then I told him how to get it.

Bonding

Bonding

I can’t say that this will work with all ADHD children, every child is different.  This is simply what worked for me.  The trick is to keep your mind on the objective.  The objective isn’t to stop the fit.  The objective is to teach them self-control.  By doing that, the fits will stop on their own.  You’re simply teaching them how to calm themselves down and get back to a point where they can control themselves.  Find a method that works, S.T.A.R. worked for me, and then stick to it!  Repetition is the key with ADHD.  You have to be consistent above all else.

This was my experience, it may not work for everybody.  But my son is now 9 years old and effectively calms himself down when I’m not around to help him.  And he uses S.T.A.R.  As always, if you have an experience to share, please do comment below and share it with us.  It takes a village…

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If you have any questions or would like to share your personal experience, please be sure to leave a comment below by clicking on the response link next to my name.  I welcome all feedback and will respond to each comment.


Open Your Ears

My son was 2 years old when I really began to see behavior issues. One of the first things I noticed was that I would be talking to him and he would be all over the place. He couldn’t stand or sit still and listen to me, he was always squirming or fidgeting and he wouldn’t look at me when I talked. It was as if he had already learned to ignore me! One evening, after work, he was particularly…energetic. And I was tired. He didn’t let me sleep much. He was climbing all over the furniture and he was trying to climb on the little stand that the TV was on and I was afraid it was going to fall on him. I kept telling him to quit it, get down, don’t climb on that, you’re going to get hurt, STOPPIT! But he just kept at it.

Son and Shamu

2 Years Old – Wrestling with Shamu.

I couldn’t get him to listen to me so I went over to him and got down on my knees in front of him. I looked him in the eyes and said, “Open your ears.” I don’t know where I pulled that out of but that’s what came out. My precious little toddler put both of his little hands up and pushed his ears forward. I fought off my giggle and told him, “Don’t climb on that. It can fall and hurt you bad.” He said okay and stayed away from it. It worked! I impressed myself. I later learned that people with ADHD often listen better when they’re multi-tasking. Open your ears. Who would’ve thought?

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If you have any questions or would like to share your personal experience, please be sure to leave a comment below by clicking on the response link next to my name.  I welcome all feedback and will respond to each comment.