The following article is based on my book The Myth of the ADHD Child: 101 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Behavior and Attention Span Without Drugs, Labels, or Coercion. It was originally posted on my publisher’s (Tarcher-Pereigee) website: ”Learn, Create, Grow,” on August 31, 2017.
FACT: ADHD is a disorder characterized by hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention that afflicts 11% of American children.
MYTH: These 6.4 million children do not “act” like we expect our children to act therefore require a regimen of drugs or strict discipline that often lead to negative side effects.
It can be difficult to see your child struggle at school or consistently misbehave at home. Solutions like prescription drugs are a natural go-to when we want so badly to help our children succeed. However, not all children are the same, argues psychologist Thomas Armstrong, and these drugs may be having a negative side effects on their ability to flourish. In his book THE MYTH OF THE ADHD CHILD, Armstrong outlines over 101 strategies to help improve your child’s attention and behavior that do not include drugs or strict coercion. Here are a few of those strategies to get you and your child started:
Let your child fidget. Even though you may feel that your child’s fidgeting will encourage larger issues such as outbursts or inattention, the truth is that a bit of foot-tapping or gum-chewing isn’t so bad after all. Children who allow the body to let off a little activity in the form of fidgeting actually perform better at tasks requiring close attention.
Make time for nature. This strategy good for all of us, but it’s especially important to plan some outdoor time if your child struggles with ADHD. It’s a simple solution to let off some steam in a location where hyperactivity is encouraged. Instead of constantly disciplining your child to stay off the new furniture or always handing them the iPad, take them to a park and participate in some outdoor bonding activities.
Provide a balanced breakfast. It’s easy to become distracted by dealing with your child’s behavior and inattention directly, so we forget to consider some peripheral causes. Remember to start your child’s day off right with a balanced and nutritious breakfast. Too much sugar, or no breakfast at all, makes it more likely that your child will have difficulties paying attention in the hours to come.
Limit entertainment media. Today, children spend an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media via television, phones, computer, etc. While this may be a distraction from hyperactivity, it is associated with attention problems, learning difficulties, negative attitudes, and long-term academic failure. Instead of letting your child passively consume entertainment media, try adding an element of activity to it by watching with them and discussing or researching games designed for children with ADHD.
Teach goal-setting skills. We often tell our kids that we want them to achieve their dreams, but rarely do we give them detailed instructions on how exactly to reach them. Goal-setting is associated with a part of the brain that is one of the last to fully mature. In children with ADHD, goal-setting skills may be a crucial intervention to help them succeed. Help your child understand the difference between lofty or vague goals (“I want to be an NBA basketball star”) and realistic and attainable goals (“I want to study for this test to get a B—good grades will help me when I begin to think about colleges”). Sit down with your child to make a set of goals and discuss how they can attain them now and into the future.
These strategies were taken from THE MYTH OF THE ADHD CHILD, available at these retailers: