You may ask yourself, “What do I have to do to get my child to do their homework, do their chores, eat right, stop forgetting things, and just be successful?!?” Parents may hit this wall with their child and feel like they are failing as a parent because their child is not where they think they should be, or because some expectations may be unrealistic. Worry not! Most of the time, this is a result of the child not having the right skills or finding it hard to handle their environments. Here are some helpful tips for parents who have a child or a teen who struggles with ADHD, distraction, organization and other executive functioning skills to help their child develop these important skills.
1. Stop doing the work for your child!
It is important to help your child with their math homework, but it stops them from learning problem solving skills if you give them the answers – or worse, do it for them. Yes, it can be frustrating that they do not do it your way, but remember that they are learning. It is vital to look at it from their perspective and developmental age, and envision what would be an improvement from their current level of skill. Guide them through a thought process with bread crumbs to lead them in the right direction.
2. Move in baby steps
If you nor your child can remember what the floor in their room looks like, it is unrealistic to ask for the room to be spotless and free of all messes. Start small and help them clean up the room. Even if you would like the entire room to be clean, having them pick up just one pair of dirty socks can be an opportunity to point out a positive behavior which can lead to more of those desirable behaviors. They eventually will be masters of picking up socks and can add another cleaning skill to their toolbox.
3. Ask more open ended questions
A child/teen’s most dreaded questions tend to be, “How was school?” or “Did you learn anything today?” This gives us the “fine; okay; nothing; or I don’t know” response. Some helpful questions to challenge their thinking would be, “Tell me something you did today that was brave;” “what was something you were successful in doing today?;” “what was something that you failed at today?;”or “what was a kind thing you did today?” These questions help our child/teen’s developing brain look at something more specific in their day, gives them a chance to share something they are proud of, and can normalize experiencing challenges or failure. It can also help them learn better social skills.
4. Set timers and give reminders
For younger people, time does not make any sense and feels like a made up concept – because, well, it is! If you tell a child that dinner will be ready in 30 minutes, they usually do not know what that means. Translating it to them in a tangible way is important, such as having a sand timer to show that once all of the sand is at the bottom of the timer, 30 minutes have elapsed. Setting timers helps children and teens see the light at the end of the tunnel of a task and can give a greater sense of urgency to work on the task.
I know it can be exhausting for parents to have to remind their child more than once to do something. However, the decision-making part of their brain is still growing, and they need a fully grown adult brain to help them learn time management skills. Consider it a bonus if you can put post-it notes in places they always pass for reminders (by their shoes, in the bathroom, or by a computer).
5. Read the room
Who likes to do things when they are in the middle of a fun activity or when they are in a bad mood? The answer is: NOBODY. If we want to have success, we need to set our kids and teens up for success. Patiently wait for them to finish their game at a comfortable save spot – maybe sit with them and watch until they are done, or ask when they would be able to pause to talk. Be sure you “prime the pump” and get their attention by initiating eye contact and catching their gaze. After making the request, you can ask them to repeat or paraphrase what you asked for to confirm they understood your request and give them a chance to ask questions. Be specific with what you want to see, not what you don’t want to see.
6. Acknowledge and praise
Keep in mind that everyone goes at their own pace, and we will not always (or ever be) flawless in what we do. Every time your child/teen does something positive, try to let them know that you see the good things they are doing. Small actions build up to big accomplishments, and we need to be more aware of those little things, even if a mistake is made.
Tell them you are proud of specific things they do like coming home on time, sitting down to do homework, being with the family, or putting dishes in the sink. Recognition and praise gives them a good feeling and tells them to keep doing it!
If you have a child who is easily distracted, has ADHD, and/or struggles with attention, impulsive behaviors, and executive functioning, we at Health and Healing Therapy encourage you to try implementing all or some of the six tips shared above. You have an amazing opportunity to impact your child or teen’s success by being their mentor, guide, teacher, and loudest and most enthusiastic cheerleader. Remember to always focus on their growth, change, and new skills. We all hear positive encouragement more favorably than correction or criticism.
If you live in the western Cook County or Kane County, Illinois area and need support implementing these changes, we are here to help. We have ADHD therapists, parenting coaching, and family therapy services available.
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