Children with ADHD do their best when they know what to expect. Establishing a consistent routine for morning time, homework time, playtime and bedtime helps a child feel confident and secure while also smoothing transitions from one activity to the next. The following 5 strategies support executive functioning and are useful tools for establishing structure in the home environment.
Create A Simple List of Rules
Creating a short and straightforward list of rules will help your child stay focused on the right behavior. Making a list supports working memory deficits by providing a way to remember what they should be doing without having to be told again and again. Number the items on the list and use as few words as possible to describe the desired behaviors. When your child is off task, direct them to check the list rather than telling them what they should be doing.
Use Specific Praise
Praise your child for good behaviors that you would like them to continue. Notice when they are being helpful, cooperative or flexible and compliment them specifically on it. Praise effort when you see it even if the desired outcome isn’t achieved. Try to notice what is right in a situation before offering corrective feedback. Noticing what is right reinforces every small step that is pointed in the direction toward the changes you want to see.
Create A Reward System ie: External Incentives
Reward systems should be simple, specific and consistently honored regardless of what other behaviors may have occurred throughout the day. Reward systems should be written down on paper with specific behavioral expectations listed alongside the reward that will be earned for its completion. Work with your child to figure out what rewards they really want and negotiate with them on how many completed tasks it will cost. Include easily achievable items along with more difficult tasks. Include small rewards that can be earned daily as well as larger rewards that can be earned if points are saved up for more than a day.
Set aside a set amount of time each day to complete homework. If there are no assignments for that day, use the time to plan for the coming week, organize the backpack, study or read. Learning to anticipate a set amount of time for homework each day early on, will diminish the unintended reinforcement a child usually receives for rushing to finish as quickly as possible.
Use Consequences Effectively
Consequences need to be meaningful to the child to effect the desired changes in behavior parents are seeking. To be meaningful, consequences should be explained in advance and they should occur immediately after the unwanted behavior. The timing of the consequence is very important for a child with ADHD. Swift, not harsh is most effective. If it can’t be delivered immediately, it’s better to let it go than deliver later. Consequences will be most effective when they are used sparingly and offered in relative balance to rewards.