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Five Behavioral Strategies for Managing ADD & ADHD

Parenting a child with ADD or ADHD can be a challenging undertaking. It is possible, however, to minimize the impact of ADD and ADHD, using specific behavior strategies. With the implementation of clear rules and routines, ADD- and ADHD-related behaviors can be managed with reasonable ease.

  1. Establish a clear set of rules for everyone in the household. If everyone in the family follows the same rules, other family members can be role models for a child with ADD/ADHD.
    • State the rules in age-appropriate language, using short, declarative sentences.
    • Express them visually, in a checklist or chore chart, for example.
    • Before outings and activities, review the rules again.
  2. Maintain a predictable daily routine. Not only will the child know what to expect, but the child will also know what is expected of him or her.
    • Morning and evening routines are most important.
    • A consistent bedtime is crucial, since inadequate sleep can exacerbate attention problems.
    • A specific place for homework or individual quiet time helps a child with ADD or ADHD to refocus.
  3. Give user-friendly directions. Using a combination of verbal and physical cues serves both to model appropriate body language, and to reinforce the child’s focus.
    • Make direct eye contact before beginning a conversation.
    • Give verbal directions one at a time, rather than in one long list.
    • Use non-verbal cues, like a touch on the shoulder, as a cue to focus and pay attention.
  4. Prepare for new surroundings and situations. Unfamiliar conditions can often exacerbate attention problems.
    • Plan ahead for meals and sleep time, to prevent fatigue and hunger.
    • Clearly explain what the child can expect to happen, and review rules for appropriate behavior.
    • Ensure that other caregivers know the routine and behavioral goals, and will adhere to them.
    • Determine what circumstances trigger unacceptable behavior, and avoid them when possible.
  5. Set up a system of rewards and consequences. When each behavior has tangible or visible results, a child with ADD or ADHD is more likely to choose the behaviors with positive results.
    • Post a chart where the child can keep track of positive behavior using stickers or stamps.
    • Be consistent with rewards and consequences.
    • Reward a child with privileges or activities, rather than food, toys, or money. Change the reward often, since children with ADD or ADHD may become easily bored with the same reward.
    • Time-outs and taking away privileges are the most effective consequences.

Having a child with ADD or ADHD provides the opportunity to create structure and discipline for the whole family. By establishing rules and routines for the entire household, using both verbal and non-verbal clues, and preparing for unfamiliar circumstances, parents can create an atmosphere that addresses the specific needs of a child with ADD or ADHD.


The information is provided for general reference purposes. It does not constitute medical or other professional advice and should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your child and adolescent psychiatrist or other physician.