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Parents of ADHD Toddlers, Preschoolers

Positive Productive Parenting!

Hi Everyone,

First post here. I am a mum living in Australia. I have ADHD myself and a family history of ADHD that’s very strong. I currently have a 12 month of toddler who I am sure possibly has ADHD. This of course wont be diagnosed for a few years to come, however I am in need of parenting advice. I am already noticing that I am going to need to employ different parenting strategies to get the most of out my child without breaking her spirit as she is challenging and really pushes the boundaries.

Tips from my mum etc I have so far

- Structured Routine (we both work better within this anyway)
- Cut out food colouring
- See ADHD as a gift in her that needs special management not as a ‘problem’ like it was when I was growing up back in the 80’s

I need some advice regarding discipline and learning

Discipline - She is DEFIANT when we say directly no to her or try and make her do something. How can we achieve the result with minimal trauma

Learning - As she cannot sit still for more than 30 seconds. She is very difficult to engage for interactive learning at activities that we attend like toddler reading and singing time at the library and just wants to run away while children her age will sit and do actions! How can I get her to learn without making her feel ‘naughty’ all the time.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and advice!


Hi! You are so right that different parenting strategies are needed. I have a 9 year old DD who does not have ADHD and a 5 year old DD who does have ADHD. There is a world of difference in how I parent each child.

To start, I would recommend reading the book “The Explosive Child”. It is geared to older children who are verbal and can understand logic better than a toddler, but it will give you an idea of how the approach is different. The main thing I learned is that you CANNOT set up anything as a confrontation or power struggle. You will lose. And lose your sanity at the same time. Time outs won’t work, threats won’t work, asserting your power won’t work.

What does work is figuring out what the triggers are to minimize tantrums, and to approach her anger with empathy. You won’t be able to prevent all defiance and tantrums. Knowing this actually makes it a bit easier, because it is a process your child just has to work through for herself, and she needs you to help her with it.

I find that talking “around” issues helps. For example, I don’t say “time for bed, go brush teeth”, I say “in 5 minutes we’re going to go upstairs to get ready for bed, but I need your help figuring out which toothpaste to use tonight”. It’s like judo, take the energy and redirect it in an unexpected way. Giving choices also makes them feel more in control, which is super important because these kids are afraid of their own strong feelings and get freaked out when they feel out of control, and it comes out as negative behavior.

I think that’s the hardest part, because the outcome (negative behavior) isn’t the problem to be fixed, but everyone else will tell you it is. If these kids dealt with frustration by crying, or by talking it out, or by some other way, we would naturally feel more empathic. But they deal with it by really scary outbursts and our instinct is to assert control, but in reality defusing your own emotions and approaching it from a standpoint of “I am here when you need me” is what works.

After an episode, my DD feels really bad and cries that she wished she hadn’t done whatever it was (break a toy, slam her door, hit her sister, etc.). But she just couldn’t control it because these kids have zero impulse control and zero frustration tolerance. It is a slow process to let go of your own emotions, defuse, and gain their trust enough so that the tantrums, while they will still occur, will be less frequent, less intense, and shorter. She will learn from you that when she feels frustrated and angry, you will not hold it against her but will help her with it. She needs to trust you, to feel that you will be in control of your emotions when she can’t be with hers, and that you two are a team who will get through this together.

Just my experiences, it’s been a hard 2 years but we’re in a much better place now than we were when she was 3. Behavioral approaches were just part of it, we also did family counseling and saw a developmental specialist who prescribed medication (my DD takes guanfacine). Even though your DD is so young, I would talk to a developmental specialist who is an expert on ADHD disorders just to touch base.

Posted by ElliBear on Feb 06, 2014 at 9:11am

Thanks so much for your reply. What great advice! If I can employ these tactics now at 12 months of age hopefully we will be well practiced by outrageous outbursts which are imminent.

Thanks also for the book recommendation, the perfect word to describe our child!

From the day my baby came out absolutely screaming, she has had trouble sleeping, doesn’t cope without routine, cant sit still etc etc. She does however have this sparkle in her eye and has a wonderful spirit that I can’t wait to see mature into a wonderful and balanced young lady…. we just need to get there alive and happy! haha

We are booked into to see an ADD child psychologist in a few weeks, I was feeling apprehensive at first but now am feeling like its the right thing to do.

thanks again for taking the time.

Posted by lovingmum on Feb 07, 2014 at 7:42am

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