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Parents of ADHD Toddlers, Preschoolers

Defiant preschooler with a bad attitude

My 4 year old daughter has ADHD and a language impairment. Because oh her speech delay she’s at the same expressive level as a 18month old. One speech pathologist told me children with language disorders will act their skill age instead of their actual age.
I’ve been having a hard time with her behavior/attitude. She has horrible melt downs, She’s gotten so out of control I don’t want to take her anywhere. I’ve tried different forms of discipline. Time outs, rewards, communication,  “1-2-3” countdown and a swat on the butt.
She is UNPHASED by discipline, she doesn’t care, she’s defiant and proud. I feel like now I’m just yelling at her all the time. I’m running out of patience and ideas.

Does anybody know an alternative method of discipline that I could try? Or something that’s worked for you?


Sounds very familiar.  My 6 year old has ADHD, SPD, and stutters.  Lots of communication delay and resulting frustrations.  We had some success with sticker charts/rewards for very specific behaviors when he was 4, but also failed with time-outs and 1-2-3 magic, etc.

We got a lot of help from medication and occupational and behavioral therapy.  But the best discipline method I have found (and I’ve tried a lot of them) is the Nurtured Heart Approach in Transforming the Difficult Child by Howard Glasser.  I’ve found it to be tremendously effective at cutting out the non-compliant behavior and it starts working really fast.  The basis is to reward the child with your attention and energy for good behavior.  It’s hard at first to not react so much to the bad behavior and not to accidentally reward with yelling, but gets easy within days. 

There’s a credit system involved, but we SUPER simplified it and it’s working well just the same.  I recognize and praise good behavior but I don’t formally keep track of it.  Since I don’t keep track, my son doesn’t rack up points to exchange for rewards.  We just agree on a reward for a time in the future if good behavior is exhibited until that time point.  For example, in the morning he might ask for a piece of chocolate for breakfast.  Obviously I would say no, but you can have that piece of chocolate if you are good until after lunch.  If he breaks any of our household rules (one of them in no fussing, which is probably the same as the attitude you spoke of) at any point until after lunch, the reward is taken away.  The hard part for me was no warnings.  I would so want him to succeed and get that piece of chocolate that I would try to help him get there with reminders and second chances.  And the first handful of times he lost his reward was definitely tough for both of us, but it’s important because by failing, he learned very quickly that there was no wiggle room and now is better at self-monitoring and complying with requests the first time asked.  It also works for more immediate behaviors, like - we’re going in the store, you can choose a healthy snack for your lunch box this week if you stay beside me until I am done shopping.  If he gets distracted by the bakery and doesn’t keep up, he loses the snack choosing privilege, but we set another one right away.  Like, if you stay beside me for the rest of the shopping you can choose a game to play together after we get home and put the groceries away.  There is a little bit of negotiation to agree on an appropriate reward that he finds motivating, but most of the time I’m able to drawn the line if there’s any fuss (we can play a game together or you can play by yourself, you can watch 15 min of cartoons or 0 minutes) and the negotiations come to a close.

Anyway, that’s just an example of how we modified the approach for a younger child.  The book suggests making different behaviors worth different values of credits in exchange for a privileges that cost a pre-determined number of credits.  We could probably start doing that now, at age 6, but at age 4 I think a more direct “do this (or don’t do this, as the case may be)- get that” approach was appropriate.

I hope this was helpful - I know from first-hand experience how awful this kind of parenting can feel.  But I also know that under the meltdowns and yelling is a great kid and a great mom.  You’ll figure things out together.  Hang in there.

Posted by justmesarahg on Apr 09, 2017 at 6:21am

Traditional parenting (crime and punishment) is largely ineffective for kids with ADHD. And meltdowns are most often caused by part of their disorder — the way their brain is.

Positive parenting is a much more effective approach.

Your child’s individual strengths and weaknesses need to be your parenting compass. And the only way to change the meltdowns is to address what is triggering them. Could it be sensory overwhelm? Poor frustration tolerance? Lagging self-regulation? Concrete thinking? Etc…

Ross Greene’s book, “The Explosive Child” can help you a great deal in this area.

Here are more insights on this:

ADDconnect Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

Posted by adhdmomma on Apr 10, 2017 at 3:29pm

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