New Issue!

Spring 2017 Issue ADDitude magazine Read the 'ADHD Therapies That Work' issue now!

The New ADDitude Forums Are Live!

Reach our full community by posting to ADDitude's discussion forums here

Parents of ADHD Children

Behavioral problems in adhd 6 year old

My daughter is severely adhd and acts out all the time. I have tried all different kinds of punishment and get nowhere with her. On top of acting as if she doesn’t care about getting in trouble or how her actions harm others she also acts very angry. I am lost and have no idea what to do!!!! She is my world and want nothing more than for her to live a happy life as a child. Does anyone have any kind of advice to help us grow together?


I would recommend the book The Explosive Child by Ross Green.  He teaches a parenting style that is very helpful for these issues.  My daughter had some of the issues you are talking about.  It takes differencing strategies with these kids.

Posted by Miley on Jun 16, 2014 at 9:13am

Does she take meds? That would be my first suggestion. Get her evaluated for stimulants. Second, has she been screened for an Autistic Spectrum Disorder? If not, you should take her and have a qualified professional perform a screening test like an ADOS to determine whether she has some degree of Autism or not. You can now be both ADHD and ASD at the same time. If she had Autism, the docs can help you with a behavioral plan.

Then, if your child does not have an ASD, you need to get her screened for Oppositional Defiant Disorder. This is a neurological condition that is also commonly seen with ADHD. This disorder is usually treated successfully with ADHD meds. However, in some cases, you need the addition of a low dose atypical antipsychotic. The one most commonly used in children is risperadone. This drug comes in doses as low as 1/4 or .25 mg. After treating her with meds, you need to get her into and OT or a therapist who can help you teach her how to act appropriately toward others. This will take some time, but since she is only six, she should be able to catch up.

You need to remember that she may be absorbing your emotions and if your emotions are anger and stress, then that is what she will absorb and then reflect back onto you and the rest of your family. My son is ADD, but his speech and OT therapists told me that instead of punishing him for being rude, we are suppose to model proper behavior and then give him the chance to restate what he just said in a more appropriate manner. During this, you need to remain calm.

Finally, you should hire someone to stay with your child at least weekly so that you can take a break from caring for her. You will be no good to help her if you are so tired and frazzled that you can’t see straight. So, get someone, maybe a relative, a friend or a service to watch her while you take a regular break and do something for yourself.

I hope this information is helpful to you.
Sue H in PC, Ohio

Posted by SueH on Jun 16, 2014 at 3:00pm

First talk to your child’s pediatrician about medication. ADHD is a neurobiological disorder that responds very well to medical treatment. It does sound a lot like Oppositional Defiance Disorder in additional to ADHD from what bits I know about it so you may want to mention that as well. Only a very small percentage of children have ADHD alone. Most have co-occurring conditions.

ADHD children develop much slower than their peers, so while your daughter is 6yrs old her maturity level will be more along the lines of a 3yr old. That’s the kind of behavior you’ll be dealing with.

ADHD children struggle so much on their own, and have immense trouble controlling their behavior, that negative reinforcement will often backfire and be ineffective. Positive reinforcement is what they are desperate for. They have a condition that makes some behaviors we expect impossible for them so punishing makes no difference. You can’t tell a blind child to see better no more than you can tell an ADHD child to have complete control over their actions.

The book Miley suggested is a great idea; Whatever materials can help you understand the condition more and give you suggestions for positive reinforcement will be really good for you and your child.

Hang in there! It does get better. I think that the age your daughter is at are some of the hardest. Elementary school was difficult, but there is help out there. Look for the support group in your local area. That helps a lot.

Posted by Havebeenthere on Jun 16, 2014 at 3:36pm

I use a lot of praise. I use behavior charts and reward systems. I give out daily and weekly rewards. My son is 8 and acts more like a five year old. I would also look into behavior therepy.

Posted by mdasch on Jun 16, 2014 at 7:06pm

It sounds like, if I can infer an assumption from your post, that you believe on some level that your daughter is “doing it on purpose” and has control over her behavior and is choosing not to control herself.  This is a misconception.  ADHD is not a character issue - it is a brain malfunction.  Children with ADHD are missing some important functions that normal brains have, so they are not passing through the normal developmental stages at the same rate as other children.  You first need to be aware of that so you can deal with it.

You have to be able to understand what is going on in her brain so that you can effectively deal with her behaviors and guide her into better habits.  It sounds as if you have already tried a number of disciplines that for normal children might have gotten the behavior you are looking for.  But instead of becoming frustrated, try becoming observant.  The more you observe what works, AND what doesn’t work and under what circumstances, the better you will be able to discipline.

And a side benefit from observation and doing for your child what works, instead of what society and family and friends, etc think “should” work, is that you and your child will become closer.  I have a non-ADHD child and I have an ADHD child, and there is no way on earth I can discipline them the same!  What works for my normal child backfires with my ADHD child.

And as you have guessed from the above posts, no doubt, is that it isn’t one thing that will help but a bunch of little tweaks that make a difference.  ADHD people are highly sensitive and therefore highly reactive - what we might call a hair-trigger.  They also can get overwhelmed really fast at things that you or I would brush off.  For instance, if I tell my non-ADHD child three things to do he will do them and its done.  If I tell my ADHD child three things to do she will instantly get overwhelmed, wander off as if she is going to do it and then instantly forget - this is her BRAIN doing this, not her personality or defiance.  Her brain has a hard time holding on to multiple instructions, if it tries it gets overwhelmed and then simply shuts down - thus the wandering off and not getting anything done.  It would be like yelling at a child with diabetes or threatening to take away their video time if they don’t get their pancreas to work better right away.  It is futile and it frustrates you, it frustrates them, but worse, if this goes on for an entire childhood then it makes them feel as if they are just wrong as a human being.  Remember children of that age cannot separate themselves from their behavior automatically.  So you may be saying “that was wrong to do” but what they are hearing is “I am wrong”.

If you have time you should read more about ADHD.  If you have limited time I’d say the fastest way to learn what is really going on inside your child’s brain is to watch Dr. Russell Barkley’s Essential Ideas for Parents on YouTube. It is a long lecture but the most helpful information in the shortest amount of time. 

Once you have more of an understanding of what is happening inside your child’s brain it will be like a lightbulb going off, you will be able to find effective ways of dealing with her behavior and guide her into good habits that will serve her for a lifetime.  You are in a really good place to make her life a lot easier, she’s young and there are plenty of resources for you to put together for her.

Posted by YellaRyan on Jun 16, 2014 at 8:09pm

I’d like to expand on what YellaRyan said because it is so important. 

• Remember children of that age cannot separate themselves from their behavior automatically.  So you may be saying “that was wrong to do” but what they are hearing is “I am wrong”.

When punishment always follows that misbehavior it only reinforces the “I am wrong” message because it is internalized as I Deserve To Be Punished Because I Am Bad.  ADHD kids that grow up in an environment where they are always being punished (because society thinks that this is what all kids NEED in order to produce acceptable behaviors)—that creates some HUGE issues when they become adults!  Research SHOWS that punishment does not “fix” those ADHD behaviors—actually makes much of them worse.  You, yourself, have noted exactly what research bears out—punishment does nothing! 

Continuing to punish (especially when “society” calls you a “bad parent” for not doing so) is a hard habit for some of our generation to break.  I am so glad that by the time I came along (#9) my parents had given up and adopted a different attitude—“they’re gonna do whatever they want to…”  I know that I eventually turned out ok; I know I don’t have the scars (mental) my husband has from growing up in a knee-jerk punishment household.  We both have ADHD & still I cannot get it through his head that punishment solves nothing for our two ADHD kids (both are 15 yrs old). 

One of them STILL vividly remembers the first time something like that got doled out on him—I kid you not, at the ripe old age of 2. 

I hope that made sense (I need to just go to bed!)

Posted by BC on Jun 17, 2014 at 11:17am

My 8 yr old is the same.  First things first, get her medicated to give her some control over herself.

Only then can she begin to learn and understand consequences.

Spoken from experience.

Posted by Pdxlaura on Jun 20, 2014 at 11:09pm

I am in the exact same boat with a 6 year old boy.  And he is an awesome kid, but some of what you describe is very similar for us.
I’ve found sometimes if I look back on a bad day that its often b/c there was very little structure in his day.  If I plan active things for us to do together, his behavior is much better.  Boredom is a huge trigger for us and sends our day south real fast.
I’ve found chores to be a good punishment.  He throws a fit about doing them.  But while he’s doing them, he seems to enjoy having something constructive to do. And when he’s done he’s proud of what he accomplished.  Then we can sort of “clear the slate” and start again. 
Not sure if this is helpful b/c I’m still learning too.  I’m interested to hear if you find punishments that work and are productive too. 
Good luck!  Wish you the best.

Posted by Kim74 on Jun 30, 2014 at 7:36am

Reply to this thread

You must be logged in to reply. To log in, click here.
Not a member? Join ADDConnect today. It's free and easy!

Not a member yet? Join here »

Search the ADDConnect Group Discussions