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Parenting

How to Build Patience and Understanding When Parenting a Child with ADHD

Updated
May 10, 2024
Table of Contents

    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder, affecting millions of children and adults in the United States alone. Research shows that parents of ADHD kids have different needs and stressors compared to parents of those without the condition. 

    Specifically, parenting kids with ADHD can come with more parental distress, parental depression, a higher likelihood of marital conflict, and increased financial burden. A conflicted family environment and aggressive behaviors toward children are also more common in families who have a child with ADHD. 

    Sometimes, parents find themselves wondering, "I have no patience for my ADHD child. What should I do?" It's a tough thought to have, but you can combat the problem. Compassion, empathy, communication, and patience are always important when caring for kids, but sharpening these skills is particularly essential if your child has ADHD.

    So, what should you know? First, you aren't a bad parent for feeling this way. All kids are different, and some will face more struggles than others. It can feel like a steep hill to climb, but there are solutions. 

    Let's start by discussing ADHD and common challenges parents face. Then, we'll go over strategies for building patience, positive parenting techniques for ADHD kids, the role of empathy, and how to overcome challenges or seek help when necessary.

    Understanding ADHD

    Gaining a deeper understanding of ADHD symptoms can be an important first step in building patience for parenting kids with the condition. Ask yourself, "What does living with ADHD really mean?" 

    ADHD symptoms parents may struggle with in kids include but aren't limited to:

    • Restlessness, or in younger kids, trouble staying seated when it is required (e.g., at school, on planes).
    • Being "on the go" 24/7 or acting as if one is "powered by a motor" (high energy levels).
    • Avoidance of or a reluctance to engage in tasks requiring sustained concentration.
    • Making mistakes that appear careless or failing to give close attention to details.
    • Difficulty following through with tasks (the child may get sidetracked, etc).
    • Losing items necessary for important activities (e.g., school supplies).
    • Difficulty remembering information (e.g., steps of a task).
    • Impulsive behavior or difficulty with impulse control.
    • Difficulty paying attention when others speak
    • Trouble organizing activities and tasks.
    • Difficulty waiting for one's turn.
    • Being distracted easily.
    • Trouble staying seated.
    • Talking excessively.

    Kids with ADHD might also have difficulty playing quietly, interrupting others, or blurting things out. None of these things are on purpose. While it can take time to discover what works for your family, the right parenting strategies can help. 

    Strategies to Build Patience

    Patience is the #1 tool you need if your child has ADHD, but how do you build it? Use the following tips consistently to build patience, and remember to have patience for yourself, too. Adults, like kids, take time with behavior change.

    Use mindfulness and acknowledge frustration. 

    First, recognize that you feel impatient or frustrated. While some actions aren't okay (or aren't the most helpful), feelings are always okay. Privately acknowledging that you feel impatient without attaching moral judgment or guilt is the first step to addressing the feeling successfully. Next time you feel frustrated, use radical acceptance and take a moment to simply notice, "I feel frustrated."

    Practice self-care.

    Once you identify feelings of impatience or frustration, think about self-care strategies you can use. Strategies you can use at that moment might include deep breaths, positive self-talk, or following a plan you've created to address problem behavior with your child. 

    Day-to-day self-care activities, like physical activity, sleep hygiene, regular meals, stress management, and therapy, also matter. These things can be tough for parents but do help establish a more patient baseline. 

    Get support from other parents. 

    You need a support system. How do you get it? Parents of kids with ADHD can seriously benefit from connecting with other parents who are actually in the same boat. The Joon Facebook Group is a great place to start.

    Reduce friction with Joon.

    The Joon app uses positive psychology to create behavior change in kids with ADHD, ODD, and related disorders or behavioral challenges. The Joon app helps your child complete tasks and encourages good behavior without making them feel "forced." It can also promote self-control, self-esteem, task initiation, and more. 

    How does Joon work? 

    First, parents install the Joon Parent App and assign tasks (called "quests") to their children. Then, kids connect with the Joon Pet Game app, where they complete quests in exchange for digital rewards that allow them to care for their virtual pet, a Doter. 

    90% of kids who use the app finish all of their quests. The app is backed by psychologists, teachers, and other professionals, and parents often say that Joon has improved their parent-child relationship.

    Click here to try Joon for free.

    Cultivating Empathy

    Even the most empathetic people tend to lose sight when we get frustrated or impatient. Educate yourself on ADHD and its effects beyond the surface level and put yourself in your child’s shoes. As you know, ADHD isn't a personality trait; it isn't just hyperactivity or "not paying attention."

    Many people with ADHD describe it as the inability to control where their attention goes rather than a lack of focus at all. Your child might want to complete a task, but their brain may get stuck on a different activity (Watching TV? Staring at their phone instead of looking up when you talk?). 

    They might blurt something out faster than their mind remembers they aren't supposed to. They might run around or move more quickly than others, and just as you might notice that your child seems "powered by a motor," they might feel that way themselves — that energy is built up inside, so they're tapping their foot, running, screaming, or playing in a "fast" or aggressive way that other kids aren't. 

    Your child isn't doing any of that to bother you. Even if a child does do something for attention, remember that attention is a human need, and there are healthy ways kids can learn to ask for it. 

    Discipline and Goal-Setting

    What about implementing new tasks or goals, like chores or behavioral expectations? Here are a couple of tips to use when disciplining or setting behavioral goals for ADHD kids. 

    Communicate openly and empathetically. 

    Be empathetic and ask for your child's perspective. If relevant, acknowledge, "I know you didn't mean to do that. Let's talk about what you can do next time" when you discipline your child or re-instill rules.

    Set small, clear goals. 

    When setting goals for a child with ADHD, you want to make sure that they're realistic. Set small, manageable goals that don't feel like a reach. Communicate your expectations clearly, covering "what, when, where, and how."

    Keep the ADHD brain in mind. 

    Set up day-to-day life at home in a way that works for your child's brain. Despite popular belief, ADHD is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder, so kids, teens, and adults with the condition need to develop the coping skills and strategies they can use long-term. 

    What does structuring life with the ADHD brain in mind mean? One example is breaking big tasks down into smaller ones in the Joon app. For example, you might make "brush your teeth" and "get dressed" separate quests instead of saying, "Get ready for school." That way, kids get encouragement for both and are more able to stay focused.

    There's also something to be said for finding the good in ADHD symptoms. For example, if your child seems to have endless energy, you might want to enroll them in a sport or another high-energy activity. Anyone can benefit from having an outlet. 

    Implementing Techniques for Positive Parenting

    Positive reinforcement for good behavior is one of the best and most effective parenting strategies. It is known to increase good behavior, create positive habits long-term, and improve parent-child relationships.

    Using Joon as a reward system is an excellent way to provide positive reinforcement for ADHD kids. Since the rewards are in the app (and those rewards are the only way to keep playing Joon Pet Game), they are sustainable. Parents don't have to pay any surprise costs or wonder, "What will work this time?" You also won't get stuck in a cycle of buying expensive toys or experiences. 

    Verbal praise is another effective positive reinforcement tactic that can be used in addition to a reward system like Joon. Alongside rewarding good behavior, routines and structure are vital. If applicable, parents can establish the following:

    • Morning routines.
    • A bedtime routine.
    • Screen time limits.
    • Mealtime habits.
    • Medication routines.
    • Playtime/downtime.

    Routines are crucial for time management. They also aid executive function and good habits. Joon can help kids build and stick to routines, even if they're a child who usually has a hard time with structure. Using Joon also encourages independence in kids, making them more likely to complete tasks themselves.

    As far as emotion regulation goes, it's essential to teach kids the skills they need to cope with their feelings. Kids with ADHD are prone to strong emotions, trouble identifying emotions, impulsivity, low self-esteem, and higher rates of some mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety.

    The first step is to show kids how to identify and communicate their feelings (e.g., "I feel sad/angry/frustrated"). Then, you want to teach kids that it's not shameful to feel things in a big way and discuss what to do when they feel overwhelmed, dysregulated, or upset. 

    For example, you might teach kids to ask to take a break when they experience anger if their current reaction is to yell or get physically aggressive. Coping skills like physical activity and breathing exercises are child-friendly; a child therapist or parent can work on coping strategies like these with kids. 

    Overcoming Challenges and Seeking Help

    If you're having a tough time for any reason, whether it's ADHD symptoms or something else, remember that you don't have to do this alone. Parenting is a difficult job; it is intense and 24/7. Family members, other parents like those in the Joon Facebook Group, and healthcare providers can all be critical parts of your support system.

    Parent training is strongly recommended for parents of kids with ADHD. In parent training, you'll work with a therapist and learn behavior therapy techniques to use at home. The therapist will go over communication, positive reinforcement strategies, boundaries, and navigating bad behavior at home. Therapists can also provide ADHD education and individualized insight for parents. 

    Some parents benefit from professional help via cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or another form of individual therapy. Working with a therapist can increase resilience, reduce your own stress, and help you protect your physical and mental health. Health insurance plans are generally required to cover therapy services, so keep this in mind. 

    Celebrate small successes. Behavior management requires time and consistency. You'll realize, in time, that seemingly minor changes go a long way.

    Conclusion

    It's possible to increase patience with an ADHD child. Developing a deep understanding of ADHD and why your child might act the way they do, using positive reinforcement for good behavior, parental self-care, and finding ways to manage ADHD symptoms or re-direct a child's energy, when applicable, can be helpful. 

    Adjusting bad behavior in kids takes time, and you don't have to do it alone. Online support groups for parents of kids with ADHD, family members, healthcare providers, and tools like the Joon app can be helpful. Feel free to contact us with any questions you have about the app, and remember to keep learning — just like you want your child to.

    About

    Dr. Joe Raiker, PhD

    Joe Raiker, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist who has extensive training and clinical experience in the principles of behavior modification and cognitive restructuring (i.e., CBT). He provides assessment and psychotherapeutic services to patients of all ages, primarily via Telehealth, including treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition to seeing patients, Dr. Raiker also provides Clinical Supervision for Therapy and Assessment Services at our group.

    About

    Dr. Joe Raiker, PhD

    Joe Raiker, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist who has extensive training and clinical experience in the principles of behavior modification and cognitive restructuring (i.e., CBT). He provides assessment and psychotherapeutic services to patients of all ages, primarily via Telehealth, including treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition to seeing patients, Dr. Raiker also provides Clinical Supervision for Therapy and Assessment Services at our group.