Effective parenting takes time and effort, no doubt about it!!
For kids with ADHD, effective parenting is a must whether these kids are medicated or not medicated.
This information will be useful for all parents, not just those raising ADHD kids…
Does the child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) need to be medicated?? Yes and No… that’s clear as mud, huh? First, it’s crucial to make sure that what you are dealing with is ADHD! Many children will present with symptoms that might appear to be ADHD, but are actually symptoms of other disorders. ADHD can present differently for different kids. Yes, there are the classic symptoms, but not all children are as obvious as others. For diagnostic information about ADHD, check out my post, Hyperactive or Just Busy…Could your child have ADHD?
If it’s not ADHD, what else could it be? Some disorders that may present as ADHD could be anxiety, depression, lead poisoning, thyroid dysfunction, vision problems, food allergies/sensitivities, sleep apnea or something else entirely. Making sure your child has the appropriate evaluation is the first step to proper treatment.
I see many preschool age children that are brought in by their parents for behavior problems, it’s most frequently boys vs. girls. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that both boys and girls can have ADHD, but boys are diagnosed 2:1 over girls. I always say that God made boys to hunt and gather, not sit still for 8 hours. 😉 Perfect example – I saw a little boy this week for behavior problems, he is 3 years old and his mother thinks he has ADHD. The first thing I do is ask why the parent thinks the child has ADHD? Jason’s mom reported that he got in trouble in preschool A LOT, was biting other kids, was constantly in time-out, talks non-stop, and his dad has ADHD. After meeting with Jason and his mom, I think he might have ADHD, but at 3 years old I NEVER label a kid as ADHD. And, I would NEVER medicate a 3 year old for attention problems or hyperactivity; 3 yr olds are supposed to be active and have a very short attention span. If a child this young presents with problems, he needs a though neuro-psych evaluation!
There are many interventions that I recommend for young children with behavior issues that resemble ADHD. These interventions can make a huge difference for a family, and must be consistent! These interventions take time and effort on the part of parents. They are useful for all kids of all ages, but especially necessary for kids with ADHD. Many of these interventions are just good, effective parenting:
- Routine is unbelievably important. Doing things according to a schedule helps a child learn what to anticipate day after day. Using lists or pictures can be helpful to remind children what they are responsible for and keep them on task.
- Make sure the rules are clear and followed consistently. If you have rules that are only enforced some of the time, the child will not know when they do or don’t have to follow the rules. This leads to frustration for the child and the parent. And, needless to say, inconsistent results!
- Give the kids something to be responsible for…this could be helping to take care of pets, taking out the trash, or other chores around the house. This helps the child feel important, learn responsibility, and also builds self-esteem.
- Praise and Positive Reinforcement is a must for disciplining all children, especially children with ADHD. Recognize & Praise good behavior and accomplishments. Just getting homework or small chores done can be challenging for children with attention issues.
- Limit “screen time” – This includes all screens, such as TV, video games, computer, etc. Screen time should be limited to just 2-3 hours per day, and should be turned off at least 1 hour before bedtime. This isn’t hard to enforce during the school year because there is limited free time after school. It is a little more challenging during the Summer. Being more liberal with this rule during the summer is ok, just remember, you will see a difference in the child’s behavior; and it is essential to get back into a school routine a week or 2 before school actually starts.
- Have a good bedtime routine with an acceptable bedtime. Kids in preschool and early elementary grades should be in bed by 7:30-8:30, upper elementary should be 8:30-9, middle school 9-9:30, and high school should be between 9-10. For more information about sleep, please see my blog, Sleep is Crucial for Healthy Development. A tired child has trouble focusing, paying attention, and retaining information. For preschool aged children, there is a significant correlation between hyperactive and impulsive behavior and short sleep duration.
- Watch what your child is eating, 3 healthy meals and snacks are important for good brain function. Adding essential fatty acids to a child’s diet helps promote good brain function. Eliminate artificial food dyes (AFDs) from the child’s diet. AFDs have been proven to increase hyperactivity in the majority of children. A study done in Great Britain in 2006 documented that 75% of children demonstrated hyperactive behavior correlated with ingestion of AFDs and Sodium Benzoate. I have recommended this intervention to many families, and received many Thank You’s because it makes such an obvious difference in the child’s behavior. I firmly believe that AFDs should be eliminated from our food supply altogether. AFDs have been outlawed in Canada, Britain, Germany and a few other countries.
- If your child has allergies, treat allergies with a daily allergy medication. Allergies can make ADHD worse! Allergies are a hypersensitivity, ADHD is a hypersensitive state…1+1=2, it’s that simple.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise! Physical activity helps to regulate the neurotransmitters that are dysfunctional in those with ADHD. Tell your kids to run around the house a few laps before dinnertime, it gets the wiggles out.
- Whatever they are good at, encourage it! Whether their forte’ is math, sports or building things, encourage it! Without our multitasking, intelligent ADHDers, we would not have telephones, airplanes, or many of the inventions and discoveries we take for granted everyday. My above mentioned ADHD post expands on this, check it out!
Do I think these interventions will keep a truly ADHD kid from needing medication? Probably not, it depends on the severity of the ADHD. If I child has mild symptoms, the above interventions may be beneficial enough to avoid the need for meds. If a child has moderate to severe ADHD, they will need medication along with the above interventions.
I can’t expresses how important these “effective parenting” interventions can be, even for those children that need medication. Medication alone will not be enough for a child with true ADHD.
I’ve had many parents come back to me and tell me how much these interventions have helped make their life better. I can tell you personally, that they do make a difference in our family. I’ve shared Joshua’s story with you, he is the definition of Inattention and Hyperactive. If you haven’t read Parenting = Biggest Rewards + Most Frustrating Job You Will EVER Have!!, check it out for a little more insight on raising Josh. Joshua literally spun in circles for many years during his early childhood prior to the elimination of AFDs from his diet. I used to refer to him as Taz, the Tasmanian Devil. After a few days with no AFDs, the spinning stopped!! It was unreal!! It turned my little Tasmanian Devil back into a sweet, funny, and interesting little boy. He was still busy, but it was obvious that he had more control over his behavior.
Children with ADHD take extra time and effort, but the extra parenting will pay off someday when they are able to accomplish their goals. The time and effort will build self-esteem, intellect, and help your child grow to be the healthy and happy person you will always be proud of.
All kids take lots of parenting effort and energy. Each child comes with their own unique challenges, no doubt about it. Being the parent of an ADHD kid will take more patiences, time and effort than parenting the average kid. Your efforts will pay off though, I promise!!
Whatever parenting challenges you face, I hope you always remember to ENJOY THE JOURNEY!