ADHD and Positive Reinforcement: How to Use it Well to Improve Behavior

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If you haven’t tried it yet as a parent, you have probably wondered whether or not ADHD and positive reinforcement could work well together. As a parent with a child with ADHD, you know without someone having to tell you that behavior can be a problem. Not only does your child misbehave, they also don’t respond the way you want when you discipline them.

Many times correcting or punishing your child feels like talking to a brick wall. They end up just staring back at you with a blank face or worse, yelling at you. You can raise your voice all you want, but it seems that no matter what you say or do, they won’t listen.

An important part of parenting involves striking a balance. This comes in different areas of your parenting relationship. For instance, you need to strike a balance between being a parent and being a friend. This balance also comes into play with behavioral modification. Parents need to understand that encouraging correct behavior should involve both discipline and positive reinforcement.

In this post, we want to talk more in depth about ADHD and positive reinforcement. Maybe you have tried every resource on ADHD discipline, and you have nothing left to turn to. If you find yourself at the end of your rope, start with asking whether or not you use enough positive reinforcement. If not, use some of the strategies below to help with how you approach ADHD and positive reinforcement.

Give Both Verbal Praises and Rewards

First, when thinking about ADHD and positive reinforcement, you need to think about the types of rewards you want to provide. Positive reinforcement is built around the idea of giving praise for good actions. As a result of the praise, your child will then want to continue doing the good behavior. The praise given acts as the key element for positive reinforcement to work. To make sure you get the response you want, though, you need to make sure you provide the right type of praise.

When thinking of the right type of praise, you should try to encourage positive behavior through both verbal praise and rewards. Most people respond to both, although maybe in different ways. For this reason, you should consider your child’s personality when giving praise. Some children prefer verbal praise or physical affection such as high fives or hugs. Other children would rather have a toy.

You want to give your child praise in the way they respond best to, but you also want to strike a balance. If your child responds best to receiving a toy, you can give them a toy to encourage some behavior but you need to tread carefully. The other side of the coin is that the child will become expectant of getting a toy and will lash out or become angry if they don’t get it.

Keeping a balance, though, between verbal praises and rewards shows your child that you care without giving them a certain expectation of response. This way you can still encourage the positive behavior without creating resentment if your child doesn’t always get the toy.

Don’t Go Overboard

Secondly, when working with ADHD and positive reinforcement, you next need to remember to not go overboard. This follows along with the idea of keeping a good balance. If you get out of balance with your praises, your child might become expectant of a certain response. Similarly, if you give too much praise all the time, your actions can have a very different effect from what you intended.

Overly praising your child can make your child spoiled and unappreciative of complements. With lavish praises and rewards, instead of feeling encouraged to behave well, your child might simply start feeling entitled of the praise. They then can become arrogant and prideful.

Unfortunately, many parents have begun to error on the side of giving too much praise. Sometimes parents remember the harsh ways that their parents responded to them and as a result they want to do everything to treat their children the opposite way. In the end, though, the child usually becomes distant and cold and their relationship with their parents suffers.

Positive reinforcement should focus on showing love and admiration for your child without giving them a sense of entitlement. They need to feel your love and care. As a result then, you want them to continue to behavior well. To foster a correct view of ADHD and positive reinforcement, you need to give the right amount of reward for the situation.

This means that not every good thing your child does deserves a trip to Disney World. Sometimes all you need to say is, “good job,” and simply leave it at that. Keep your kids grounded by giving your praise out in measured ways. Don’t give too much praise all at once, but keep it appropriate for the task performed.

Get a New Perspective on Success

Thirdly, when it comes to ADHD and positive reinforcement sometimes you may need to find a new perspective on success. This might come as a shock to some of us, but parents sometimes can have unrealistic expectations. Perhaps, you want your child to exceed where you failed in your past. Possibly, though, you might just want to live vicariously through your child’s success. Whatever the motivations, sometimes we as parents put our kids up to too high of a standard. We give them a standard they can’t possibly live up to.

In cases like this, you need to gain a new perspective on success. If you want your child to behave so perfectly that they never make a mistake, then you will withhold your praise until they live up to that impossible standard. As a result, you will never or will rarely give them praises. They then might grow to resent you just as much as if you gave them too much praise.

If you have too high of standards, your balance may be just as off as if you had too low of standards. To best help your child, you need to adjust your view of success to their levels, not yours. This means success may look different for different kids. For instance, reading a whole chapter book might be a great accomplishment for a child who struggles with reading. If that’s your child, you should praise them for that accomplishment.

Consider your child and their abilities with finding ways for positive reinforcement. Think about what they may consider difficult to do and what behaviors they struggle with. Basing your understanding of praise and success on their perspective will make your positive reinforcement efforts a whole lot more effective than otherwise.

Don’t Do Away with Discipline

Lastly, with ADHD and positive reinforcement you still need to keep in mind that discipline has an important role in your relationship with your child. Many parents in our culture today don’t want to discipline their children. Instead, they feel that being friends and being a source of constant encouragement can provide better results. Others don’t want to discipline their children because they fear that their child might not love them as a result.

As parents, we all have difficult jobs. Our responsibility isn’t to be our child’s friend at all times. Rather, we have the difficult responsibility of instructing and molding and providing structure for our children. No one really likes rules and boundaries. In reality, though, rules and boundaries help us to grow and to discover our full potential. Discipline helps reinforce boundaries where positive reinforcement can’t. For this reason, you need to remember that striking a good balance means keeping discipline along with positive reinforcement.

You should praise your child when he or she does something right. At the other end, though, you also need to provide discipline and correction when they do something wrong. This isn’t punishment. Rather, discipline should be correction and showing what action was wrong and why it was wrong.

As a parent, you can’t back away from discipline. Discipline, though sometimes difficult, provides an important learning experience for children. For the best balance, use both discipline and positive reinforcement where appropriate. In the end, your child won’t view you as a friend or as an enemy, but rather as a parent. This should be your goal all along.

Use ADHD and Positive Reinforcement as One Tool in Your Behavioral Management Strategy

With ADHD and positive reinforcement, you have to remember that nothing you do occurs in a vacuum. All interactions you have with your child are impacted by other interactions. When you discipline your child that affects how you praise them later on and vice versa.

Having any relationship means keeping a balance between positive and negative interactions. Any relationship that involves all positives simply isn’t sustainable. Just as true, though, any relationship full of negative interactions can tear down and destroy intimacy.

Positive reinforcement should be seen as one tool among many for your ADHD behavioral management plan. Kids typically respond well when they receive praise or rewards. If you always give them praise and rewards, though, you almost certainly won’t get the response you really want from them. Instead, you need to use praise sparingly. Use it to encourage, to build up self-esteem and to show love. Be careful, though, if you find yourself resorting to it in every situation.

After all, your child needs more from you than just positive reinforcement. They need to have rules and boundaries. They need to hear from you hard truths and guidance. You can’t just give them praises and believe that they will always continue to behave well. Instead, you need to learn to use your tools as a parent accordingly. Discipline when necessary. Show compassion when the situation demands it. Be a teacher and a friend, but most of all be a parent.

Positive reinforcement can work well with managing ADHD as long as you maintain this right balance. Keep it as one of many tools you have, and you will find yourself going back to it time and again. Over time, hopefully positive reinforcement can help teach your child how to behave well in all sorts of situations.