Tips for Parents of Children with ADHD

Managing ADHD in children requires compassion and control from parents

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

Millions of American children are affected by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Kids with ADHD face a number of learning and behavioral issues, including difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. These issues can lead to poor performance at school, low self-esteem and troubled relationships.

Many children with ADHD are prescribed medications to help control symptoms. However, medications are just one part of treatment. Children with ADHD must also learn to control their problematic behaviors, and the home may be one of the best places for these children to learn.

In the home, parents can create clearly defined boundaries and homework routines using methods, such as Compassionate Parental Control, to help their child stay on top of schoolwork and control behavioral issues.

If you are a parent of a child with ADHD, you play a crucial role in your child's treatment and learning process. This article offers information to parents about how to manage their children's ADHD at home.


Routine is extremely important for a child with ADHD - a point pressed home by Robert M. Pressman, PhD, ABPP, Director of Research at New England Center for Pediatric Psychology (NECPP) and a dailyRx Contributing Expert.

According to the National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality (NICHQ), parents should set up a clear and consistent routine so that their child "can predict the order of events." In order to clearly define such a routine, parents may choose to put a schedule in writing or in pictures for their child.

"There are five critical routines in every family," says Dr. Pressman, "each providing solid opportunities for parents to reduce ADHD symptoms of their child. The first routine is getting up in the morning and the last is going to bed at night. In between are homework, dinnertime, and chores."

The middle part of the routine typically includes time for homework, playtime and mealtime. Children with ADHD should know exactly when and how long they are supposed to do homework and when they get to play. And after all that work and play, they should have scheduled rest time.

Dr. Pressman especially stresses the importance of bedtime and nighttime routine. In fact, he says it is the most important aspect of routine. "Nighttime routine is especially critical," he says. "It must include the child sleeping independently in his or her own bed all night. Without an incredibly consistent nighttime routine, there are nothing but problems."

Boundaries and Support

In addition to a consistent routine, children with ADHD need a clear set of ground rules. In other words, they need to know exactly what sort of behavior is allowed or encouraged and what sort of behavior is not tolerated. Parents must set these rules and stick to them. It is also crucial that parents make sure their child understands the rules so he or she does not feel uninformed.

With clearly defined rules, a parent does not have to argue with a child who, for example, refuses to do homework at the designated time. Instead, the parent can simply point to the rule. If the child does not respond, parents can use timeouts or the loss of privileges - such as video games or computers - to discipline their child. However, it's more important to punish behavior rather than punishing the child. If a child misbehaves, a parent may want to let natural consequences occur, to step away from the conflict or to give the child a choice.

When it comes to enforcing boundaries, parents must balance between compassion and control. Helping a child with ADHD to succeed requires much more than punishing bad behavior. It also requires support, affection and rewarding good behavior. In fact, Urgent Survey™, a collaborative study by the National Center for Children's Medicine and Brown Medical School will provide parents and educators with valuable information. Specifically being studied is Compassionate Parental Control (CPC) - a system that combines kindness with unbending rules. The results and methodology will be outlined in a homework book published by Penguin in 2014.

Children with ADHD must be shown that they are valued and loved. Words of affection, smiles, hugs or simple pats on the shoulder are all ways a parent can express love to their children. Parents should also enjoy time with their children to accept and appreciate the parts of their children's personalities that are not so difficult.

It is also important that parents boost their child's self-esteem and confidence. Parents should highlight and encourage the things their children are good at doing. If a child with ADHD is good at art, for example, parents should make sure that child has time to spend on art.


One of the biggest concerns among parents of children with ADHD is homework. That is, how can parents help their children successfully understand and complete their school assignments?

While parents should not be doing their children's assignments, there are some things parents can do. Both routine and clear boundaries play a role in this endeavor.

Parents should set a routine and schedule for homework. In other words, children with ADHD need a specific time and place for homework.

A child with ADHD may try to find reasons why he or she cannot or does not need to do homework. According to Dr. Pressman, parents often hear their children say things like, "I can't find my homework" or "I don't have any homework." But that shouldn't keep parents from making their children stick to their routine.

"Parents should create a homework time whether or not they have homework," says Dr. Pressman. "The schedule is very important with an ADHD child."

If a child actually does not have homework, then the scheduled homework time should still be dedicated to reading or another academic activity.

Parents should not allow their child to wait to do homework until late in the evening. In addition, parents should find a place in the home where their child can do homework, not in total isolation but without distractions like cell phones, TV and social media.

When a child puts forth good effort and completes homework assignments, parents should praise and compliment that child. If a child needs help with homework, it's okay for parents to point out errors and do some minor corrections. But they should also remember to be supportive and noncritical.

Parents may find it helpful to offer their children incentives to finish homework. Here, the schedule can help. Dr. Pressman says that parents can schedule time for video games, for example, after homework time. A child may say, "I'm done with homework. Can I play video games now?" The parent can then respond, "What's the rule?" With a clear schedule, the child will know he or she has to wait until homework time is over to play video games.

Discipline and Responsibility

Through creating a solid schedule and setting clear boundaries, parents of children with ADHD can teach discipline and responsibility. A child who dedicates a portion of the day to chores and homework can gain a sense of responsibility and get a boost of self-esteem.

At first, a child with ADHD may object to rigid schedules and boundaries. However, according to Dr. Pressman, "After a few days, a child starts to fall into the schedule and takes responsibility."

If your child has ADHD, you may find the advice above to be helpful at home. But it's important that you work with a doctor or therapist to figure out the best way to manage your child's ADHD.

Review Date: 
February 12, 2013