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Using Behavior Therapy For Kids With ADHD

Many parents are open to non-medical approaches in treating their child's Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder/Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD/ADD). One extremely useful approach is behavior therapy. This therapeutic approach uses theories about what motivates ADHD/ADD children to behave in socially appropriate ways.

A Child's Motivations Toward Appropriate Behavior

One motivation is the desire to please their parents and to feel that their parents are proud of them. Another motivation for children to behave is the goal of attaining positive consequences for their good/appropriate actions. For example, a child may look forward to receiving privileges or rewards for their behavior. Then there is the motivation of avoiding negative consequences, such as losing privileges and receiving negative attention for their actions.

Goals Of Behavior Therapy

Based on these motivations toward good behavior, the goal of behavior therapy is to move the child toward more frequent desirable behavior and lessen the frequency of inappropriate behavior.

This is accomplished by encouraging the child's desire to please his or her parents and look forward to the rewards of good behavior, while reducing incidences of inappropriate behavior through consistent negative consequences when the child indulges in such actions.

In order for this program to be effective, it's important to have the cooperation of all involved. This is done through training the parents in the methods, having the parents meet with teachers and school officials so the school staff knows what interventions to take, and using child-focused behavior modification.

3 Principles of Behavior Therapy

  1. Set goals that are specific and very achievable, so be sure to start with baby steps.
  2. Provide rewards the child will desire.
  3. Be consistent with your follow-through, so the child knows what to expect.

Behavioral therapy is most effective when begun in early childhood. The younger a child is the easier their problems are to solve and the fewer ingrained inappropriate behaviors they may have developed. However, it's never too late to try behavior therapy with a child.

As teachers, caregivers and parents learn new ways to work with an ADHD/ADD child, they will also be able to relate better with that child. Once rules are set and consistently enforced, the child will understand what he or she needs to do and appropriate behavior will increase.

Tips To Make Good Behavior Easier

  • Maintain a daily routine. Stick with a fairly consistent schedule for your child, so he will know what is coming up next, and won't be thrown for a loop.
  • An ADHD/ADD child will need reminders frequently about what is next on their schedule or what is expected of them and what rewards they can earn for meeting those expectations.
  • Reduce distractions in your child's environment, especially when there is a task that is expected of them. Loud music, video games and TV will distract your child too much.
  • Small distractions, like a fidget toy or quiet, non-distracting music are acceptable to distract your child just enough to keep them on course and prevent bigger distractions that lure them down the rabbit hole of inattention. Earplugs or white noise from a fan may be helpful during homework time or to help them sleep.
  • Learn what environments can be overstimulating or lead to meltdowns for your child, such as shopping malls or crowded restaurants and avoid them when possible.
  • Keep your home as organized as possible. Make the locations for your child's things consistent and easy for him to see. That, in turn, will make it easier for him to put the items back where they belong. He is more likely to remember to grab his school backpack on the way out if it hangs on a hook by the door than if it's hidden away in a closet!
  • Don't forget to notice and reward your child's behavior. Praise, hugs, kisses, and small treats or prizes go a long way.
  • Make goals for your child small and very achievable. Slow, continuous progress is better than instant but inconsistent results.
  • Charts and checklists can be a visual way of staying on track with tasks. When giving your child instructions for a task, keep them brief and ask him to repeat the directions to you if you think his attention may have wandered.
  • Don't forget to offer frequent reminders in a friendly, helpful tone.
  • Limiting a child's choices can help your child make better decisions in less time. Try giving only two or three options at once.
  • Look for opportunities where your child can succeed so that he or she can feel the confidence of success and accomplishment.
  • Always be calm when giving discipline. Set the example of appropriate behavior for your child. Use time outs, distraction or removing your child from a situation as discipline methods.
  • Telling a child to behave isn't specific enough. Instead, get your child's full attention, give him explicit instructions for what behavior you want to see and then, inform him of the consequences that will follow if he does not do as expected.
  • Sometimes when you can't get through to your child, it may be best to ignore the behavior until you and he both have calmed down. Physical punishment is never helpful because it sets a bad example for the child as to what appropriate behavior is.
  • Keep in communication with your child's teacher at school so the two of you can coordinate and stay consistent with your child. Daily report cards are invaluable for staying on top of your child's progress.

Don't Forget To Take Care Of You

Parenting an ADHD/ADD child can try the nerves of the most patient parent. If one of the parents also has ADHD/ADD, which is often the case, it can make coping all the more difficult.

Take advantage of any available support groups where you can connect with other families who are working through the challenges of ADHD/ADD. Parent training is a tremendously helpful resource as well. Stress management techniques such as EFT, meditation, and exercise will help you calm your mind and relieve pent-up frustration so that you can respond in the calm manner that your child needs.

If you are overwhelmed, burned out or feeling hopeless, be sure to seek counseling. Sometimes having someone who listens to you can lighten the burden. To find parent training, counseling or support groups in your area, ask your pediatrician, or try online resources.

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