The foundation for good behavior lies in learning three important life skills: reading social situations, managing emotions, and problem-solving abilities. Children with ADHD tend to be deficit in these skills but they can be learned and reinforced with a little help from you and a therapist.
Reading social situations
Reading social situations is critical to helping kids avoid trouble and getting along with others. If your child can walk into a room, observe what’s happening, and interact appropriately, then he or she has no problem with this skill. If not, you can teach your child how to read social situations by observing people together at a restaurant or mall. Teach your child the body language and expression of someone who is angry, bored, happy, or frustrated. Once your child has gotten the hang of identifying other people’s emotions, you can start giving advice on how to deal with people according to their moods.
The inability to manage emotions is one of the hallmark symptoms of ADHD and one of the reasons why they tend to get into trouble more than their peers. It’s important for your child to realize that it’s not okay to hit people out of frustration and that it’s not okay to cuss at someone when they’re angry. Kids with ADHD have to learn that while it’s okay to feel upset or angry, this does not mean they can hurt other people.
If your child punches his brother, sit him down and ask, “What was happening that made you think you needed to do that?” Don’t ask how your child felt, because he won’t be able to articulate an answer; instead, as what was going on. You’ll find that the behavior has a self-centered reason – perhaps his brother wouldn’t lend him a video game he wanted to play with, or his brother wouldn’t give up the TV so he can watch his favorite show.
Don’t rely on consequences alone to improve this behavior. If you must use consequences, make sure that they challenge how your child views the situation or you provide your child with options on dealing with the problem in the future. Otherwise, your child will not learn from the experience; in fact, he will probably repeat the same mistake when you’re not looking.
Once you’ve figured out the reason behind your child’s behavior, ask him what he can do next time this happens. Using this approach encourages your child to come up with healthier ways to cope with his feelings and think of more effective solutions to the problem.
Sometimes, children who are labeled as “troublemakers” are simply children who have not learned how to solve life’s problems. When faced with a difficult situation, they turn to ineffective actions like violence or verbal abuse because they don’t know how to handle the problem otherwise. A key element to helping a child develop better behavior is to teach them problem-solving techniques. Help your child identify problems and discuss possible solutions to it, instead of focusing on what you child is feeling.