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A Child Therapist’s Best Tips for Parenting a Child with ADHD

Inside: These vital tips for parenting a child with ADHD may surprise you, but will lead your child to better behaviors now AND a more successful future later.

parenting a child with ADHD

My 9-year-old client sits down on the couch in my therapy office and I can tell already by his slumped shoulders and downward gaze that he is having a rough week.

“How’s your week been bud? Should we start with the highs or the lows?”

“I hate school and I never want to go back again”.

The Harsh Reality of being differently wired.

Parenting a child with ADHD is not what most parents expected, and there’s something important for these parents to know.

When children with ADHD move through the world they encounter an enormous amount of negativity.

The left-brained world they live in constantly nags at them to sit still, be quiet and go with the flow, while their nervous system propels them to move, make noise and speak their bright minds.

They are constantly made to feel ‘less than’ in a world that doesn’t easily accommodate to their outside-the-box view of life and expects everyone to walk the line (the same straight one, that is).

These are things worth mentioning when considering parenting a child with ADHD because not only are we trying to guide our child right now in the day to day, but we are also trying to lead them toward a healthy and successful future.

I see the pressures our world places on these neurodiverse kids every week when they walk into my office making statements such as, “Why is my brain stupid?” “There must be something wrong with me because my brain makes me do bad things” and the depressingly common, “I hate myself”.

The looks. The stares. The tones of voice, they stick, and not only in their mind but also in their hearts.

These things slowly chip away at the child’s sense of self and who they are at their core.

Related >> Anger Management for Kids: A Therapist’s No Fail Guide to Calm

Despite seeing these hard things come out in therapy, I still have a lot of hope for these unique and amazing kids.

When it comes to parenting a child with ADHD Not only is there hope to reduce the frequency of ADHD symptoms in children, but also to paint a picture of a positive future.

Parents, you have enormous power to support your child by providing a home environment that sets your child up for better listening and cooperation now, without eroding their self-esteem in the process, and I’ll tell you how.

With ADHD in kids its time to start thinking outside the box, in order to meet the emotional needs of your ‘outside the box’ kid.

A different parenting approach can be life-changing for kids facing extra challenges.

For those unfamiliar with positive parenting, it aim’s to flip the script on conventional parenting methods that default to power and control to manipulate a child into compliance. Positive parenting techniques, on the other hand, aim to shape a child’s intrinsic motivation toward positive and pro-social behaviors.

Positive parenting emphasizes the long game, not the short one.

Positive parenting means that we treat our child the way we’d want to be treated, and the way we want them to treat others.

Positive parenting skills challenge us to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

As simple as it may sound, transitioning to positive discipline is not something that happens overnight. It takes patience, commitment, and a fierce dedication to change the way we react to our child in any given situation.

But when we consider how to help a child with ADHD have a successful future it is ever so worth the energy.

Tips for parenting a child with ADHD

1. Set firm limits with respect.

Children with invisible disabilities such as ADHD face an uphill battle every morning they wake up, as they wade through all the extra stimuli (visual, auditory, tactile ect) they take in, in any given environment. Think of how you feel when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Somethings just not right, our nervous system a bit askew.

This is how our child feels every day, and it is a struggle for them to navigate the gray space parents create with inconsistent limits or unclear boundaries. They need clear, consistent expectations and limits which they can rely upon and eventually internalize (thus freeing up any extra energy they’d have to expand on making new adjustments and accommodations).


2. Focus on collaboration over control.

Children with ADHD are typically not known as the ‘go with the flow’ type. Being overly controlled is not their jam. They have plenty of ideas and strong convictions to boot. When we start to include our child in making a daily schedule or in a discussion of what calm down strategies for kids feel the best for their body, suddenly there is a lot less resistance and a lot more ownership.

This is precisely what positive parenting seeks to do. 

When we start to see our child as an ally and include them in making the daily schedule or in a discussion of what calm down strategies feel the best for their body, suddenly there is a lot less resistance and a lot more ownership, follow-through and confidence building.

3. Always focus on strengths.

Atypical kids desperately need others to notice and nurture their unique gifts and strengths. Their future well-being depends on it.

When we start to put more energy into the positives throughout the day with our child, they will begin to see these things in themselves. Being a mirror for our intense child’s awesome attributes is the groundwork for a strong sense of self and one of the most important tips for parenting a child with ADHD.

4. Connection before correction

Children with ADHD spend more time in a state of high emotional arousal (read stress hormones surging through their brains and an over-activated amygdala). Guess what calms and deactivates the emotional arousal of our right brains? Close connected relationships with caregivers. 

A strong connection with an adult has been shown in studies of kids with ADHD to improve a child’s behavior and mitigate negative effects such as suicide rates, school suspensions, rates of depression and boost childhood mental health in general. When we put connection and relationship first, we are not only supporting our child’s neurobiology but setting the foundation for raising an emotionally intelligent child.

adhd in kids

5. When it comes to parenting a child with ADHD, modeling is king to teach self-regulation. 

Children with ADHD, and SPD have structural differences in their frontal lobe making both behavioral and emotional regulation a challenge. Positive parenting challenges parents to develop an awareness of their own thoughts and feelings when parenting, in order to interact with their child based on the child’s needs, opposed to reacting to them based on our own raw emotions and ego.

When it comes to improving a child’s emotional regulation skills there is no more powerful teacher for your child than the example you set. When you as a parent accept the tall task of controlling your own emotions (even when overwhelmed with an ADHD child ) we send an enormously powerful message to our child: cultivating self-control is hard, but it is possible and it is by far a better way.

When a child is struggling with regulating behaviors and emotions, parents are likely encountering an onslaught of highly challenging behaviors each day. We can either allow these behaviors to trigger us (and dump some emotional fuel on their fire for good measure), or we can separate ourselves from their struggles and give them a life preserver to grab onto in times of stress.

As parents and humans, we were made to learn and grow. 

When it comes to tips on parenting a child with ADHD starting on a journey of positive parenting won’t be easy, but it will be easier than seeing the void that exists in your child’s self-esteem down the road in their teen years.

It will be easier than seeing them attempt to fill an inner emptiness with material objects or addictions to marijuana, video games or fast food.

It will be easier than trying to convince them that they don’t need to find an identity with the ‘rough’ crowd.

When it comes to raising a child with ADHD, modifying your parenting approach now will make a huge difference in building a healthy self-esteem for a child who faces daily invisible challenges.

Your complex child’s’ path is their own, but as their parent, you have the power and privilege of providing effective tools and a strong compass to guide their way along the journey.


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One Comment

  1. I would love to have a copy of this article without the advertisements. I’m a teacher and would like to share this with a few families. Thank you.

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