Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral condition that affects up to 10 percent of children and adolescents. ADHD is typically characterized by hyperactivity, impulsivity and/or an inability to concentrate. ADHD is a lifelong disorder that individuals do not grow out of and previously untreated adults with the condition often learn to mask their symptoms, giving rise to the myth that it only affects people as children and adolescents. Through therapy such as behavior modification, troubled teens can learn to manage their symptoms in order to become successful adults. The fundamentals of behavior modification for teen boys with ADHD are fairly simple and common to almost every parent. However, true consistency is required when implementing a plan with your son, or it will not be effective. The idea behind behavior therapy is to set specific rules that govern behavior and actions and to enforce those rules consistently with positive and negative consequences. There are several strategies to follow when creating a plan for your teen boy.
- Make Sure the Rules Are Clear–Broad or vague requests, such as “avoid doing that” is not enough for teens with ADHD. They need a specific list of what is required of them. Depending on the severity of your teen’s condition, it may be helpful to write up an actual list that he can refer to regularly. Review the rule with your teen to make sure he understands what is expected of him.
- Be Patient – You are setting yourself and your son up for disappointment if you expect perfection at any point. Teens with ADHD are in a constant dance of one step forward and two steps back. Be positive about the small steps he takes and make sure that any criticism is constructive. Expect to praise your son for his good behavior at least five times more than you censure. He needs to feel a sense of accomplishment in order to stay motivated.
- Create a Reward System – You are the best judge of the rewards and privileges that will motivate your teen most. Set up a point system that positively reinforces his good behavior and make sure that the terms are very clear. You may want to include your teen in the decision process so that you can make sure that the motivating rewards are of high value to him. It is just as important to be clear on the consequences for breaking the rules.
- Be Flexible – As your teen progresses and gets older, you will probably need to re-establish your discipline techniques. Be willing to negotiate his privileges and rewards as his needs change (i.e. borrowing the car or attending a big event with friends.)
- Involve The School – Teens spend a large part of their day in school, so it is important that his teachers and counselors understand his limitations and motivations. When possible, ask his teachers to implement a similar reward system for desired classroom behaviors. One of the ways to do this is ask each teacher to evaluate his daily behavior and report back to you so you can reward accordingly. Most teachers are happy to help their students with ADHD learn to appropriately participate in class, especially when they are being supported by parents.
- Ask For Help –Parenting a teen with ADHD can be difficult and exhausting. The consistency that is required to prevent backsliding is more than many parents have to do. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional assistance from a licensed therapist or a full time residential facility if you feel your teen is out of control or not benefitting from that plan you have created.
Liahona Academy is a residential treatment center located in southern Utah. We have over 15 years of experience helping teen boys with ADHD learn to manage their disorder and gain the tools they need to become happy and successful individuals. Call us for a free consultation (800-675-8101).