Don’t Mistake Your Child’s ADHD Symptoms for Bad Behavior

written by James M. Greenblatt, M.D., posted on ADDitude Magazine

Study after study shows that the way a parent behaves toward a child with ADHD — the attitudes and strategies the parent brings to bear to control symptoms — is a major factor in the way the child behaves. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parent or teacher-administered behavior therapy for ADHD. For some age groups, the AAP recommends medication only if behavior therapy doesn’t provide “significant improvement.”

There are dozens of customized programs for the behavioral treatment of ADHD, and hundreds of books on the subject. (My research assistant counted 492.)

Here are a few behavior strategies for parents — strategies that my three decades of experience have shown will likely help you and your child.

Trust the Top Expert on Your Child: You

Not teachers. Not friends or relatives. Not the doctor. Not even other parents who have a child with ADHD. You live with your child, day after day. You know his unique potential — his energy, passions, curiosity and creativity, qualities that can get buried under distractibility, impulsiveness, and restlessness.

The best strategies for making sure your child gets what she needs to thrive will come from your own instincts, intuition, and intelligence. There are as many approaches to behavioral management as there are children, and you are the one to decide on the best approach for your child.

[Get This Free Guide to Better Behavior Through Therapy]

ADHD Is Not ‘Bad Behavior’

I have asked thousands of children on their visits to my office the same question: “If you could change one thing with a magic wish — and it can be anything at all — what would you change?” Most children wish they could make school disappear or have a recess that’s eight hours long, or get a dog, or a pony, or take a trip to the moon, or eat ice cream.

Most kids with ADHD make the same wish. And it’s not for a daily banana sundae. Nearly every one wishes that his behavior could magically improve or that he could pay attention better. And he wishes Mom and Dad wouldn’t get so upset at him anymore. Hearing this helplessness from so many children with ADHD — hearing how much they don’t want to be “bad” — I realize that kids with ADHD are asking for help for symptoms that they cannot control.

Your child is not deliberately willful, disobedient, scattered, demanding, obnoxious, aggressive, or lazy. ADHD is not a “behavior problem” or a “discipline problem.” ADHD is a neurological, genetic, nutritional, and environmental medical disorder that imbalances the brain.

Bottom line: Your child is not a bad child. You are not a bad parent. Nobody is to blame for ADHD. Therefore, assigning blame for your child’s bad behavior — and trying to correct it with criticism — is useless.