Teaching your child to behave

This month’s question is was sent in by a mother in Tokyo.

My 11 year old son has ADHD and learning disabilities. I don’t know how to discipline him when he behaves badly. I am looking for tips and suggestions and parenting help. Can you HELP?

Here are four rules for how I would go about helping your child.

1. Provide Consistency and Structure:
Don’t over explain. If discussing and explaining things to your child has not worked or just made things worse, then stop doing that because it could lead to an argument. Most kids with ADHD like to argue and it will never end. The longer you persist arguing the more the child wins and it would end with you giving up. So just be firm and teach your child to do it because it is the right thing, necessary thing or the thing that you want them to do e.g. to clean up his room.

2. Establish Clear and Standard Rules:
Make it clear in black and white, what behavior and actions are right and what are wrong and apply these consistently, don’t go for shades of grey. i.e. don’t say ‘yes’ one day for something and then say ‘no’ the next day for the same thing. Set some rewards for the continuity of good actions of your child e.g. he has kept his room clean all week give him an extra hour of watching his favorite program on T.V. at the weekend. Also set some consequences for bad actions e.g. he did not keep his room clean every day of the week so he doesn’t get to use his iphone or computer at the weekend.

3. Have High Expectations:
Just because a child has ADHD or has special needs we tend to often lower our expectations. If we don’t expect them to control their actions, behavior and impulses then they won’t. Our lower expectations of them often lead to lower results from them. So as a parent you have to expect better and work harder so that the kids expect more and work harder too. Help your child work harder by developing strategies to negate his characteristics of ADHD. This way your child will perform better at tasks he faces. Remember lower expectations lead to lower performances.

4. Teach your child to Behave:
Make sure that your child learns that what you say about good behavior they should follow without questions. You need to reward positive behavior and use negative consequences for negative behavior, be consistent, be alert, use tough love, and have high expectations for these children.

Discipline Techniques

For discipline you can use isolation and boredom techniques for minor offenses. Try isolation for minor offenses – make them sit for 5, 10, 15 minutes or so in one corner (they could take a book or magazine); for more serious offenses do the same as above, but with no books or magazines and just make them think and reflect on why they are in that position i.e. the boredom technique. If they move from that position, then you can add another few minutes or so until they learn that doing something wrong and not listening to you has consequences. Depending on the child’s age you could even include no use of iphones, no watching TV, no going out with friends, no playing with friends, etc.

Here are four rules and activities that parents can use when raising kids:

Children have to work.
Children need to learn that their work contributes to the welfare of the family. Go to the store, help mum with her shopping by carrying a bag or two into the house. For older kids, help wash the dishes, set the table, do odd jobs around the house, help mum with the cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.
When they become teenagers, one Sunday each month, have each of your children take turns to do the cooking i.e. they decide and write the menu, mum does the shopping for the ingredients and the child cooks the meal for the whole family.

No television or telephone in a child’s room. (Only in the living room)
In addition to a bed, each child’s room should have a desk, bookcases, and lots of books.

Have the child learn to touch-type and write at home.
Have children learn to touch-type at home for about 10 minutes and write any short paragraph from a newspaper for 10 minutes a day. In a few months your child will be able to learn to type 20-30 words per minute and their handwriting and spelling will also greatly improve. This is an excellent activity for the summer. Use a chart to monitor the child’s progress in typing and writing. Charts make progress look real. When the child reaches goals, give them small rewards. Eight years of age is not too young to start. Do not expect that the child will learn to touch type at school. Schools are not consistent. Teach this skill at home.

Never ask “why?”
When your child misbehaves or messes up, never ask them “Why did you…?”. For example, Why did you come home an hour late? Why didn’t you clean up your room? Why did you leave a mess in the kitchen? Why didn’t you finish your homework? Why did you finger-paint on the walls?
When a parent asks a child “why?”, the child learns to create good excuses, shifts blame onto others, views himself or herself as a victim of circumstance, and not does not learn to take responsibility for his or her behavior. Talking about why the child misbehaved will not teach the child that he has control over himself, his environment and his future. This will not teach him to take responsibility for his actions.
Eliminate the word ‘why’ from your vocabulary in dealing with your child’s behavior. So often, children don’t know ‘why.’ They acted because they simply felt like doing it and they don’t really know why. You should never ask “why?”.

Ask these four questions instead and discuss them with your child:

  1. What did you do?
  2. What are you going to do about it?
  3. What should we do about it now and what steps should we take to ensure it does not happen again?
  4. If this does happen again, despite the child’s good intentions now, then what should mummy and daddy do the next time the same thing happens?

Raising a child with ADHD and/or LD is hard. They try your patience. Sometimes, they cause you great heartache. But remember with the right help, support and patience, they can make you proud in the future. I highly recommend you reading parenting books by Tom Phelan, especially 1-2-3 Magic. Another one is Reality Therapy by William Glasser.

Send your SPED questions directly to Cecil at [email protected] and the answers may be published here to help other parents with similar concerns. All personal details will be kept private and confidential.