ADHD and Young Children: Unlocking the Secrets to Good Behavior

by Dr. Robert Myers, Child Psychologist
ADHD and Young Children: Unlocking the Secrets to Good Behavior

For the parents of a child with ADHD, everyday tasks turn into battles—from getting the child out the door in the morning to getting him to bed at night. My son was diagnosed with ADHD at age 6, so I remember what it was like to have a daily tug of war with an attention disordered child all too well. Parents look for help everywhere.  They may read one book after another and hear a parade of behavioral experts speak who give them parenting tips that don’t seem to work. The more books they read and experts they seek out, the worse their child’s behavior seems to get.

"ADHD is a 'brain difference.' Your child’s brain works differently than 95% of his peers. So 'one size fits all' parenting techniques won’t necessarily fit your child."

In my practice and in my work with my own son, I discovered a number of techniques and strategies that can help parents improve the behavior of a child with ADHD.
ADHD Secret #1: Parenting Techniques Must Be Adapted to Kids with ADHD
What works for adolescents with ADHD may not work for a seven-year-old with this diagnosis. Likewise, if a behavior modification technique works for 95% of children, that doesn’t mean it will be effective for the 5% of kids with ADHD. 

The time out is a classic example of a behavior modification tool that is often misused with children who have ADHD. Timeouts are often recommended to help children with ADHD learn to control impulsive behavior such as talking back, hitting or hyperactivity.  However, standard application of this popular intervention may not work in the presence of ADHD. 

Parents are usually told to apply 1 minute of timeout for each year of age, thus 6 minutes for a six year old.  For a child this young with ADHD, this may be too much time.  Psychologists suggest applying the 30% rule to kids with ADHD and learning disabilities, which means that social-emotional development for these kids may be 30% less than their peers.  Thus, a 6 year old should be considered to react more like a 4 year old.  Therefore, 4 minutes would be more appropriate.

ADHD Secret #2: Use Reward, not Punishment
One of the most important things to realize about children with ADHD is that they respond much better to reward than to punishment. So here’s how to adapt the time out to a child with this diagnosis so that the tool is more effective. If your 6 year old won’t sit quietly in timeout, tell him the timeout is 8 minutes (double the time based on the 30% Rule). But he can reduce it to 4 minutes by sitting quietly.  Then watch how hard he tries to earn the “reward.” By moving away from punishment and giving the child a reward, albeit a simple one, you are speaking the language that an ADHD child understands.

Helpful tip: Don’t nag! Help your child to correct errors and mistakes by showing or demonstrating what he should do rather than focusing on what he did wrong.

ADHD Secret #3: Leverage the Child’s Desire for Positive Attention
Children with ADHD usually crave positive attention while being more likely to have a severe over-reaction to negative attention or punishment.  Using what is called “selective attention” can be very helpful in increasing appropriate behavior while decreasing inappropriate behavior. Begin to pay attention to appropriate behavior through praise while ignoring inappropriate behavior. For example, your child is wiggling around and making silly noises while you are helping him with homework.  Ignore the behavior and say, “Let’s see how fast we can get this work done.”   When he settles down you can say, “Wow!, you are really working hard and look, we’re almost done now.”  This may be difficult at first because it’s usually the opposite of how parents tend to respond to behavior.  It’s our instinct to jump on irritating behaviors and try to correct them, simply to make them go away. But without knowing it, we are rewarding the inappropriate behavior because, with these children, any kind of attention is better than no attention at all. Even worse, when we ignore appropriate behavior, we don’t reinforce it. So the child with ADHD doesn’t learn that appropriate behavior often leads to positive attention.  When you use selective attention, rewarded behavior will increase while ignored behavior will decrease.  It’s a parental 180-degree turnaround that can work wonders with a young child who has attention and hyperactivity problems. 

Helpful Tip:  Innappropriate or irritating behavior should be ignored 100% of the time while appropriate behavior should be praised 70% to 80% of the time at first, and then to less than half the time as things improve.  The goal is for the child to gradually be able to control their behavior on their own.

ADHD Secret #4: Teamwork Works with ADHD
You + Your Child = The Team
Most programs for kids with ADHD focus on training parents, which is very important, but these programs do not speak directly to the child.  Instead, I recommend that parents and kids work together as a team. For instance, in the Total Focus Program, the parents and the child are shown ways of working together on relaxation exercises that improve concentration and reduce frustration.  The exercises are fun, and a chart is kept to track progress.  They end up having a good time, improving their relationship and learning new skills together.

Many of the programs for kids that are on the market focus on improving only one skill. But they offer no magic cure.  In my practice, I’ve had success using a broad spectrum of approaches (cognitive rehabilitation, behavior modification and relaxation therapy) that are integrated together with a newfound “I Can” attitude to produce results that lead to major improvements in behavior and learning achievement.  When I work with kids and parents, I teach problem solving skills and social skills to improve motivation and self-esteem. By doing this, the child learns to put in the work to achieve the major skills he needs to master: improved attention, concentration, and functions including memory and self-control.  As a result, the whole family benefits.

ADHD Secret #5—Young Children with ADHD Respond Well to Touch
Most kids with ADHD need lots of physical contact. Love them by touching them, hugging them, tickling them, wrestling with them.

ADHD Secret #6--Focus on the child’s strengths daily—and more than you would with a child who does not have ADHD
Look for and encourage their strengths, interests, and abilities. Help them to use these as compensations for any limitations or disabilities. Reward your child with praise, good words, smiles, and a pat on the back as often as you can.

ADHD Secret #7—Practice Motor Skill Improvement to Reduce Frustration
Make a game of practicing motor activities that will stimulate them in their development. For example, skipping to music, playing catch or tossing a bean bag at a stack of blocks improves coordination and the ability to follow directions without frustration, giving the child more self-confidence as well.

ADHD Secret #8—Consistency Pays
Being consistent is good advice for any parent. For parents of young children with ADHD, it is vitally important. Exhausted parents crave a “quick fix” to impulsive, unmanageable behavior. So they tend not to stay with one strategy long enough to see it work. When you use the techniques suggested here, remember that consistency is important to achieving success with a young, attention disordered child.

ADHD is a “brain difference.” You child’s brain works differently than 95% of his peers. So “one size fits all” parenting techniques won’t necessarily fit your child. Your parenting strategies may need to be administered in smaller doses with more emphasis on rewards and on your child’s strengths. I teach parents how to understand the unique traits and behaviors of their child and how to adapt “tried and true” approaches so they will work for their child.  I also help parents to develop a positive approach that helps them to be able to develop patience and insight that will result in happier days for parent and child.

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Dr Robert Myers is a child psychologist with over 25 years of experience working with children and adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and learning disabilities and is the creator of the Total Focus Program Dr Myers is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at UC Irvine School of Medicine. "Dr Bob" has provided practical information for parents as a radio talk show host and as editor of Child Development Institute's website, which reaches 3 million parents each year. Dr. Myers earned his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.


very interesting articles ,do you believe in medications,my granddaughter has A D H D taking stratera meds,,, i like your method I do apply similar technics,,,thanks maria

Comment By : maria

Very helpful information. Parenting an ADD child is a trial. Maintaining patience in situation where it seems your child is contantly pushing your buttons is a challenge. The notion of increased attention for all that is positive is definitely worth a shot.

Comment By : Frustrated parent

Great suggestions, focus on the successes, realize that maturity may be delayed by a year or two and use time-out accordingly...very helpful. The best part is to praise successes and extinguish problematic behavior through ignoring. Often this is the opposite of what happens in the heat of the moment. Then you wonder why the "new" negative behavior is increasing!

Comment By : Sped Teacher and parent

We have two granddaughters with ADHD ages 10 and 11 and we would love to be able to find a child psychologist somewhere in our area of Midland/Saginaw/Bay City Michigan but no luck so far. So having info like your's is very helpful. Thank you.

Comment By : Karen C.

This is the exact info I have been looking for! This information has filled in some previous gaps. I am curious about the relaxation exercises. It would make sense, 3 of my 4 children are picture thinkers and we do similar exercises with them. Thanks for reminding me.

Comment By : Hopeful parent

Extremely helpful. I have a daughter with ADD and doing homework everyday is a battle. It's extremely stressful for my husband and I. Helping her is also a battle and it's hard for me to keep my patience and understand how to help her. Also inforcing the positive I found encouraging because that what seems to happen alot.

Comment By : smithcherylsupermom

* To Maria: Current professional treatment guidelines and scientific research give medications a prominent role in treatment. However, this information states that 30% or more of kids with AD/HD can benefit from behavioral treatment alone and many more would require lower doses of medication while still others may be able to stop medication sooner with a combination of behavioral treatment and medication. Whether a child needs medication and what medication would be appropriate is up to the child’s physician and parents.

Comment By : Dr. Bob

* Dear Karen C.: Your granddaughters are fortunate to have such a caring grandmother.Personal collaboration with a child psychologist can be most beneficial. You can check the CHADD Professional Directory at and the American Psychological Association Directory may also be useful. You can ask your child’s physician or your insurance company for a referral and major teaching hospitals often have ADHD clinics staffed by child psychologists and child psychiatrists. You may also want to check out the program I've developed, called Total Focus. Best of luck to you.

Comment By : Dr. Bob

Thank you for this article - it is somehow such a relief to see your child's behaviour "in print". It helps to put the challenge of raising an ADHD child in a better perspective. I know that I spend a lot of energy on blaming my parenting skills for my child's continued behaviour. I will redirect that energy to put some of your suggestions into play.

Comment By : Donna

Our grandson is 6 years old and acts alot like what you explained in your article. We have never been told that he has ADHD,but wondered.When he is at scool, he acts just fine and learns his schoolwork very easily. Do kids with ADHD have this behavior all the time? At home it is a struggle or fight for almost everything.

Comment By : Caron W.

* Dear Caron: One of the diagnostic criteria for AD/HD is that the symptoms occur across settings including home and school. If your grandson is doing well at school according to his teachers, something else may be causing the problems at home. If the problems persist or get worse, the boy’s physician should be consulted to determine if this is normal behavior for his age or if a referral to a child psychologist would be beneficial.

Comment By : Dr. Bob

My daughter is 5yrs old. I wonder about her all the time bc she challenges me in everything and is defiant at times. She is in school and is fine,however recently her teacher mentioned that she does not listen. She has not been listening for over a week and the teacher is concerned bc she will be starting kindergarten in Sept. The teacher also mentioned that my daughter does not know when to stop playing around. At home she is always testing the waters. Should i ask my pediatrician or am i overreacting?

Comment By : concerned mom

my teachers get more techniques on how to handle adhd by reading your article....its great.... thanks...

Comment By : t. rose

My son is 8 now. When he was 6 we were taking him to a psychologist that was not helping (she wasn't consistent w/her office hours and cancelled appointments which meant he was not getting consistent meetings). We then moved to another one that was very drastic with the time out approach - even so much as to put a lock on the outside of his bedroom door and strip it down to a mattress on the floor. The one thing the 2nd psychologist did tell us was that she saw ODD w/ADHD tendencies. He acts like the child Caron W. describes. Have you determined if these praise techniques have a positive effect on a child that has Opposition Defiant Disorder? We have been trying to correct him and hope he will mature out of it, but the bottom line is that he doesn't process the word "no" and makes everything end with a meltdown, temper trantum, and sometimes hitting his younger sister.

Comment By : Frustrated in PA

My Daughter has ADHD. How do you go about dealing with forgetfulness regarding everyday task. This includes everything that pertains to school, as well as regular daily tasks. Also she is very argumentative (how not to argue all the time).

Comment By : Maria

This article was very interesting. I have the total transformation program though I have not been able to have the time to get started on it. Being the mother of two possible three children who have AD/HD can be very stressful. I really enjoyed reading this article and it gave me some tips to try. I see my children looking for attention more and more and they're doing it ways that really stress me out. My son is so hyper/defiant that sometimes I just feel like running away, and my oldest daughter does fine in school, but she can't seem to remember one thing to the next, and chores its like pulling hair out to get them done. My youngest has not been diagnosed, though I see some traits of AD/HD, I am just hoping she is just acting out because she sees her siblings doing it. So on that note I just wanted to say thanks

Comment By : MJB

* Dear Concerned Mom: There is a wide range of “normal” in early childhood. The ability to sit and pay attention is expected to be reached by 6 for girls and 7 for boys. Schools want kids to conform to their time table rather than the one built in to each child. Testing the waters may just be a display of “spunk” which is not necessarily a bad thing. You should decide which requests are non-negotiable and stick to your guns remembering that parenting always involves a fine balance of “love and limits.” If the problems persist or worsen, your pediatrician should be consulted. For now “watch and wait” may be the right way to go. To “Frustrated in PA”: Hardcore power struggles are not the best way to handle defiance or impulsivity. Start with spending 15-20 minutes each day doing something fun with your child regardless of his behavior. This could be playing a game, reading a book together, etc. Let him decide on the activity. Make it a fun time. Next select ONE behavior that is most bother some and tell your son that each time it occurs during the day he will get a 5 minute time out. However, if he can go the whole day without a time out (or maybe only 1 time per day to start with) he will earn a special privilege. I hope this helps. There are tons more techniques covered in the Total Focus Program. He also may need an evaluation by a child psychiatrist to pinpoint the diagnosis and discuss a full range of treatment options including medication. Finally, to “Maria”: Forgetfulness is of course quite common with AD/HD. A reminder list in her notebook may help, though ADHD people then may forget to look at the list. A home/school note between parent and teacher may enable you to help her remember. Rewards for remembering may help. Arguing can be helped with a technique called the “First Time Club” which is part of the parent “Tool Kit” provided in Total Focus. Basically, a chart is constructed. Each time your daughter does something the first time asked without arguing, a happy face or something like that is placed in a square. When the chart is full, a previously agreed upon reward is earned. After about 30 successes, the new habit is learned. From then on, intermittent descriptive praise for cheerful compliance should perpetuate the new habit.

Comment By : Dr. Bob

Thank you for the article. It was very informative. I have a son who's 14 with ADHD. I've been working with different doctors using different therapies. He is now on Staterra. He's been on ritalin since he started school. (We always take him off during the summer.) He wants to get off his medicine, that's why I've tried these different therapies (biofeedback, nutritional-based therapy, chiropractic, allergy). We're in the process of the food allergy test/nutritional based therapy. So we'll see how effective they are. I'm really hoping for the best. I would love to get him off medicine and I know he really wants that too. So much so that he's willing to give up foods that he really likes. But my question is this. I struggle with him and his homework. He does it, but it's usually the night before a large project is due or he does a mediocre job. And what he says to me is that he forgot he had this due. He gets mad that I don't believe him that he forgot about his project. I'm not sure. Is he really forgetting or is this just another excuse? I tell him to write in his agenda all his work, but again he says he forgets to do that each day. Do I believe him that he forgets and how can I help him to remember. The teachers aren't very helpful because they want the kids to be responsible for themselves. Which I agree with, but not at the cost of him failing.

Comment By : connie

Thank you so much for the article. I have three adopted AD kids now ages 8, 9 & 10 years old. We've only had them for 3.5 years and it's been the biggest learning curve we've experienced. We are currently working with a therapist that has a specialty in Orphaned/Post Adoption because of the early abuse and neglect. It's my understanding that AD could have been passed down genetically as well as the cause of early trauma. Most of the parenting we do is positive praise and ignore as much as the negative as possible unless it's a life threatening situation. Would you suggest continuing with this direction or should we also focus on targeted AD therapy. With so much unknown, we work with the symptoms rather than the diagnosis. The youngest has also been diagnosed with RAD and PTSD, and the #2 with lesser RAD, and the #3 has real anger issues. We’ve seen the most outrageous behaviors coupled with the other AD behaviors that I find it exhausting to be consistent. I am glad to see you write the importance of consistency because that has been our focus. We’ve been working vigorously with the public school, but sometimes find it aggravating that if we don’t have the “right” terminology, failing grades, or behavior issues that they are not willing to help in academic areas. We’ve struggled to help our children learn to accomplish A/B honor role, but it comes at a big price-precious play time. I’ve stated that I refuse to let the kids slide back to failing grades just so they “qualify” for school tutoring etc… We end up paying for private tutoring or taking all our evenings sitting/standing what ever so they get their homework done with confidence. We commend them for their hard work and grade accomplishments as they are most always willing to participate for the reward. What would you suggest in this area? Can they grow out of this??

Comment By : Lilly

* Dear Lilly: It is wonderful that you have accepted these children into your family. It sounds like you are on the right track but will have some challenges ahead. The Total Focus Program, which I developed to help parents of children with ADHD, can help you build upon the strong family foundation you have started. It will help your kids to have an “I Can” attitude. The relaxation components will help all to gain self-control which will help with frustration and anger issues. The cognitive exercises can help improve attention and concentration.

Comment By : Dr. Bob

My son wasn't diagnose with ADHD,but I think He has it,So I went ahead and got us the Total Focus Program,I see a little improvement,we've been on the program for a month and I think as long as we stay on it,IT WILL WORK!and he also take alternative medicine.Were looking forward for a much bigger improvement,Thank you Dr Myers!

Comment By : positive reinforcer

My son is 6 and has been diagnosed with ADHD combined with PDD behaviors as well as ODD. When he was 18 mo. old, I already knew something was going on, but nobody would listen. Finally, after three years of him waking up 3-5 times in the night with tantruming, banging his head, kicking and hitting at me like he didn't know who I was, and never letting me comfort him during these episode...and then in the daytime, he was bouncing off the walls, not really talking, rubbing his head on the carpet, seemingly detached from his surroundings....after all of that, finally, we got some attention from a program called Family Resource Center who put us in contact with Valley Mt. Regional in California where we live. The short of it is that we finally got some attention and we got him the help he needed. Many labels were thrown around...autism,adhd, odd, pdd, sensory processing disorder, and a couple others I can't remember. It was a while before we had any real diagnoses and we got it from Fresno Diagnostic Center. He has had ot, pt, behavioral therapy, speech therapy, all incorporated into his full time preschool for 2 1/2 years. In addition, I began research on alternative therapies to medication. I refused to drug my son, so we began treatment with his diet. We eliminated as many additives, preservatives, and colorings as we could. The only dairy he was allowed to have was yogurt (in small amounts for his sensitive tummy issues). I cut the wheat out of his diet as well (to avoid wheat gluten). Within two weeks, my son was in the land of the living! So with the preschool, the different therapy modalities and a diet adjustment, my son was on his way. At six, he still has some issues. Adhd will always be our challenge as well as the ODD, which I think goes in hand with the other. He is currently in a special ed kindergarten that caters to his needs as an individual. He no longer needs the ot or pt (other than the bedtime massages for relaxation, and the joint compression on the mini-trampoline) but still continues his speech therapy. The behavior therapy is ongoing and we are all learning from it. I am writing about our challenges and successes because I want other parents to see that there is hope and reward with perserverence. I would never presume to advise others to avoid medication without knowing their child, but there are alternatives BEFORE the meds that are worth trying. I am telling you that the kid he is today, is a completely different kid than I had 2 years ago. Stay strong; our little angels need us! Thank you Dr. Bob for your helpful articles and for this forum.

Comment By : grateful mom

How do you have a teacher and/or school help implement these tips. We are having a hard time with getting help for our son.

Comment By : Karen

Dear Karen: It is important to form a working relationship with your son's teacher. Find mutual goals that parent, teacher and child can agree on. Use a written contract regarding how you will work together. (The home-school report cards provided in my program are an example of this.) Your son may also qualify for special services from the school. You will have to provide a written request in order for him to be considered for these services. Please check out this article: Your ADHD Child and School for more help.

Comment By : Dr. Bob

My son is 7 years old now, he was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 5 years old. We've done the local licensed child mental health therapy and the Duke University child psychologist. We try to keep a very stringent daily routine. We do reward his hard work, he is a straight "A" student. His social skills are very bad, he always has to be the "leader" and tell his friends how to play, or waht to do. We live in a very nice neighborhood with 7 other boys ageing from 6 to 12. I have spoken with the neighbors and the other children about my son and his "ADHD". The children really do not understand and will "pick" or "annoy" my son , then he is provoked and play time is over. He gets very mad, and lashes out. Most of the time myself or my husband stay close by to intervene. The other parents don't seem to understand either, then they are hard feelings, and my son is viewed as the "trouble maker". Any advice on how to address this anymore, thanks, frustrated mom and dad.

Comment By : Danielle

i have a five year old with adhd. i am constanley frustrated with everything that she does. she throws fits and hits on her brother and sister. she throws tantrums that sometimes can nut controll. i am so tired and i don't know what to do. can you please help?

Comment By : grace gale

* Dear Gale: If your daughter is on medication, you should discuss these symptoms with her physician--perhaps a change in dose or medication may be in order. If she is not on medication you may want to consider it. A behavior program adapted for kids with ADHD that uses a type of "star chart" for different periods of the day often helps in this type of situation. If this doesn’t help, you should consult your child’s physician and/or a child psychologist.

Comment By : Dr. Bob

I have read this and I have enjoyed the comments that the parents have addressed here. I have a 7 year old son and he is not medicated that has always been my choice despite that of other family members. I have stuck to my guns on alot of issues,now my son is in allergy treatments with someone who does NAET Treatments. I also am taking the same treatments just different supplements. With limiting foods and watching him. I have seen him get better even in this short time. We have also look at his care from Chiropratic treatments as well over the years and have found with these all hand in hand with massage,body contact and praise with in time he will be well on his way. I pray for the day when he can have more independance and better self esteem than he does now and with out support from family and friends it makes it harder on a family. So I wish you all my best in what ever you do I just know what's best for me but every little bit of information helps because you never know what will work for you and your child. Keep well..the rest will take care of it's self. From Ottawa Canada with hugs.

Comment By : FromCanadawithhugs

I have read all the posts and see a lot of simularities being discribed here that I see in my children. I have a 14 year old that was diagnosed when he was about 3, started on ritalin and has been on several different meds since then. about 3 years ago, he was classified as bipolar as well. it is a constant struggle to get him to do anything. i am at the point of just giving up. i have tried so many things to get him to do what is asked of him. all during his elementary and junior high years he was in a self contained class and now he is a freshman in high school and he has a life skills class and a special reading/english class but is main stream in everything else and he is really struggling. recently, he has started skipping school and hanging out with some not so desirable people in the neighborhood. as for my 7 year old, he is the exact opposite behaviorly from his brother. where the older expresses himself with attitude, the younger is violent. he hits his teachers, spits, scrathes, yells, etc. he does not do that at home or the babysitters because he knows that he will have some very strict consequences, but at school, they have a "step" program that is like time out. if he gets up to a step 4, someone is called to try to calm him down. if he gets a step 5, he is sent home. my sons are very smart and if the little does not want to be in school, then he acts out till he gets sent home. i am really at my wits end. do not know what to do. both the boys have been on several different medications and they work for a little bit, but then it is like they are not on anything. getting them to do anything is like pulling teeth, no matter what the "reward" is. i am always open to suggestions and i am looking into some form of redirection that i might not have tried with them that might help. thank you for letting me vent, it is nice to be able to do so with someone that can understand what i am going through and that does not see me as a "bad mom"

Comment By : PBradyAZ

Hello and welcome to you PBradyAZ, I am not sure what you have there for resourse or what your money situation is however at this time if you are at your wits end and stuggling with the two children. My dear not telling you what to do but medication has allergy effects too. I'd work with someone in the Alt.Medican field and get more help there. Most depression,ADHD,autism etc. is all brain related as well as inbalances, allergies can be from just about anything around your children even the medication, even you..I'm not sure if it's aloud and please forgive me if it's not but I know of no other way to express this as I have almost done some really bad things in my life however I have looked deep into my sole and have gone behyond my own with my son 71/2 years old my time flies. I have poor health and yes for me it's really hard and worlds have come out of all our mouths of neg,as well as positive. Still I feel that this path we are now on with N.A.E.T. Treatments( are going to help,costly but in the end it's my and my son's life and futher. Working on my own enegy and making sure I take care of myself is very hard when I'm working on keeping him safe.I'm not a single mom but I might as well be at times and that's not helping any of us either. Always let them know no matter what you love them and it's not their fault but they can help to take care of themselves better with a little extra help and support.. Thank you for sharing it has taken me a long time too share as well and I don't know it all or what will or will not work yet but at this time this is what we are working on as Ritin is not a option for my son I want. Bandaids are only meant to stay on and fall off not to be kept being put on and that is what the medicans do is mask the underneath situation, Read, do reach and know in the end that you have done your best. At the end of my day I know it's been hard but he has lived past 5 years old and at that age I was so sick in and out of hosipitals because I was told that's what all children go throw ...sorry I never bought that deal at all and was not ever going to have that for my child. I could be wrong to protect him the way I do but for now I don't think so and that's where I need to keep on trusting in my judgement and put that of the others in my family aside. I'm the one that needs to take care of him in the end as well as teach and guid him to do it for himself, nOt them. May peace and good health be to you and your family you have come to the right place. Once again thank you for are not a bad mom and we do understand. My son had to go to a section 23 school for one year. Day treatments and lots of test. I know it's not easy but as long as you hang in there and keep with it they will have a voice without you they have none. Learn also to understand and build on their strenght's as well as their weakness poor words but I'm really tired sorry. Children learn by example as well share with them enjoy them. I know somedays it's very hard on me but I just remind myself I have only ever wanted to be a mom and now I am. As sick as I am and in the pain I am in each day but I'm his mom and without him I'd not be a mom. So that makes me someone very special because he is special to me..(5-6 miscarriages). So from one MOM to can do it. Keep well. One other son likes his video game again I use that to get him to do things. If he does what he is asked and this could be anything then he gets to have his special time with the game only ever 30 mins. at a time but still he knows.(123 magic has helped as well) AS well as T.v. or extra speical time with me. Cuddle time is wonderful when we are able to do it but most of the time I'm in far too much pain to do so,so I suggest other options I can do at that time just before he goes to bed. If he does not listen he does not have it and that's really hard on him as he is also very sentive. I hope this has helped some and to any one else that find themselves feeling lost. Do what is best for you and your family don't let the teachers or Dr. run you most have no idea of what cocktail will work and allergies come in all forms as well. Just my 2 cents worth once again our children are our futher and we need them to make it but with out our help and support they will not.

Comment By : FromCanadawithhugs

my grandson has adha and is on adderall medication. my son and daughter in law are going thru tough times, and are thinking along the lines of divorce. there is alot of fighting in their house. there a 3 younger children also, and the oldest takes on the responsibiliy of his siblings, and he is just 9 yrs old. how can i help him to cope? i know he is taking on alot of the responsibility and hearing things said during the fighting of the parents. the parents do not want any advice..HELP me to help him.

Comment By :

I have a 3 year old daughter that has not been diagnosed, but I think she may have ADD. I believe I had (undiagnosed) it as a child and her older sister has it. Do you have any words of wisdom on how to handle a Toddler with possible ADD? I do not want to set her up, but I want to be prepared on how to deal with this on a daily basis. She is not hyper active, but she has definate attention issues. I can be right next to her and ask her a question and she won't even blink. I can ask it over and over, progressively louder until I am VERY loud. Then I could say something quietlylike "Elmo" and that would get her attention. Is that ADD or normal 3 year old attention?

Comment By : Carol Ann

I have a 3 year old daughter that has not been diagnosed, but I think she may have ADD. I believe I had (undiagnosed) it as a child and her older sister has it. Do you have any words of wisdom on how to handle a Toddler with possible ADD? I do not want to set her up, but I want to be prepared on how to deal with this on a daily basis. She is not hyper active, but she has definate attention issues. I can be right next to her and ask her a question and she won't even blink. I can ask it over and over, progressively louder until I am VERY loud. Then I could say something quietlylike "Elmo" and that would get her attention. Is that ADD or normal 3 year old attention?

Comment By : Carol Ann

My 4 year old grandson will probably be diagnosed as ADHD when he goes to school, but my wonderful husband--my HERO (who is the boy's step-grandfather), is working with him and performing miracles. My husband reminds little Ben to use "control" when he gets too hyper. He doesn't allow TV and cartoons, which seem to overstimulate toddlers. We try to keep to a very structured routine of regular times for meals and bedtime. When Ben wants to come into our bedroom in the evenings, we remind him that this is the "zen zone" which means behaving controlled. My grandson and his mom are staying with us for several months while my daughter works a contract job where we live. Even with ADHD issues, Ben is much easier to live with than his mom, who likes to live a very chaotic and unstructured life. So our conclusion is that structure, limiting too much stimulous, and just a lot of love and positive attention work wonders with ADHD kids. I think that ADHD and ADD are issues caused by the disentigration of society and families, and NOT an issue that requires medical treatment.

Comment By : Grandma

We have a problem with a 4 year old who doesn't understand "don't". For instance, when he was riding his bike with his dad, the 4 year old was told not to ride through a mud puddle. He proceeded to do exactly that and when his dad asked him why he did it, he said "was I not supposed to do that?" with a puzzled look on his face. I don't think the child was being defiant in this case, I think he just didn't understand the instructions. This happens very often. We have noticed he is often slow to understand instructions, but not always. The don't do that type of instructions seem to be more of a problem. Has anyone had this problem? Any suggestions?

Comment By : JJ

I was so relieved to find the Total Transformations site and to know that I'm not the only one. My son is 11, diagnosed with ADHD at age 5. He's taken Adderall, Adderall XR, and now Vyvanse. Mornings in our home are always unpredictable. It's very frustrating to me to discuss his behavioral issues he exhibts at home with his teachers. Generally they just look at me like I have 10 heads, and over the years I've just stopped communicating such issues with them. Reason being, he's medicated when he's at school, but by the time he comes home from his afterschool program the meds. have basically worn off. My son loves school and does very well when he's medicated. There have been a few times I've forgotten to give the meds. in the rush to get to school on time, and I've gotten 'the call'. Options being bring him his meds. or bring him home, as he's reportedly 'bouncing off the walls'. I have friends with children with AD/HD who do not have to medicate their children during the summer or on weekends. That's just not an option for us due to his hyperactivity and impulsivity. I often wonder if my son has been diagnosed accurately. Does he just have extreme behavior/impulsivity compared to others or is there something else going on? He is the child who loves to argue, is always right, has to have the last word, and always has to be in control. He's 11! I find myself always having to choose my battles. I know ignoring works. However, I never seem to remember the strategy until I'm 10 min's into the argument and then tell him 'the end', as he will go on all day... My younger son is 9. He is just as exhausted as I am when dealing with his brothers behaviors. I know he feels resentment towards his brother, as he feels his brother gets all of the attention. (Whether it's positive or negative) Does anyone know how to better manage the highs and lows? We only switched to Vyvanse approx. 5 months ago in attempt to reduce some of the morning behavior. Although we have definitely seen an improvement in the intensity of the morning behavior, and instead of being angry in the evening (after meds. wear off) he seems to be a happy hyperactive. I just can't seem to find a happy medium. I've had conversations with him about having to make good choices, and about having to want to act appropriately. However, when he's not on his meds. things just don't seem to register, and he doesn't seem to have the ability to rationalize thoughts/actions. I know he doesn't want to commit to a life of medications, and am hoping with maturity he'll learn better coping skills. But in the meantime, is there something he can take/do at night that will reduce the morning lows?

Comment By : Dana

As I was reading Dana's story about her sons I almost thought someone was talking about my son. I have a 12 year old son with ADHD. He has been on Vyvanse for a year. At first it was helping him stay clam in school but would wear off by the time he would get home. And even I would forget his meds when I was in a hurry to get them to school on time and would get the same phone calls she had gotten. "Bring his meds to him or take him home" I have talked to my son's dr about his meds wearing off and him getting more and more out of controll at home. All the yelling, hitting, cussing, and the throwing he was doing. I was hoping that his dr would be able to help. But he is already at the highest dose of Vyvanse that is safe. I want to be able to find something that will help him controll hisself from acting out the way that he does. I know my son wants to get off of meds and I want he to be able to live live without meds. I have heard some people say they will grow out of it. I can only hope that it is true. I will dont want to see my son keep going down his road being out of controll. I fear that if he does not find away to deal with his violent behavior then as he becomes an adult he will end up in jail. I have tried everything that I can think of, I dont know what to do anymore. Is there something else that I could try with my son to help him?

Comment By : Laura

This article is really very helpful. My son, 7yo, has ADHD. Have noticed that this pass few days, he really makes it a point to do things that will really make me & my husband lose our temper. We tried talking to him calmly & he seems sorry for what he did. I gave him simple household chores like fixing his bed as soon as he wakes-up in the morning & sweeping the house (plus dusting) as soon as he arrives from school (ofcourse these chores are done after he is done eating & taking a 30-min break). When I arrive from work, have noticed that he cut a part of his hair... Don't know what to do anymore...

Comment By : panicky mom

* Dear ‘panicky mom’: It’s not unusual for kids to cut their own hair at some point. Although the resulting hairdo can be unflattering, they don’t “see” that when they look in the mirror. Be sure not to remark that he’s ‘ruined his hair’, just tell him you see some more spots that need to be shaped, that’s why we don’t cut our own hair. It’s a lot of work to parent a child with ADHD but do your best not to lose your temper. Give yourself a few minutes to calm down when you feel like you’re about to blow your top. Kids with ADHD have a problem ‘doing’ what they are supposed to do. They ‘know’ what to do but making themselves ‘do it’ is their struggle. Sometimes getting in touch with other parents of kids with ADHD can be very helpful and supportive. Look for local and on-line support groups at We wish your family the best.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I have a4 yr old grandson with the same symptoms as his older brother who has been diagnosed with ADHD. My concern is that he is still not potty trained. He will urinate in the potty if I remind him every hour or so. But he literally refuses to have a bowel movement in the toilet. We have tried offering what ever reward he has chosen to receive but will still not cooperate. Mom wants to send him to a half day pre-school this fall to help with his social skills but they will not take anyone who is not potty trained. Do you have any suggestions?

Comment By : SEH

* Dear ‘SEH’: It sounds like you are concerned about your grandson. We are not able to recommend any Total Transformation tools to try in this situation. We recommend taking him to visit his pediatrician to rule out any physical causes for this behavior. Pediatricians deal with potty training problems often and can be a good source of information that can be helpful in getting kids potty trained. We wish you and your family luck as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

hello, i am a mother that is at the end of there feather .my 9 yr old son has adhd and he is on meducation too i have tryed everythink the school tells me like star charts and time out on a chair and took his stuff away same times too nothing seems to work. he dont listen he dont do as he is told when he is rewarded for good behavour he is then argueing about hour later about not going to bed and that he wants tv on all time i even leave tv on now as it stops him screaming the house down and wakeing other siblings up but he want sleep till gone 11pm maybe later he back talks me and he is always trying out do me no matter what i do pleaase help me as i am scared he will grow up to be this nasty boy when i know he is not . thanks

Comment By : lara29

* To ‘lara29’: It sounds like you are feeling pretty frustrated with your son’s behavior, as well as fearful of what will happen in the future if things continue this way. While reward systems and consequences are great (and necessary), it’s important to teach your son the skills he needs to change his behavior. James Lehman felt that children act out because they have problems that they don’t know how to solve appropriately, such as anger and wanting more time to watch TV for example. A critical part of the behavior change process is problem-solving. Start by choosing one specific behavior to work on with your son and talk to him about what he can do differently in the future. Problem-solving with kids is an on-going process and if you practice, practice, practice you just might start to see the changes you are looking for. Here is another article that will explain this more and give you some more ideas: Good Behavior is not “Magic”—It’s a Skill The Three Skills Every Child Needs for Good Behavior

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

My step-son is nine has AD/HD and is on adderall. I have recently seprated from the Military and was an MP. Since being out of the military I have taken on the role of stay at home dad while going back to school. I have a 15 year old step-son a 12 year old step daughter my nine year old AD/HD step son and my son who is 3. My wife is still in the military and brings home the money. Anyway, as of late my 9 year old has been acting out more then ever, I was unsure how to react and thought I was doing everything I could to slowing down and not yelling to yelling as a Training Instructor to spanking (the way I grew up). This morning was the last straw when he said he wanted to run away, It stung and it made my extreamly upset. I dropped him off at school and could not stop thinking about what he had said. I know kids say things to get under our skin but it brought to my attention maybe I wasnt doing everything I could to stop the behavior. Thank you for the advice and I will put it into practice... HOPE THIS WORKS.. I love my children very much but I felt I was at a loss with trying to correct his behavior

Comment By : Father upset and at a loss

Hi i am a mother of 5 year old son and while observing his behavior i have found that hes is suffering from ADHD i'll soon take him to the doctor but what i wanted to ask is there are chances of imrovement if we continue medication or the medication has to be life long....but thanks a lot for the support it feels like i am not alone here...i simply hopes that things work in his favour....

Comment By : A Concerned Mom

* To “a concerned mom”: Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. I can hear how much you want to help your son. You ask a really good question here. We would encourage you to speak with his primary care provider regarding any medication related questions or concerns you have. He/she will be in the best position to provide the information you need. Good luck to you and your family as you work through these decisions. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

I have adhd my son who is eight also has adhd just changed his meds to vyvanse need some info on support system

Comment By : ndtsmom

* To “ndtsmom”: Thank you for writing in. We would suggest first speaking with your son’s prescribing physician about local supports available for you and your son. You could also contact the 211 National Helpline to find out what types of services and supports are available in your area. You can reach the 211 National Helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging onto We wish you and your family the best. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

My son is nine and we have two others that are much younger. He does not seem to be like them and is able to handle much less in terms of responsibility and school work. I have had him on Concerta but now his moods are swinging rapidly and its been a battle. What do we do when I know the world will not stop for him and expect him to perform like everyone else? How can I prepare him? How do we hold him accountable when everyone else will later on in his lifetime?

Comment By : confusedmom79

* To “confusedmom79”: Thank you for writing in and sharing your story. You bring up a point that vexes many parents: how do you parent a child who is so different from his siblings? James Lehman advises you to “parent the child you have, not the child you wish you had.” You’re right that it’s going to be important for him develop the tools and problem solving skills he’ll need as an adult. Generally, we advise having problem-solving conversations with your child after he misbehaves to help him develop better ways of coping with issues he may face. Here are a couple articles that discuss how to problem solve with your child: Good Behavior is not “Magic”—It’s a Skill The Three Skills Every Child Needs for Good Behavior & The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: "I Can't Solve Problems.” Another key aspect of effective parenting is holding a child accountable for misbehavior with task-oriented consequences. Task-oriented consequences are different from punishments because the goal is for the child to learn something from the consequence. An example of a task-oriented consequence would be loss of a privilege until your child talks to you respectfully for 4 hours. This gives your son the opportunity to practice the appropriate behavior and earn a privilege back by making a better choice. You might find these articles about consequences helpful: How to Give Kids Consequences That Work & Ask PSL: How to Give Consequences the Right Way (and Why Grounding Doesn’t Work). You might also consider making an appointment and discussing the mood swings and other concerns with your son’s prescribing physician. The doctor may be able to offer you some suggestions on how to address those things as well.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

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Responses to questions posted on are not intended to replace qualified medical or mental health assessments. We cannot diagnose disorders or offer recommendations on which treatment plan is best for your family. Please seek the support of local resources as needed. If you need immediate assistance, or if you and your family are in crisis, please contact a qualified mental health provider in your area, or contact your statewide crisis hotline.

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