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Behavior Management for ADHD Children: Tips You Need To Know

October 31, 2022
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    Managing an ADHD child's behavior can be stressful, but you are not alone. Children with ADHD tend to have difficulty with impulsivity, or acting out before thinking things through. This can lead to conflicts within the home and at school. There are a variety of different strategies you as a parent can engage in to help mitigate ADHD symptoms and better your child's mental health, as well as promote positive behaviors. 

    This article will explore the typical symptoms of ADHD, how to better manage symptoms, and the effectiveness of behavior management for ADHD. While medication is a common treatment modality for controlling ADHD symptoms, behavioral therapy is also proven to be an effective option.

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    Typical ADHD Symptoms: Why Controlling ADHD Children Is So Hard

    Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) is considered one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children. A child with ADHD might have difficulties controlling impulsive behaviors, paying attention, focusing or concentrating, and being overly active. These symptoms are apparent in school, at home, and with friends. A child with ADHD might also engage in the following challenging behaviors:

    • Predominantly Inattentive: involves difficulty with organizing or finishing a task, paying attention, or following instructions or conversations. This individual is easily distracted and might forget details of a daily routine.
    • Predominantly Hyperactive- Impulsive: this person fidgets and engages in impulsive behavior frequently. It is hard for this individual to sit still for long periods of time. They also struggle with impulsive behaviors, which can include interrupting others, jumping or climbing constantly, or speaking at inappropriate times.
    • Combined: this individual has symptoms of the above two types and these ADHD symptoms are equally present. 

    How do you handle a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder behaviors?

    Treating ADHD often requires medical, education, behavioral, and psychological interventions. When working with healthcare providers and treatment teams, treatment strategies should be tailored towards the child and family's unique needs. Not only will these strategies help the child control symptoms and cope with the ADHD diagnosis, but it will also reduce parental stress, improve family relationships, and foster psychological well being in your child's life. 

    The following ADHD treatment approaches may depend on the age of the child, but can include:

    • Parent training programs, positive parenting program, or parent management training
    • Medication treatment
    • Social skills training 
    • Behavioral interventions: behavior therapy or behavior modification/behavior management
    • Counseling, psychotherapy or behavioral therapy (CBT) for ADHD
    • Educational supports

    Types Of Strategies To Discipline Children with ADHD

    There are numerous strategies to try when discipling a child with ADHD. Interventions and strategies can be tailored towards the child's behavior and the symptoms they are experiencing. For instance, there are treatment strategies for emotional issues, behavior problems, and problems with attention. There are also interventions that are best suited for the classroom environment. It is also important to know where your kids are good at to be able to know what disciplining strategies fit. ADHD also has positive benefits and knowing these would help parents focus on developing these strengths rather than treating ADHD as a disorder.

    Behavior Management

    Children with ADHD may engage in impulsive behaviors, which can create conflict at home, in school, and in friendships. The following strategies are recommended for managing negative behaviors:

    • Explain and instruct. It is important to provide your child with clear instructions and expectations. Outlining the tasks that need to be done and breaking them into smaller steps is essential to promote positive change.
    • Reward your child with ADHD. Making sure that your child also receives positive reinforcement for good behaviors is crucial. This will show your child that getting rewarded for positive behavior and completing tasks will result in rewards and positive outcomes.
    • Having a plan for discipline. When setting clear expectations, it is important that your child is aware of consequences for negative behaviors. Being consistent with consequences will also diminish unwanted behaviors in your child with ADHD. 
    • Set an example. Children are like sponges, meaning that they soak in their environment and tend to model other's behaviors. Therefore, setting a positive example for your child will only encourage your child to engage in positive behaviors.

    Try the Joon App To Promote Positive Behavior

    Joon is an ADHD app that will motivate your child to stay focused and complete daily tasks by using a video game that makes routine tasks fun for children (ages 6-12). 

    How Joon Works for Behavior Management

    Joon works by utilizing gamification to keep your child on top of daily routines, habits, and to-dos. Children will choose a virtual pet that they will feed, wash, and grow. They take care of their pet by completing tasks and chores that are assigned to them by you. As they continue growing within the game, they will learn how to build habits and stay organized while improving their behavior and executive functioning skills.


    With approval from occupational therapists, school teachers, parent ADHD coaches, Joon will give your child the tools they need to be successful. By sticking to the app consistently with your child, you should expect to see significant improvement over the span of 30 days:

    • Improved motivation and independence
    • Improved focus on task initiation
    • Improved ability to stay on task and complete them in a timely manner
    • Development of multiple positive habits (such as brushing teeth, washing hands, etc.)

    Click here to try a 7-day free trial today.

    Parent Training In Behavior Management

    When children with ADHD engage in problematic behaviors, parents might wonder what they can do to fix these behaviors and promote more positive ones. Parent training is a type of therapy, generally within behavior management, that involves both the parents and the children working together. It trains parents to interact differently with their child to promote more desirable behaviors and discourage negative behaviors. There are a variety of evidence based parent training programs available to help improve skills required to manage children's behaviors and foster positive connections within the family.

    What is involved in parent training programs?

    Parent training programs typically teach parents how to use positive reinforcement and praise in a more effective manner. Parent training also promotes more positive parent child interactions, while teaching parents to stay consistent with consequences when children engage in negative behaviors. 

    Parent training programs may differ in their approach, but they all teach parents new skills for managing behaviors. These programs include:

    • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT): is a practice-intensive therapy that involves parents receiving live coaching from a therapist, who will generally be watching from behind a one way mirror. In these sessions, parents are practicing how to deliver specific responses to both the positive and negative behaviors.
    • Parent Management Training (PMT): involves the parents being the main participant in therapy. Therapists will generally see the parent without the child present and will model and role-play skills to be used within the home. 
    • Defiant Teens: this program is based on the method outlined by Dr. Russell Barkley and Arthur Robin in the manual called "Defiant Teens." It is a program that includes parents of teenagers, and provides them with more effective tools in interacting with their teenagers. This program also helps parents handle noncompliance or defiant behaviors. 
    • Positive Parenting Program (Triple P): is a program aimed at providing parents with more confidence and self-sufficiency in managing children's behaviors. 
    • The Incredible Years: involves small-group-based parent training, specialized for high-risk socioeconomically disadvantaged families and their children with ADHD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).
    • Behavioral and Emotional Skills Training (BEST): is a parent training program that introduces effective behavior management techniques in just one session. It is a full-day program for both parents and caregivers to help promote good behaviors in school aged children.

    Note: if you are a parent struggling to control an ADHD child’s behavior, try Joon app. Joon is a game designed specifically for ADHD children and their parents. The game combines real-world chores to earn points/complete missions in the game. Many parents have seen their ADHD child become more autonomous, build better habits and become motivated. Try a 7-day free trial here.

    What is the best behavioral therapy for ADHD?

    The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) found that medication therapy alone, and medication and behavioral therapy together, resulted in the most effective treatment option for children with ADHD. Psychosocial treatments, such as behavioral therapy, can improve symptoms of inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity, and poor relationships with friends and/or family.

    With that said, there are a multitude of behavioral interventions available, but it is the need of the child that should be considered when choosing which treatment modality to try. Is your child engaging in impulsive behaviors? Are they having difficulty paying attention in the classroom? Are they being defiant when asked to complete their chores? Behavioral therapy that engages the therapist, parents, and child in effective interventions will not only help manage behaviors, but also improve family relationships.

    It is important to note that there are behavioral treatments that work well with preschoolers, school-aged children, and teenagers with ADHD. Keep that in mind when choosing which behavioral therapy to engage in. Additionally, children with severe ADHD symptoms are considered to benefit most from behavioral therapy in addition to medication treatment.

    Behavior Modification

    Behavior modification is a modality of behavioral therapy that involves a therapist teaching skills and techniques that will improve children's behaviors. 

    Behavior modification utilizes the ABCS: antecedents (what happens before the behavior that might set a child off), behaviors (the action the child engages in that the parent or teacher wants to change), and consequences (what happens following the behavior). Within the behavioral modification program, parents learn to change the antecedents and consequences in order to encourage more positive behaviors or change the unwanted behavior. 

    Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) recommend the following when engaging in behavior modification:

    • Beginning with goals that children can achieve. Think small steps.
    • Stay consistent! It is important to stay consistent with your child across all different times of the day and within different settings.
    • Provide consequences immediately following the unwanted behavior.
    • Implement the behavioral interventions for an extended period of time, not just for a few weeks or months. 
    • Changes in behavior will be gradual. Remember that it will take time!

    Parent training

    Like mentioned previously, when parents are trained in behavioral techniques, they are better equipped with the skills necessary to help their child with ADHD succeed in school, at home, and with friends. 

    Parent training is an effective tool within behavior management therapy that involves a collaborative approach between the parent and child. The parent receives the tools necessary for helping their child manage ADHD symptoms and in turn, create a more positive environment for the whole family to be a part of. 

    It is important to note that new therapies are being developed and utilized daily, play therapy and other non-behaviorally based therapies have not been proven as effective in the treatment of ADHD.

    Learning specialists in school

    For children who are struggling in the school environment and display weaknesses in executive functioning skills, a learning specialist should be considered.

    Learning specialists will teach children techniques for managing their school work and staying organized. Children with ADHD might be weak in executive functioning abilities, or skills that include planning, organizing time, making decisions, moving from one task to another, controlling emotions, and learning from mistakes. 

    Learning specialists might use the following tools to establish routines and teach children skills for being successful within the classroom and at home:

    • Using checklists
    • Setting a time limit for tasks
    • Using a planner
    • Utilizing a reward chart


    Dr. Carrie Jackson, PhD

    Carrie Jackson, Ph.D. is a licensed child psychologist, speaker, and author working in San Diego, California. She has published over 20 articles and book chapters related to parenting, ADHD, and defiance. Dr. Carrie Jackson received her Ph.D. in Psychology, with a specialization in Clinical Child Psychology, from West Virginia University in 2020. She completed her predoctoral internship at Rady Children’s Hospital through the University of California, San Diego. She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Nationwide Children’s Hospital before returning to San Diego, California to open her private practice.


    Dr. Carrie Jackson, PhD

    Carrie Jackson, Ph.D. is a licensed child psychologist, speaker, and author working in San Diego, California. She has published over 20 articles and book chapters related to parenting, ADHD, and defiance. Dr. Carrie Jackson received her Ph.D. in Psychology, with a specialization in Clinical Child Psychology, from West Virginia University in 2020. She completed her predoctoral internship at Rady Children’s Hospital through the University of California, San Diego. She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Nationwide Children’s Hospital before returning to San Diego, California to open her private practice.