Sign Up: Writer | Buyer
Contact Us

Empire State Building
350 Fifth Ave, Suite 7313
New York, NY 10118
phone: (800) 704-6512

Price: $30.00
Minor modifications of this article are permitted to adjust to the available space or to the publication’s editorial style.
Five Simple Rules To Help You Raise a Child With ADHD
by Mike Cohen
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Five Simple Rules To Help You Raise A Child With ADHD

In the interests of full disclosure, I am not a doctor, or a pharmacist, nor have I had any professional medical/psychiatric training. What I am, after 8 years and a few months of raising my son, who has ADHD, is a professional parent. A professional, that is, in dealing with the issues and problems that raising any child with ADHD will most definitely bring up. A professional, in looking back and seeing things which I most definitely could have done better, should have done better and have resolved to improve in the future. More or less, that is the road all of us travel as parents – we deal the best we can with what comes up and we try our best to improve our methods, hoping that our children will benefit from the changes as well as the rest of our family. We all strive to do our best in any circumstances involving our families, especially our children, and raising a child with ADHD only makes the issues come faster, with more intensity and they take a lot longer to correct.

Rule Number One: It takes a long time to change even the smallest of the negative behaviors that surface in ADHD children. I make this rule number one because it is definitely the one parents need to grasp fully and stay conscious of to help reduce the friction around the house. It helps tremendously to know that your ADHD child will not respond to the normal disciplinary measures in the same ways that other children do. Why is that? Because it is the nature of the illness, and that is exactly what ADHD is, an illness (not a disease, not a situation and not a “bad” child) that those who are affected by it do not have a sense of tomorrow, of the future or of the consequences of their actions. Their actions are simply their actions and nothing more. Now, their actions are quite often destructive and sometimes even dangerous. But an ADHD child will not stop and think, “Uh, maybe I shouldn’t do this or….”, before they act. If ADHD does anything at all it removes the barrier to stopping for a moment, thinking about what they are doing and changing their behavior before they do it. The ADHD child will sometimes run into traffic after a ball, will throw an empty glass at the wall simply to see what happens and could hurt himself or another child because some destructive behavior simply entered his mind and there was nothing there to stop it. This is not a doomed situation because you can teach an ADHD child to stop dangerous behaviors. But, remembering rule number one, it won’t be easy and it takes a lot longer than teaching the same lesson to a non-ADHD child. The difference in successfully dealing with teaching these most basic of behaviors lies not in the methods used, but in the parent’s understanding of the nature of the illness and having the patience to take the time necessary to instill the proper behavior in their children. You’ve heard the line, “He/she has the patience of a saint.”? That’s your goal.

Rule Number Two: Schools will not help you. Public schools are quite simply overwhelmed, so their first tactic is to discipline your child, regardless of the illness, in the ways that they discipline any child exhibiting the same behavior patterns. When that fails, you’ll be called in for meetings where the discussions will tend towards “special classes” and medication with the threat of suspension and expulsion clouding the air. A lot of parents simply cave in to the demands of the public schools whose only job is to maintain the status quo and the child usually suffers. Out of the overcrowded cities, there is usually a higher degree of cooperation between the parents and the school authorities but the problem there is usually one of resources and experience. Please take note that there are state and federally mandated programs that you can sign up for that will help you, but quite often the schools will not mention them. Private schools, at least those not specially designed to handle “behavioral problem children”, can be worse than public schools. Here the thinking is that the school is a business and anything that seems likely to upset the cash flow, that is, an ADHD child who creates problems in the classroom and makes other parents think about removing or not renewing their membership, will be summarily dismissed. Private schools are under no obligation to keep your child in their classrooms and even though his academic achievements may be superior to the rest of the class (as is quite often the case with ADHD children), a perceived monetary threat will simply be removed at the earliest possible time in the most demeaning of all possible ways. In other words, you’ll be called for a meeting at which time you’ll be told to remove your child and never return and there is no recourse. To properly deal with the school that your child attends, to get the most benefit for your child, take the time to research the programs that are available to you under the law so that you can initiate them because you might have to, and talk to the administrators of the school each and every year. Make them aware of your child’s particular behaviors, stress his strengths and weaknesses and try to assess the school’s response to his behavior right from the beginning. A small amount of time can make a huge difference to your child’s success or failure in school.

Rule Number Three: Psychiatric Therapy can be a black hole. That’s a pretty bold statement to make and I understand that it will put off a lot of people. Again, in the interests of disclosure, I’ve been through a bit of therapy myself and I found it sometimes rewarding and sometimes not. For me the success of therapy boils down to two basic elements: the willingness of the patient to take part in the process and the abilities of the therapist. Any patient can intentionally shuck and jive his way through therapy sessions, private or group, learn to say the things necessary to get it over with and move on without learning or gaining even the tiniest bit of insight. Likewise any therapist can disguise a lack of ability with some keyword questions and learned responses and can ultimately throw his hands up and explain his failure away in a large variety of ways. I say this because the “therapeutic treatment” of ADHD is new, vague, unproven and is more likely to be exploited than any other area of psychotherapy. An untrained therapist dealing with an uncooperative child, who is billing a government program for his time is not a scenario for a huge degree of success, and yet, that is precisely where a lot of ADHD kids end up. And, unfortunately, the success rate for this venue is alarmingly miniscule as predicted. The problem is this: any child younger than a teenager, will have absolutely no idea what’s going on, no concept of why he’s talking to this person in a cramped little office and what he’s supposed to be doing or saying for any of it to work. When you combine the youthful innocence of the child with what is most likely the new, experimental, untested experience of the therapist you have a scenario destined for failure. Having been to a number of therapists with my child I can tell you first hand that the absolute best way to gain anything positive from therapy in this particular situation is for the sessions to be more of an instruction from the therapist to you in how to effectively parent your child and for you to point out his worst behaviors to the therapist so he/she can get a better handle on what’s going on. Sessions between the child and the therapist alone, unless they are for the purposes of diagnosing the illness and suggesting treatment, are probably pointless. Even cheaper and less taxing on everyone involved is for the parents to read everything they can on ADHD and try to determine on their own, the best course of action to take for their child.

Rule Number Four: Try things that make sense before resorting to medicine. Once my son was diagnosed with ADHD, my wife and I were dead set against medication. The minute medicine was suggested, I went online and read every article and every message board I could find. After that, I resolved to try a few things first. Being new at the program, I made some mistakes. I read about a program involving video games and sensor wires hooked to my sons’ head where if he could focus, the brainwaves as measured by the sensors would affect the action of a video game onscreen. Focus, concentrate and make superman fly higher on the screen. Lose focus and the caped wonder crashes to the ground. Sounds good and it was expensive – but at least harmless and safe. It didn’t work for my son at all and to this day I’m still not sure whether or not it was a scam. As it turns out my son is more hyperactive than ADD and that may have been a factor. He was also one of the youngest kids “admitted” (after I paid the fee of course) to the program. And the doctor who invented the program claimed to be motivated by keeping kids off drugs. It didn’t work in the slightest for him but I won’t say it was an outright lie because there may be kids who are benefiting from the program. What I tell you is this: there definitely are scammers and cheap exploiters out there who are waiting for us and our ADHD kids. If your antennae starts to beep when you encounter them, and you will encounter them, make sure of a few things before you jump in. Make sure you can afford it and that the cash outlay won’t seriously impact your family. Make sure whatever it is you’re trying is safe – 100% safe and nothing less. And make sure you give the program a limited amount of time to assess success or failure. With my son, I tried diet first. I put him on a sugar free, organic, high protein diet for three months before we started medication. I suggest this tactic for everyone. It doesn’t cost much to implement and it’s always better to eat little or no sugar and healthy organic foods than not. But, alas, this also had no effect. Years later, when my wife and I were more sensitive to the illness, we came to realize that it wasn’t sugar that played a role in his behavior spikes, it was DYE! If you’re trying dietary adjustments to calm your child down, remove dye from his diet and be careful – it pops up everywhere. It’s in soda, candy and other places where you expect it to be. But it’s also in ground chop meat, fish with color added and hundreds of other places you don’t expect it to be found. It is my firm, though unproven conviction, that the amount of dye in the food system of this nation is seriously affecting all of our health and perhaps the ADHD kids are the wake up call we all should be getting about what’s in our food.

Rule Number Five: Be consistent. I know you’ve heard this before but with ADHD kids it’s really the most important thing you can do. I started this article with the premise that ADHD kids will learn to stop their destructive behaviors but that it takes them a lot longer than other kids. During that “lot longer” period of time you, as concerned parent, must be consistent with your methods. I suggest that you start with the most dangerous of your child’s behavior. If he pulls his hand away from you to run in the parking lot or, God forbid, out into traffic. Or if he’s throwing dangerous objects across the room, if he’s hitting himself or banging his head on the floor. Read up on some of the methods people have used on their children. Some kids are motivated by a positive reward system where with good behavior they can earn things they want. Others are motivated by the threat of losing things they cherish. Whichever direction you choose for your child, you have to stick with it. While a non-ADHD child might reverse some bad behaviors in a few weeks it might take an ADHD child a year or more. That’s where the “be consistent” part of your parenting really comes into play. It’s so hard to try to keep your child from pulling his hand away from you in the parking lot and it’s so easy to lose patience with them after the 100th time or the 1000th time they’ve done it, but you cannot. You simply cannot. If you lose patience and blow up at the child, you’ve undone a lot of any progress he’s made and you’re starting over again. Nobody understands the depth of involvement, the courage it takes, the strength you must find day after day to change your child’s behavior. Nobody. But you must. That’s your job. It does get easier after some success, but those first hills to climb are the hardest – and you’ll do it alone. It’s your hand he’s pulling away from in the parking lot, not his teacher’s, not the therapist’s, not the guy who wrote the last book you read. Yours. And right there, in that parking lot you’ll have to take the few seconds necessary to bend at the knee and repeat, calmly and cleanly, for maybe the thousandth time, the mantra about the rule of pulling away from Mommy or Daddy’s hand in the parking lot and how dangerous that can be because he could get hurt by the moving cars. But you know what? One day he’ll get it. One day he’ll start to pull away because he saw something that caught his eye and diverted his attention and he’ll stop. He’ll look up at you and smile and you’ll know, you’ll just know, that that one is behind you now. That it worked. It took a long time but it worked. And you’ll feel a feeling in your chest as you smile down to your child that will make you feel closer to him than you’ve ever felt before. And better about the success of your parenting. And then you’ll move on to the next behavior. And before long your child will be a lot better off – and you’ll be an expert, just like me.

Published: Jul 19,2008 12:08
Bookmark and Share
You may flag this article with care.


Featured Authors
Andy Cowan
Andy Cowan, an award-winning writer, whose credits include Cheers and Seinfeld, regularly contributes humor pieces to the Los Angeles Times and the CBS Jack FM Radio Network.
Paul M. J. Suchecki
Paul M. J. Suchecki has more than 30 years of experience as an award winning writer, producer, and cameraman. He's written numerous newspaper and magazine articles. Currently he writes, produces and shoots for LA CityView Channel 35 and his more than 250 articles for are approaching half a million readers.
Coby Kindles
Coby Kindles is a freelance journalist, screenplay writer and essayist. She has been a staff writer at Knight Ridder and a regular contributor to The Associated Press.
Debbie Milam
Debbie Milam is a syndicated columnist for United Press International, an occupational therapist, family success consultant, and motivational speaker with more than 20 years experience. Her work on stress management, spirituality, parenting, and special-needs children has been featured in over 300 media outlets including First for Women, The Miami Herald, Elle, Ladies Home Journal, The Hallmark Channel, PBS and WebMD.
Dan Rafter
Dan Rafter has covered the residential real estate industry for more than 15 years. He has contributed real estate stories to the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Business 2.0 Magazine, Home Magazine, Smart HomeOwner Magazine and many others.
Jack Nargundkar
Jack Nargundkar has been repeatedly published in Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. He is also an author of "The Bush Diaries" published in July 2005.