Kids with ADHD may know how to do things, but sometimes they just can’t pull it off. Maybe they get started on a task, but they can’t finish it because their impulsivity or distractibility gets them off track. If you don’t understand that as a parent, then you’re punishing your child without being helpful to him—and the behavior won’t change. That’s why you need to learn how to coach your child appropriately by saying things like, “Hey you’re getting off track. Why don’t you come back and finish your homework first before you start on the next project?” You also may need to accept the fact that before their meds kick in, they are going to have a challenging time getting ready for school.
So even though the end result is that you want your child to function in society as an adult some day, that doesn’t mean that you treat every child the same way. You still have to parent differently according to your child’s needs or diagnosis.
4. Looking for a “magic consequence.”
Parents often ask me, “What’s the ‘best consequence’ for this behavior?” They want a list of consequences they can plug in when their child misbehaves, but that’s not exactly the way it works. James Lehman recommends using a consequence that is related to the behavior, if possible, so it is often case-specific. For example, if your child can’t wake up and get ready for school in the morning, you might make him go to bed earlier. But, experiencing this consequence is really only part of solving the problem of why your child isn’t able to get ready for school on time. So with that consequence, what you’re also teaching your child is, “You’re too tired—you need to get more sleep.” Problem solving is the foundation of this technique, not giving consequences.
The other problem with looking for a “magic consequence” is that it assumes that the consequence itself will change behavior. But when you want to change what your child is doing, you really need a whole system of discipline, limit setting, coaching, teaching and problem solving, like the one James Lehman created in his Total Transformation Program. James says to always ask yourself the lesson your child needs to learn. That lesson may or may not include a consequence. Think of consequences as a tool in your toolbox that you may or may not use, according to the job. Remember, consequences alone will not change behaviors; if they did, all we would need would be a consequences and rewards chart—but we need more. You can’t make lasting behavior changes without using problem solving.