A child who has ADHD thinks and behaves differently. Because of this, changing ADHD expectations for your unique child will provide more peace and success overall. As a parent you can get stuck in wanting your child to be “like everybody else.” That thinking will hurt your relationship and cause frustration. However, transforming ADHD parent mindset based on your child’s needs will help you find the root cause of your child’s behaviors and find solutions. This will create the clearest pathway for your child to improve and to build a strong relationship with them.
What are appropriate ADHD expectations?
Fewer, more concrete, expectations are better than a lot of expectations you aren’t able to enforce. Daily routines and rules are beneficial for ADHD children who struggle with organization, but overloading them with too many rules will have the opposite effect. Start by writing down every behavior you can think of that you’d like your child to do. Then group them in to categories and skills. Most of what we want our children to do falls under a few simple skills, such as Following Instructions or staying on task. From this list decide what is most important and create very specific, behavior-based expectations.
As you review your list ensure that you have realistic expectations for your child’s level of functioning. Children with ADHD struggle completing tasks, staying on task, sitting still, waiting their turn while playing, etc.. Your expectation in these areas needs to be lower. One way of transforming ADHD parent mindset is committing not to compare your child to anyone else, especially to other children in the home. It is okay to have some different expectations for different children in the home. If another child complains you can sit down privately with them to explain the differences in people and that each child is expected to do their best.
Having lower expectations in some areas does not mean that you will not teach your child ways to improve. You should still teach skills in the areas your child struggles. Just arrange the environment to best meet your child’s needs rather than expect them to behave above their ability to do so. For example, provide frequent breaks during homework or allow your child to use fidget toys to increase their ability to focus.
Although your expectations need to match your child’s abilities and fewer is better, you can still expect a lot from your child. Once you have narrowed down a few expectations for your child, you can have high expectations in these areas. Express confidence in your child’s ability to follow the expectations. Don’t enable or give in when it becomes hard for them to do so. They will see that you believe in them as you allow them to fail and maintain your expectations. This will help your child learn how to push themselves and prepare them for the world outside your home.
Empowering ADHD children comes from expecting them to behave positively.
It doesn’t matter if you are new to setting expectations or not. It’s never too early or too late when changing ADHD expectations to best meet your child’s needs. You can implement now. The first step is to decide a few rules or expectations for your child that you can follow through with. Next, plan a time to sit down with your child to explain the expectations. Then use their input to establish consequences and rewards for implementing the rules.
Children with ADHD stay more motivated through reward systems or contracts since they struggle understanding long-term consequences. Reward systems will also teach decision making skills and how to work toward long-term goals. Lastly, following through with the positive and negative consequences you set-up is crucial to maintaining the expectations.
Supplementing expectations with Preventive Teaching
A great way to establish expectations is to teach exactly what behaviors you expect from your child. The skill of Preventive Teaching is a format for teaching your child these behaviors. Use the skill during a neutral time and teach exactly what you want your child to do in a specific situation. Then you show them how to use the skill and have them role-play the behaviors on their own.
Have your child role-play correctly at least 4 times during the teaching interaction. Continue to role-play sporadically as they start implementing the skill. Teaching a behavioral skill to your child is a helpful way to maintain high expectations. Then the child knows exactly how to behave and you can prompt them to use the behaviors in the moment because they have already practiced using them before.
Changing ADHD expectations for your child will heal and elevate your family’s interactions. You will not expect your child to do more than they are able, but will hold them to high standards for what they can do. As you maintain these appropriate expectations you will reduce your own anxiety and frustration. You can focus more time on praising what your child is doing well and recognize their progress, which will increase their self-confidence. An empowered child will increase child impact of ADHD on future success throughout their life.
For more information about changing expectations for ADHD child listen to Transforming the ADHD parent mindset podcast.