Maudlin and Associates ™
Karen Maudlin
Psy.D., CPCC
Kenneth Davison
Cindy Takiguchi
Manette Galván Turner
Robert Gregory
Daniel Doebler
Trevor Simpson

"My 8-year-old son has ADHD. I'm at a loss about what kinds of discipline to use. What methods work best on ADHD kids?"

A. The main principle in working with ADHD kids is the break-it-down and follow-it-up techniques. For example, time-out procedures can be effective with your son if you walk him through the time-out process.

Show him the time-out room; usually a quiet room away from the action, such as the laundry room or a bathroom. (A child's bedroom, the family room, or kitchen have too much activity and too many fun distractions to be effective.) Explain how long the time-out will be if your child goes to the time-out room when you tell him to (one minute per year of your child's age is standard), and that the time will be doubled if you have to escort your child. Then, let your child know that a time-out is meant to give him a quiet place to slow down and think about his behavior and to decide how to apologize or accept responsibility when he's finished.

Next, ask your son to name a problem behavior. Tell him, "That is a hard thing to control! Let me be you and you be me and we'll see if we can figure out a way to handle that problem." The activity level of this exercise helps make practicing fun. You can role play both appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. Then reverse roles.

When he has a problem and needs a time-out, follow up by reminding him of your earlier conversation and review what's going to happen. In time, he'll see that there is a consistent negative consequence for his inappropriate behavior and will begin to find a better way to handle problems.

You can also use the break-it-down technique to help prevent some behavior problems. With ADD/ADHD kids, keeping track of several verbal instructions is difficult. Give one direction at a time. Walk over to your son, put your hands on his shoulders, get down to his level, and look him in the eyes. Then say, "I need you to make your bed now." Calling multiple commands across the room is especially difficult with these kids.