Successfully Parenting Your AD/HD Child

Extremely bright and artistically talented, Chris struggled with poor school performance. "He began to believe he was dumb, which led to a vicious cycle of low grades and diminished self esteem," says his mother, Kathi.

Like many parents, Kathi blamed herself for her child's problems until Chris was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD).1 Then, she understood the source of her son's difficulties.

Children with AD/HD struggle with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, which contribute to significant difficulties in behavior, learning and relationships.

"AD/HD may be one of the most prevalent problems of childhood," says Grant L. Martin, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of AD/HD. "The consensus of professional opinion is that approximately 3 to 5 percent of children have AD/HD. This translates to as many as two million school-age children." 2

Although parenting a child with AD/HD is a challenge, take steps to ensure that your child lives a creative, productive, and satisfying life.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Effective treatment begins with an accurate diagnosis. "There is no single test to diagnose AD/HD," says the National Resource Center on AD/HD. 3 "Consequently, a comprehensive evaluation is necessary to establish a diagnosis, rule out other causes and determine the presence or absence of co-existing conditions. Such an evaluation should include a clinical assessment of the individual's academic, social and emotional functioning and developmental level."

The prevailing medical opinion on the treatment of AD/HD is that multimodal treatment works best. This may include parent and child education, behavior intervention strategies, school programming and support, and when necessary, medication. Whether to use medication is a personal and emotional decision for most parents and should be made after weighing the medical facts with the child's doctor.

While there are no quick fixes or easy answers, there are things parents can do to help.

  • Educate yourself. Learn all you can about the disorder. Support groups, such as Children & Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders (CHADD), offer multiple tools and resources. Visit to learn more. The Natural Resource Center on AD/HD ( also offers practical tips, tools and resources such as books, tapes, seminar information.
  • Educate your child. Explain the disorder and its symptoms to your child and affirm his worth, strengths, and talents. Assure her that you will work together as a family to ensure her success.
  • Establish routines. Children with AD/HD need structure and consistency. Establish routines for meals, homework, and bedtime. Use tangible reminders like charts, checklists, calendars, and clocks to help your child stay focused.
  • Define acceptable behavior and develop a discipline system. Make simple house rules and reward appropriate behavior with praise or special privileges. Consider two types of rewards, material and social, for good behavior. Material rewards might include toys, treats, or special outings. Social rewards include hugs, smiles, or compliments. Respond to misbehavior with consistent consequences.
  • Model and teach healthy social interaction. The goal of social skills training is to define appropriate social behavior and teach children how to implement it. You can help your son or daughter to develop these skills by modeling good conversational, anger management and problem solving techniques. You can also invite playmates to your home for social skills practice.
  • Collaborate with school officials. Schedule a meeting with your child's teacher, a special educator and the principal to develop an effective learning program. Request an evaluation for the 504 plan, which falls under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and specifies that no one with a disability can be excluded from participating in federally funded academic or extracurricular programs or activities.
  • Maintain communication with the school. Request weekly progress reports rather than waiting for the grading period to end. Check in with the teacher by phone or by e-mail on a regular basis. "Volunteer as much as you can," recommends Virginia Smith, a mother of a child with AD/HD who is now grown and doing well. "Develop a partnership with a common goal—to help your child succeed."
  • Request special classroom accommodations. Simple adjustments like seating the child near the teacher or a student role model, and away from busy and distracting work areas, may be useful. Ask the teacher to divide work into smaller units, to reduce the frequency of timed tests, and to reinforce good behavior with praise.

With these techniques, you can create a home and school environment that helps your child succeed. Remember, children with AD/HD have many unique and creative qualities as well. "Their spontaneity, zest, tirelessness, enthusiasm, intensity, curiosity, stimulating brashness and life-of-the-party energy have their useful moments," explains Dr. Grant Martin. "These children have rich imaginations and can quickly generate new and different ideas. …They can combine ideas in creative ways through art and writing that no one else has tried. The need is to bring the ADHD child's problem behaviors under control. Then the useful abilities can be harnessed for good."4

1 Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have been combined into attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD). (American Psychiatric Association, 1994)
2 Grant L. Martin, Ph.D.,"Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder." [Online] February 16, 2007.
3 National Resource Center on AD/HD. "Diagnosis and Treatment." [Online] February 16, 2007.
4 Grant L. Martin, Ph.D., "Family Reactions to a Diagnosis of ADHD." [Online] February 16. 2007.

Background Information

Treatment of AD/HD
A comprehensive approach to treating AD/HD.

Types of Learning Difficulties
If you suspect your child may have a learning disability, parents need to be aware of the symptoms that prevent learning at school.

Characteristics and Causes of Attention Deficit Disorders
Attention disorders may be one of the most prevalent problems of childhood.

Questions and Answers

My daughter has some of the symptoms of ADD, but she is a very quiet child. Are some ADD kids withdrawn and sedate?

My six-year-old son is beginning to have learning problems in school because he can't stay in his seat and concentrate on his lessons. What should I do?

Does ADD go away as children grow up?

We have a 5-year-old son who has been diagnosed with ADD. He is really difficult to handle, and I have no idea how to manage him.

What kind of treatment is available for ADD/ADHD?

Review Frequently Asked Questions


A Reason to Hope
Poor grades at school, inattentiveness and a failure to complete tasks might have a cause you haven't thought of.

If you've been through a experience related to this topic, we invite you to share your story with others.
Share Your Story

Other Things to Consider

TransitionsHaving a Baby, Preparing for Adolescence

Life PressuresWorking Moms, Stay-At-Home Moms, Time for Family

RelationshipsParents and Adult Children, Blended Families