Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Preschool Children with ADHD: How to Manage their Behavior

If you have a toddler or a preschool child, you know about the difficulty of managing his/her behavior. What behaviors have you observed? Preschool children can be stubborn and rigid at some point and funny and flexible the next moment. They can also be unfocused one moment and not responding when you give them an instruction and the next moment, be hyperfocused on building a tower.

When we add ADHD to the picture of a toddler, or to a preschool child at risk of ADHD, things spiral out of control exponentially. Do you find yourself bribing your child one minute and yelling the next moment? Sometimes, arguably, do you have difficulty managing your own emotions and behavior?

Here are a few suggestions to be found in my upcoming book on preschool children with ADHD:

1.      Keep your home routine structured and organized so that your preschool child with ADHD or at risk for ADHD knows what to expect at all times. He/she may not know how to tell time, but they certainly know that after they play outside they wash their hands and have dinner. They certainly know that when you are cleaning up the dishes they go to their reading corner to look at books. Now if you have two toddlers, that is indeed another issue but no matter how many children you have a structured routine always works best.

2.      Another suggestion is to give preschool children with ADHD or preschool children at risk for ADHD single, simple instructions. Preschool children with ADHD or at risk for ADHD can be easily overwhelmed by several instructions. The instructions such as go wash your hands, brush your teeth and get a book for me to read to you somehow get lost along the way. Always give one single, simple instruction at a time. Go to wash your hands. When you see that they have accomplished that task, praise and give the next instruction. Okay now brush your teeth. Praise and then give the last instruction. Good job. Now find a book that you would like me to read to you. Trust me, they will feel much more successful at listening to your instructions and you will feel much les frustrated because you do not have to tell them what to do more than once.

3.      One of the most important things that you can do is the phrase catch them being good. I certainly did not make up that phrase, but I find myself trying to do so each and every time that I am with       a preschool child with ADHD or at risk of ADHD. When you see these children exhibiting a positive behavior, praise them for behaving in that way. They will develop pride and positive self-esteem in the fact that they pleased you and exhibited the appropriate behavior.

4.      Along the same philosophy but expanding it a bit, try to ignore the child’s negative behaviors and positively reinforce the child’s positive behavior. When we pay attention to the negative behaviors we oftentimes find those behaviors increasing. Please do not think that ignoring the negative behaviors is an easy thing to do. It is a difficult thing to do. However, somehow you want to get your child to ascertain that specific behaviors please you and are appropriate. If you continue to accentuate your child’s positive behaviors amidst all of his/her negative behaviors, your child will learn to exhibit appropriate behavior.

5.      Make sure that your child goes to bed early enough to get the proper amount of sleep. Fatigue only increases meltdowns. Seemingly, it may be an easy problem to avoid.

6.      Model positive behavior. Many parents do not know that their child observes and imitates their behavior as well as picks up on their emotional state. If something happens and a parent becomes frustrated or angry, the child may often model that behavior. Leaning to control your own behavior is also not easy to do but absolutely necessary when you are around your toddler with ADHD. Have you noticed that when you get angry your preschool child arguably becomes angry?  Have you noticed that when you yell your toddler arguably yells?

Try very hard to be aware of the times in the day when you become anxious and pressured and monitor your behavior. What could you do if you find yourself unable to modulate your behavior? If there is someone else in your house with you, walk out of the room. If you are with your children alone, find some music that you like on your phone or on your computer and play it until you calm down. Deep breathing works as well.

So much more to come!!!Be on the lookout!