Managing your child with ADHD's challenging behaviours

Is your child defiant? Or perhaps they just aren't doing what they need to do (or stop doing).


Youth with ADHD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder are not very motivated by punishment. Instead, they are motivated by a reward. They are so used to ‘getting in trouble’ that getting in trouble AGAIN doesn’t even matter anymore (I mean it DOES affect their self-esteem but they're just so used to it).


However, EARNING something they want is much more motivating because it supplies them with a dopamine hit (something the ADHD brain so desperately needs if not medicated).


Before deciding if a reward will help motivate your child it's important to identify if:

A) They have the ability to do so (Are they a level 3?)

B) Do they have the capacity to do so? (Are they tired? Overwhelmed? etc.)

C) Are they CHOOSING to do or not do something for lack of motivation?


If you've read Ross Greene's Books you may have heard this before but "Children do well if they can" which basically means they need to have the ability and capacity to do something in order to do it. He suggests that children have challenging behaviours because they have a lagging skill. Well, for youth with ADHD their lagging skill can be motivation (why would I stop playing my fun video game to put the dishes in the dishwasher?).


So, when trying to encourage motivation it's important that your child is capable of doing, or not doing, the task at hand before trying positive reinforcement.


(If you want to learn more about what a Level 3 is read my other blog post called "how to get your child to clean their room")


Here is an example: Your child spends too much time gaming and when you ask them to unload the dishwasher they refuse. You've been nagging for a few days now and they still haven't done their chores.


Step 1: Set limits on screen time Step 2: Let them know how they can earn more screen time, be VERY specific


Examples of ways to do this:


A: "You can earn more screen time if you unload the dishwasher two days in a row." B: "You can earn 1 hour of screen time extra each day you unload the dishwasher. If you do it every day for a week than you earn 4 extra hours on the weekend."


Example A is NOT GOOD because it is not specific enough ‘earn more screen time’, what does that mean? Example B is great it’s very specific and he doesn’t have to wait two days to get the bonus. Waiting is hard for youth who have ADHD and often they give up because they have to wait too long.


Again, it is SUPER important to note, however, that there is NOTHING that can motivate your child to suddenly grow their prefrontal cortex to their appropriate age and/or magically create executive functioning skills.


I hope this is helpful! And remember to be good to yourself so you can be your best self for those you love :)



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