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Parents of ADHD Children

Newly Diagnosed, Behavior Chart Help?

My 4 yr old was recently diagnosed with ADHD and possibly ODD (waiting on the psych eval to confirm ODD). School is not much of a problem but we are having so many behavioral problems at home. We are on a wait list to begin behavioral therapy at a childrens specialized hospital around here, so until then I am trying to do what I can to get him on the right track. We have been doing star charts on and off for about 2 yrs and he still seems like he isn’t getting it. We have 2 daily routine lists, one morning routine, one nightly routine, that he must complete (without putting up a fight) in order to get stars. He also gets stars for extra good behavior. He also loses stars if he breaks one of the House Rules we have posted on the refrigerator. He obviously LOVES getting stars and enjoys following the lists, but if he does something that warrants the removal of a star, he has a complete meltdown. For example, “put on jacket” is the last thing on his morning routine before we leave. I told him once he completed that task he would get a star. He refused to do it and then cried for 2 hours that i didnt give him a star. No matter how much I explain to him that good behavior gets you stars and bad behavior loses stars, he doesn’t seem to get it. Has anyone else had this problem with understanding consequences?? Am I going about this star chart wrong??


If the positive aspect of the chart is working well then keep doing it.  But you can’t discipline children with ADD by taking away privileges.  It doesn’t work, no matter how you parse it out.  For them, taking away something is the equivalent of your boss docking your pay because your cubicle mate did something wrong.  They feel that it is about that fair.

But beyond that, it simply doesn’t work.  It barely works with a “normal” brained child!  It is a huge leap in logic to lose things you’ve already gotten because you are misbehaving.  I hope that makes sense.

And if you are too closely equating discipline with praise - stars in, stars out, its all stars - then you are building in the eventuality that he will mutiny.  It will become like saying, if you behave I won’t spank you!  He is going to associate pain with the stars if he hasn’t already (which I think by the meltdown you describe he may already have)

What you need is a totally different discipline that is in no way associated with anything “good”.  I have two children, one with ADD, one without. My non-ADD child can abstract thought, my ADD child no way.  So you need a standard regular discipline.  I used naughty corner with my ADD daughter and it worked very well and didn’t create the kind of resentments previous disciplines did.  You can look up Supernanny (the British one) for the process but basically it is: warning, if they do it again put them in naughty corner (or a place with NO stimulation - especially important for ADD children) one minute per year of age, tell them you will come back when timer is done and if they move then the timer will have to start all over again, go back and remind them what they did that got them in naughty corner (remember to say they had been warned), ask for an apology, hug kiss and then tell them discipline is DONE. 

And no going back on it either.  Once they have done their discipline NEVER bring it up again.  There are a couple of mistakes that we parents make that mess this discipline up.  The first is to not give a warning.  You absolutely must.  But one and only one.  Either too many or none messes it up and lets them know you are unfair in your discipline.

Also, be serious about no toys, TV, timers, nothing in naughty corner!  ADD kids skip from one mental stimulation to the next, that is why it is so important for you to provide NONE in naughty corner.  If there is even one toy or a view of the TV or music on even then you will have zero chance of them reflecting on what they did - and isn’t that our real purpose of discipline after all!?

Lastly, don’t use one naughty corner session as the warning for another misbehavior.  My husband used to do this with our daughter, he’d say “remember what happened earlier when you had to go to naughty corner” or use the fact that she’d already been in naughty corner that day or for that offense as her warning.  No fair!  That is ALL they will think if you do this. So each offense its like a whole new game that starts all over again.

And finally, let them know at the end that you love them and that their discipline is now finished.  ADD children will hang on to that sensation and roll it around and around in their head and feel as if they are being punished all day long if you don’t put the lid on it as it were. 

I think naughty corner works especially well for ADD kids because it uses the way their brain works towards the process.  They hate being bored, and it is boring to sit for 4 minutes doing nothing for a 4 year old!

Good luck. You are half way there is you are already getting your child to follow instructions!

Posted by YellaRyan on Nov 13, 2013 at 8:27am

I highly recommend looking into The Nurtured Heart Approach.  I have a child with high functioning autism with “ADHD features.”  He had so many behavior problems that he was even suspended a day the first week of first grade. 

I was a teacher with an M.Ed. and was at a loss for what to do even with ten years’ experience.  NHA has been a profound gift to us!!!  The primary book is called Transforming the Difficult Child (Glasser.)  The book is good, but we also took a class to learn how to implement the program most effectively.  I highly recommend the class if it’s in your area.  At the least, read the book very carefully and thoroughly.  It uses a token economy (points system), but what it adds augments the points.  There is a lot of positive feedback, a way of talking to your child, that really makes this work.

Posted by LilOwl on Nov 13, 2013 at 10:26am

You’ve gotten some great ideas here. Keep in mind, what works today may not work tomorrow. Hang in there, it will get better.  Remeber our ADHD kids’ brains are not at the same emotional ages as their peers.  He is acting at an age about 30% younger than his chronological age.  So, for a 4 year old, think about how you would discipline a 3 year old. 

There are many great books out there to help, and I am sure you will get great advice once you get into therapy.  Just remember, hang in there.  This challenge will work itself. 

Reading your email brought me back to my son at that age.  He is now 8 and in a better place.  We now do a modification of 1-2-3 Magic. Instead of time outs, now he loses privileges such as computer time or ds time.  Instead, he has to read!

Good luck working this out.  It will get better,

Posted by cmullen17 on Nov 13, 2013 at 7:52pm

I agree. In special education, you never take away rewards that are earned. Also, make sure your lists are brief and attainable. If they are out of his reach-he will act out. To feel accomplished, you should have him place the star on his chart. He earned it. Also, have something preferred to give in addition to the star. Before you get to a meltdown, know when to compromise. Sometimes it’s ok to bend the rules a little-maybe by helping him accomplish his goals. (Help him clean up his crayons etc). Compromising with him once in awhile will also be teaching him that valuable tool.

Posted by Speduc8r on Nov 14, 2013 at 2:20am

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