How NOT to negotiate with your ADHD child

negotiatingHow do you negotiate with an ADHD child? In a nutshell: you don’t!

Children with ADHD can often be very persuasive. When they want something, it’s very hard to resist. They are insistent and will do just about anything they can, starting with begging and ending with threats and screams, to get what they want. This indicates neither strength nor weakness. ADHD children are controlled by their desires and feelings, and they cannot take no for an answer. This quickly becomes tiresome, because their need for attention and interaction is insatiable. If every child needs clear and strict boundaries, an ADHD child needs them much more.

Here are a few rules to help you keep your child disciplined:

State your point clearly and remember that you don’t owe any explanations

You asked your child to tidy his desk but he balks and tries to distract you: “Why aren’t you asking my sister to tidy her desk?” “Why does dad sometimes leave a mess?” “I tidied it last week and now I have a headache and I have homework to do!”
Don’t address any of these issues and don’t feel that you owe any kind of explanation. Repeat your request, explain why a tidy desk is important, and don’t give up until he does what you’ve asked.

No deals

Your child often tries to make deals with you: “I’ll do my homework if you order pizza” or “I won’t go with you to see grandma if Michael doesn’t go,” etc. Don’t accept any conditions. Some things are not negotiable. Don’t give your child the feeling that he can set the rules for you and offer you terms. This is unacceptable.

Even if your child is persistent and stubborn about it, it’s important that you remain strong and don’t give up. Don’t yell at him or punish him, because those signal lack of control on your part. Your ADHD child needs to know that you’re strong enough to stand behind what you say.

“Because I said so”

It might sound a little unfair, but you need to convey total confidence in what you say to your child. So if you told your child that you’re not allowing him to watch TV past a certain hour, stick with it. Don’t allow him to demand explanations again and again. If your child isn’t convinced when you give a rational explanation, allow yourself to say: “Because I said so.”

Bribing? Don’t even go there

Sometimes it’s tempting to bribe our children so that they do what we ask them to, especially when we’re tired or irritable. But once you set out on that path, it only goes downhill. Eventually, you’ll have to pay for every bit of cooperation you want to obtain from your child. If you’ve already started bribing your child, it’s never too late to make a change. It will probably be difficult for him to accept this change and he’s likely to protest, but don’t give up. You need to break the cycle in which he expects a prize for listening to you.

If you’ve made a decision, stick to it!

Your child did something he shouldn’t have done and you decided on a punishment. Stick to your decision and don’t undo the punishment even if your child begs you to do so and promises he won’t do it again. Don’t feel bad about it. Appreciate your child’s intentions to behave better, but explain to him that he must suffer the consequences of what he’s already done. Only if you stick to what you said and don’t give up will your child learn that there are consequences to his actions. This means, of course, that when you decide to punish your child, you choose a punishment that you can stand behind. Don’t threaten with a punishment you cannot or don’t want to go through with.

Some of the rules above may sound a little harsh or unfair. But remember: once your child learns that your boundaries are firm, he will stop testing them so much. It may be difficult in the beginning, but in the long run it will do you and your child a lot of good.

Good luck!

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