How is parenting children with ADHD different?

Children with ADHD often have lots of energy and trouble focusing, so parents must be patient with them on a daily basis. See more parenting pictures.
Children with ADHD often have lots of energy and trouble focusing, so parents must be patient with them on a daily basis. See more parenting pictures.
Jerome Tisne/Getty Images

Almost all parents can expect some disorganized, frenzied and downright frustrating behavior from their child from time to time. For parents of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), however, these behaviors take on a different level of intensity.

ADHD is a behavioral disorder that covers a variety of symptoms, including inattentive, distracted and impulsive behaviors. Although most children exhibit these behaviors at one time or another, children with ADHD display them to a point where simple tasks such as brushing their teeth or finishing their homework can become a daily struggle. Diagnosed children can also have trouble understanding social norms, such as when it is appropriate to speak in a conversation or the concept of personal space. Because of these behaviors, they run a higher risk of having problems academically and socially.


Parents of children with ADHD need to be prepared to provide constant guidance and supervision. Simple reminders will not be enough to help children focus and improve. This is an exhausting process and can put a significant strain on families. ADHD also carries a social stigma, with some people considering the condition to be over-diagnosed and those who have it to be overmedicated, which does not make things easier for parents.

However, there are a few strategies that experts say may help parents manage the difficulties of ADHD. First, parents should thoroughly research the condition, including its causes, symptoms and how it is diagnosed and treated. Parents also should look into the supports in their neighborhood, such as trained physicians and therapists, ADHD parent networks and experienced child-care professionals. Depending on a child's symptoms, he may be eligible for special assistance at his school. Regardless, parents should be in regular communication with their child's teachers to coordinate strategies and chart progress.

Second, parents need to be organized so they can manage their child's overall condition rather than simply react to its symptoms. Parents should create daily routines and organization strategies to help their child remain focused on completing tasks. It is also important to establish consistent rules with immediate rewards and consequences. Experts generally agree that it is better for parents to focus on rewarding good behaviors than punishing bad ones to help these children improve.

Above all else, parents of children with ADHD need to be patient. Helping a child learn to work with his disorder is a constant battle. Parents need to be ready to try different strategies and must not get frustrated when an approach doesn't work. Having a child on medication can also be taxing, because parents must consult with physicians regularly and experiment with different combinations of treatments. Through it all, parents also need to be conscious of their own physical and mental well-being so they don't become overburdened or exasperated. After all, they are the most important factor in helping their child improve.

Read on for lots more information about parenting children with ADHD and other disorders.



Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Psychiatric Association. "ADHD: Parents Medication Guide." (February 11, 2010).
  • American Psychological Association. "ADHD." (February 11, 2010).
  • Carpenter, Deborah. "Raising Your ADD Child: 12 Parenting Strategies that Work." ADDitude Magazine. (February 11, 2010).
  • Hallowell, Edward M. and Peter S. Jensen. "Superparenting for ADHD." Ballantine Books. 2008.
  • National Institute of Mental Health. "Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder." June 15, 2009. (February 11, 2010).
  • Rief, Sandra. "The ADD/ADHD Checklist: A Practical Checklist for Parents and Teachers." Jossey-Bass. 2008.
  • U.S. Department of Education. "Identifying and Treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Resource for School and Home." August 2008. (February 11, 2010).