ExpertBeacon Logo

Help your kids with ADD/ADHD become authentic and confident

Parenting children with ADD/ADHD can be overwhelming and taxing. At the same time, the rewards are endless. You are parenting little geniuses with immense potential and creativity. Here are some suggestions on how to help your children develop into authentic, confident individuals on their way to becoming the best possible version of themselves.


Do love your children unconditionally and be patient

Your love will be the best support for the development of your child’s self esteem. At times, you may feel desperate as if the world has thrown you a curveball, but continue to love your child. The rest of the world is not going to do the same and will often express quite the opposite.

Become their number one advocate. Be affectionate, give hugs and cuddles, and tell them throughout that day that they are very important to you. Your love will draw out their gifts. And before you know it, their strengths will begin to emerge and you can’t help but feel proud of them.

This requires you to see past the chaos in her desk or bedroom. Or the forgotten homework assignment that he actually worked on all night, but forgot to turn in. Or the wrinkled, signed permission slip buried at the bottom of her backpack that was lost, thus preventing her from joining her class at the science museum.

Many times, we repeatedly ask our children, “How many times do I have to keep asking you to pick up your clothes?” The real answer for a child with ADD/ADHD is “thousands.” In order to avoid these frustrations, it is vital that you start exercising patience from day one. Your love will pay off.

Do establish eye contact when addressing or giving instructions

You need to lovingly wait--and wait a little more--until your kids acknowledge you and are ready to listen. Give one instruction at a time and ask kids to repeat in their own words what they understand.

Often, adults/parents are unclear with what we are requesting from a child or can sound intimidating, thus producing fear and lack of cooperation from the child. Turn the instruction into a concise statement such as, “Please eat with your mouth closed,” instead of, “Don’t chew with your mouth open.” Use the phrase, “Please pick up your towel after your shower,” instead of, “Don’t you dare leave that bathroom all messy again.” This will promote conversation and dialogue with your child because they will feel that you are talking to them instead of threatening them.

Do catch kids being good

This requires you to be observant and detailed in how you express your recognition toward a positive behavior that your child exhibited. You want to strive for your positive comments to outnumber the negative ones.

This doesn’t mean giving your child false or empty praise, such as “good job” every so often. Rather, to recognize your child descriptively when he or she has done something that you consider worthy of recognition. For example, “I liked how you went over to the boy at the park and offered to share your sand toys. That was very generous of you.” Or, “I liked that you picked up your plate after dinner without me having to ask you. This shows me that you care about our family values.”

Sadly, children with ADD/ADHD will be reprimanded and reproached many times during the day. It is up to you to balance out the ratio of positive versus negative comments.

Do recognize and support their talents

What talents and interests are your children starting to show from a young age? Only by observing and noticing their gifts will you be able to pinpoint strengths. By recognizing and supporting these talents, your kids are able to give them a strong root. With your love and support as a source of nourishment, these talents will continue to grow and develop beautifully.

Perhaps he is a great storyteller. If so, encourage him to write his stories down, or you can be his scribe as he dictates them to you. Is she musical? If so, you can introduce her to an instrument and encourage her to learn it. Or maybe his doodling during class is getting him in trouble? Provide him with a sketch pad and beautiful pencils or finger paints for him to draw at home.

Invite kids to commit to finishing a project and hold them accountable. Rewarding their consistent efforts will motivate them to continue to master their strengths. This is a key component in bolstering the development of self-esteem. With your support, persistence and perseverance, they will slowly learn to feel good about themselves.

Do develop a predictable routine that creates order

Meals, baths, play time and bedtime routines should be honored on a daily basis. This requires a commitment from the entire family. And although it may seem taxing, it will actually provide everyone at home with a sense of structure.

Creating a chart with times and activities mapped out can be a simple way to help everyone adhere to a schedule. Anticipation helps children--especially those with ADD/ADHD--know what is going to happen next and allows them to transition with ease.

Because children with ADD/ADHD tend to hyperfocus on activities that draw their attention, having a predictable routine allows them to know when it is time to transition without feeling interrupted or disrespected. It is recommended to give 15-, 10- and 5-minute warnings before shifting to the next item on the agenda.


Do not shame, ridicule or embarrass your children

Children with ADD/ADHD think in very creative ways that are different from the way we think. Just because their opinions or ideas differ from ours, there is no reason to laugh at them or make fun of them.

Shame is hurtful, and sadly, as we shame children, their sense of self diminishes. In turn, they become their own worst critic, growing into adults who lack the ability to feel good about themselves. We have a huge responsibility to our children to provide them with an environment that is conducive to the positive development of self-esteem. And to help them learn to feel good about themselves by avoiding negative remarks.

Do not instruct kids to “try harder”

Dr. Ned Hallowell, a child/adult psychiatrist and a leading authority in the field of ADHD, would say that this is as helpful as asking a nearsighted child to squint harder. It is not that kids don’t want to try harder--or they don’t put in the effort to do it--they simply can’t operate on command.

The more you tell children with ADD/ADHD to focus on something or to try harder, the more their brain will freeze and stop thinking. The analogy of a deer in headlights applies here. This is evident in brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans conducted at the AMEN clinic. When children were told to concentrate, there was no activity in the prefrontal cortex of their brain. The opposite was true when they were told to stay in restful mode. Here, their brains became fired up.

Do not tell children how to play

Play is the greatest opportunity for creativity. If a child is told “how” to play, the creative genius that lives within would never have a chance to emerge and grow. It is during inner directed, uninterrupted play that kids can find joy and confidence within themselves. Play provides kids with the laboratory to try out their theories about cause and effect. Play offers one of the few instances when children can be within their own natural ebb and flow, fully present and in the moment, becoming one with their actions and environment. Jean Piaget said, “When you teach a child something, you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself.

Do not allow kids to be lethargic and sedentary

Your child will often prefer to stay in his/her room, rather than go outside and play. Continue to offer opportunities to leave the bedroom, while supporting his/her interests. A child with ADD/ADHD can spend countless hours with electronics and TV. Discover ways to turn their interests into something positive. For example, find a class, camp, or technology tutor to help them develop their computer skills in a productive way. Who knows, you may have the next Bill Gates in your own home.

Do not give up

Have empathy for your child. It is highly likely that you don’t fully understand what it is like to be him/her. Continue to love your kids every minute. Be patient and supportive. Read, get informed and find ways to continue to bring out the gifts in your child. There is always hope, and you need never worry alone.

Jumping cartoon

Parenting children with ADD/ADHD requires you to be extremely loving and patient. Your children will blossom as they begin to identify their strengths, and you support them in reaching their goals.

Because kids with ADD/ADHD are highly imaginative and creative, you will find that it is important to provide them with opportunities that allow them to thrive. Remember to empower them to soar. Through a predictable routine and time for uninterrupted play, your children’s sense of chaos will come to an organized order, where they will feel safe to authentically be themselves.

More expert advice about Kids with ADD/ADHD

Photo Credits: Ring Around the Rosie by thejbird via Flickr; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Elsa ChahinPresident, Pikler/Loczy Fund USA

Elsa Chahin was born in Mexico City and grew up in both the United States and Mexico, feeling at home with both cultures. She studied at the Pikler Institute in Budapest, Hungary under the tutelage of Anna Tardos and has been appointed President...

View Full Profile