19 Authoritative Parenting Tips for Raising Neurodivergent Children

written by Caroline Mendel, PsyD, posted on ADDitude Magazine

The most effective parenting style balances warmth and clear limits. Experts call it “authoritative parenting,” and it has been found to be positive for a child’s overall development.

Parents raising neurodivergent children — kids with ADHD, autism, learning disorders, and other conditions — generally benefit when they apply a wider range of these strategies more frequently and over a longer period of time. Many neurodivergent families also seek the help of a mental health professional to apply these techniques and tailor them to a child’s individual needs.

Here are some basic strategies to guide you.

1. Praise Positive Behaviors

Praise, and other forms of attention, act as the sunshine and fertilizer that positive behaviors need to bloom — without them, undesired behaviors, or the weeds, may overtake the garden.

  • Praise the behaviors you want to see. If your child has difficulty listening, say, “Great job listening so quickly” as soon as your child demonstrates the behavior.
  • Be specific and sincere in your praise. Highlight the positive behavior your child engaged in. Say, “Great job sticking with that challenging problem.”
  • Combine verbal praise with nonverbal reinforcers, like high-fives or pats on the back.
  • Provide praise immediately after the desired behavior happens.

Provide lots of praise throughout the day, especially to counteract negative feedback your child may have received.

2. Ignore Minor Misbehavior

Sometimes, children will seek a parent’s attention in less constructive ways, like via whining, interrupting, and being purposely annoying. Paying attention to these behaviors reinforces them. Instead, ignore these behaviors and actively wait for the opportunity to praise the good behaviors that come through. If your child typically whines when they have to wait, ignore the whining and praise them when they stop whining and demonstrate patience. Say, “Thank you for waiting calmly while I finish my phone call.”