A few weeks back, I talked about conditioning children with ADHD to self-regulate their behaviour. One of the ways is to ‘appeal’ to them, letting them know that their behaviour is wrong while explaining why. How can we do that in a way that’s assertive but effective?
It’s all about trust
Children and teens with ADHD need to know that they can trust your words. They need to know that you can follow the boundaries that you have set. This means that you, the adult, will have to lead by example. Establish rules, set boundaries, and stick to them, especially when in the presence of your child/student. Also, be consistent about it. Show them that your advice is gold, and that they can trust your words. In this way, you’re also establishing social norms.
Likewise, you need to trust that your child can follow your instructions. Observe and quickly correct them should they veer from the beaten path. If you’re consistent, it will be easier to get future messages across to them.
Lay out the consequences
Every action has a consequence, and children need to understand that. Don’t take for granted that they will naturally know it. When your child gets out of hand (and children with ADHD frequently do when restless), explain the consequences of their actions. Let them understand the impact that negative actions will have on themselves and their surroundings.
If punishment must be carried out, make sure that it’s related to their actions. For example, if a child gets violent towards his peer, move him to a corner to cool down and self-reflect. Do not back down on your decision. Speak to the child afterwards to rationalise the mistakes of his actions, and the reason for the punishment.
Offer a solution
If you have a close relationship with the child, or if the child’s caregivers are comfortable, see if you can work with him/her to develop a solution. Often, students with ADHD give in to their impulses, dealing with their problems emotionally. By sitting down with them when they’re calm(er), they will be more willing to listen and take responsibility for their own actions.
I once had a student who was really impulsive. He went through years of counselling in secondary school, but nothing seemed to work. With his guardian’s permission, we sat down, rationalised his actions, and laid out an action plan for him. It wasn’t 100% effective, but he was thankful for the options. In his own words (and yes, I’m quoting mostly verbatim, minus sensitive details), he said on WhatsApp, “Mr Shaun, thanks for helping me find the answer. It’s not easy for me to think of an answer to my problem, but when you talk to me about it, it becomes easier.”
Help students with ADHD understand themselves better
Appealing to students with ADHD isn’t only about trying to get through to them. It’s also about building trust and getting them to take responsibility for their own actions. Children are constantly trying to make sense of the world around them, and those with ADHD are no different. Believe in your child’s ability to rationalise their actions, and they will learn to trust your guidance too.