Most parents want their children to be on a successful path, and to be happy in Junior High or Middle School before the transition to High School. If your tween son or daughter has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) they will likely encounter greater challenges at home and school. Helping your tween be happy, healthy, and well-adjusted at home and school will require you to sharpen your parenting skills.
Fortunately, all it takes is looking at how you interact with your child and can use the following skills that can, and will work for you:
- Believe in Your Tween’s Potential to be Great! It can be hard to accept that your child is different from others in how they learn, and it can be easy to forget how important a role parents play in being a role model. Any pre-teen who can sense their parents’ concern or pick up on them worrying may experience anxiety about school and develop low self-esteem about themselves as they enter adolescence. There’s an old quote by the German author Goethe, “If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.” If you treat your tween as though they were already the person you’d like for them to be, they can see themselves being capable in becoming that person.
- Call out their positive behavior… they will repeat it! All parents feel angry at their tweens every now and then, and with difficulty following through or taking impulsive actions, who wouldn’t get frustrated? However, if you find yourself doing more scolding or shouting, this step is especially important. So many parents easily forget to notice all the positive ways that their pre-teen behaves. Whether it’s something small like saying thank you, a random act of kindness, or completing a task. Acknowledging and praising positive actions and choices will not only boost the way they see themselves, it may also increase them doing it more. They may not admit it, but your attention and acknowledgement as a parent matters even as they get older.
- Engage them in problem solving, don’t punish. Have you ever felt like throwing your hands in the air and screaming, “I’ve tried everything and nothing works!” If yelling, lecturing, threatening, and being grounded hasn’t worked, it’s time to take a different approach to handling problem behaviors. Imagine you asking your tween to do their chores after they get home from school. Now imagine finding them, five minutes later, playing video games. What’s the best way to handle this if nothing else works? As frustrating as it may sound, the best approach is to remind your pre-teen what you wanted them to do. Getting grounded our losing privileges only makes sense if your tween is being defiant. Being distracted is common for any pre-teen, and for an ADHD pre-teen this is often the norm. Give some more thought about what goals are realistic and attainable for them at home, and reward them for each achievement until the behavior becomes routine. Doing chores can be a way for them to earn an allowance or privileges. Make it a point to bring your tween to the table and being on the same team in discussing what needs to change, and say, “There’s a problem, and I need your help in solving it.” The more you involve them and treat them as if they were mature, the better the outcome in reaching a solution.
- Hear them out before deciding and saying “No” and know when to say “yes”. All pre-teens and teens need to be told “no” to keep them from making a mistake or when it’s not possible to give them what they want. Keep in mind that if your ADHD tween senses you are saying no as a reflex, they are more likely do whatever it is you said “no” to impulsively. Make it a practice to hear them out and say, “I hear what you said… ” or “I know this is important to you.” Before giving them your reasoning for saying no, which models thinking and talking things out. There may be times when you may need to take a deep breath, think it over, and say “yes”.
- Consistency at Home Matters Whatever you do at home on a daily basis, being consistent is important. Breaking routines at home or a last minute change can throw a pre-teen off balance who often feel like they spend most of their time off-balance with keeping track of things at home and school. Begin actively practicing these strategies at home with your pre-teen and you will begin to see a difference in the way they respond to you. Parenting is never easy and it takes patience and love for your children in using approaches to manage bad habits. Being a parent is a full-time job, and yet it is the most important role you will ever have in your life.