How to give son with ADHD the right attention

Work hard to identify and cultivate activities and interests that your son is good at so he gets frequent experiences of success and make sure to praise frequently any time he behaves well.

Fri, Dec 12, 2014, 13:29

Q I’m looking for advice on how to deal with a temperamental eight-year-old boy who can be really challenging. He can be impulsive, inattentive, disobedient and unable to accept responsibility for bad behaviour. We took him to a psychologist who said he had significant ADHD/
ADD symptoms, which fits with what we were experiencing.

We decided not to pursue this further as we did not want to put him on medication. B ut we are looking for advice on how to manage his behaviour.

A Parenting a child who might have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can bring significant challenges. Being inattentive and overactive, these children can find it harder to understand and keep rules, especially in school where the expectation is for them to sit and attend to tasks they might consider “boring”.

In addition, the tendency to be impulsive and to act without thinking can lead them to get into patterns of misbehaviour and conduct problems. To help your son, it is important to understand his special needs and what specifically makes it hard for him to behave. As well as holding him accountable for his behaviour, the more you can have a sympathetic view of his difficulties, the easier it will be to help him.


Provide special support to keep rules and routines
Children with attention problems need extra support in keeping rules, as they are often distracted and not focused. Clear, positive instructions, advance explanations, early warnings and reminders can all help.

Clear, predictable routines ideally pres- ented in a visual step-by-step way can be helpful in letting a child know exactly what is expected. Routine charts can be used to teach children new positive behaviours at challenging times such as bedtime or homework. Also, active children can really benefit from having periods of physical play and exercise in the routine (for example, 15 minutes of homework can be rewarded by going out to play football or to play on the trampoline, and so on).
Set aside play time
Due to getting into trouble more often, children with ADHD tend to receive more critical feedback from parents and other adults, and this can have consequences for their self-esteem and relationships with others.

It is important to counteract this by ensuring you have regular play times when you can enjoy your son’s company and have fun together. This fun time builds your relationship and is the platform from which you can solve behaviour problems.


Provide lots of encouragement and positive feedback
Work hard to identify and cultivate activities and interests that your son is good at so he gets frequent experiences of success and make sure to praise frequently any time he behaves well. By consistently pointing out to your son what he is doing right, you will not only build his confidence but also help him learn how to behave well.

The more specific you make your praise, the more you help him learn the skills he needs. For example, you could say things like: “Good boy, you finished the whole picture – it looks great,” or “You waited your turn, that is good patience.”

With children with attention problems you have to work extra hard to ensure the encouragement gets through and that they understand the positive message you are giving.