Self-Control Strategies for ADHD Children

Children with ADHD struggle with impulsivity and an inability to focus. They often display behaviors they know are wrong, just because they acted without thinking. The behaviors may range from distracting, like calling out in class, to dangerous, like running after a ball into the street without looking. The good news is, with some time and a lot of patience, parents of children with ADHD can teach self-control and self-regulation strategies 1.

Enforce Discipline

Just because a child has ADHD doesn't mean he shouldn't be expected to follow the same rules as other children. Consequences should be immediate, and relate to the infraction. For example, if your child pushes another child on the playground, he should immediately be made to sit in a time out for a brief period of time. A good rule is one minute of time out for each year of age. (reference 1)

Enforce Routine

If your child knows she has to do the same thing at the same time every day, she is less likely to get distracted. If homework immediately follows school, she will know that it must be completed before she can watch TV. Keep a predictable nighttime routine to reduce stalling and struggles at bedtime. (reference 2)

Provide Visual and Auditory Cues

Having a written "To Do" list will help keep your child focused, especially if he can cross off each task after it's completed. If your child has difficulty getting ready for school in the morning, create a list that includes such tasks as "get dressed," "brush teeth," "eat breakfast" and "make bed." He can take satisfaction from checking things off his list. If your child is engrossed in a television show or other activity, give him a verbal reminder that he will need to do something else in five minutes. Then, set a timer. (reference 1)

Offer Positive Reinforcement

Children with ADHD often get a lot of negative attention for their behavior 1. Therefore, it is important to "catch them being good," and acknowledge and praise good behavior. Be specific. For example, say "I like how you waited your turn in line," or "You did a great job sitting and finishing your homework without complaint." (reference 1)

Try Medication

If behavioral strategies have not worked, medication may be prescribed to help children control their impulsivity. These medications are designed to increase the child's attention and reduce extra movement and hyperactivity, allowing the child to focus on what is important. Stimulant medications improve the brain's ability to filter out distracting stimuli and decrease impulsiveness. If these stimulants do not work, doctors sometimes choose to treat the symptoms of ADHD with anti-depressant medications. In some cases, this is necessary to help a child complete tasks and learn in school. (reference 3)