Summer time is more unstructured. That’s often when we notice that our kids with AD/HD have a harder time managing their behavior.
“Many persons with ADHD, even those without problems of hyperactive behavior, report chronic problems in regulating their actions,” says AD/HD expert Dr. Thomas E. Brown. Another AD/HD expert, Russell Barkley, even views self-regulation, more commonly called self-control, as the underlying issue in AD/HD.
Challenges related to self-regulation can include:
– Impulsivity in speech and actions
– Impulsivity of thought, leading to hasty and sometimes inaccurate conclusions
– Ineffective monitoring and regulating of task-appropriate energy level
– Poor monitoring of social cues and adjustment of social responses
– Poor regulation of emotions, often manifest as over-sensitivity or over-reacting
This blog-post will address helping children improve self-regulation. If you are older, you may find some helpful tips for yourself here too. And, stay tuned… another blog-post will be coming up with more tips for adults wanting to improve their own self-regulation.
“ It takes all my effort to parent him!” is a common parental complaint when a child has AD/HD and self-regulation issues.
For a child, problems with self-regulation can manifest in a variety of ways: risky-behaviors, forgetting instructions, excessive whining or tantrumming, seeming “wired” when others are calm, and so forth…
There is no doubt that a child with poor self-regulation can be challenging to parent … and yet this same child is likely to be all the more in need of skilled parenting.
Take a deep breath! To help promote self-regulation for your child, try some of the following parenting strategies for promoting self-regulation in children. (Keep it simple, though: add just one new approach at a time until you have grown comfortable with your new skill. Once that strategy becomes second nature to you, add in another.)
1. Adjust/reframe your behavioral expectations because a poorly regulated child will not always be able to exhibit age-appropriate behaviors.
2. Set clear behavioral limits and follow-through consistently: this helps a child learn to set internal limits.
3. Provide your child the opportunity to make choices appropriate to their level of development, and allow them to experience the positive and negative consequences of these choices.
4. Teach cause and effect thinking by articulating for your child, non-judgmentally, the link between behavioral choices and outcomes.
5. Provide structure and predictability through schedules and routines, and prepare your child in advance for changes in the schedule whenever possible.
6. Anticipate and prepare your child for transitions, such as the end of playtime, leaving a park or a friend’s house, or bedtime (e.g. give a ten minute warning, with clear expectations).
7. Model self-control and self-regulation in your words and actions (e.g. “I am hungry, but dinner will be in ½ hour, so I can wait.” Or, “I am very angry now. I am going to need some time by myself to calm down.”)
8. Encourage your child to talk to him or herself when working through activities or problems; this self–talk is an intermediary step from parental control to self-control.
9. Provide opportunities to burn-off energy and “organize” the body through several 15-20 minute sessions of jumping, running, swinging, hammering, working with clay, or other deep-pressure activities each day. (A mini-trampoline can be a useful acquisition!)
10. Offer play activities that promote self-regulation such as games with rules, kits or projects with instructions, recipes for cooking, and imaginative play.
11. Read stories that model self-regulation, for example “The Little Engine that Could.”
12. Learn to recognize early cues signaling that your child may need to calm-down, and articulate these so your child begins to learn them as well.
13. Encourage your child to use a “quiet spot” or “time out” in the room with you as a non-punitive opportunity to calm down. (Some kids like a table covered with a sheet or blanket; others might like the coziness of a beanbag chair. If your child can use your lap, that’s an option too.)
14. Encourage simple approaches to meditation and centering. (You can find materials on the internet, or perhaps you can find a “Mommy and Me” yoga class nearby.)
15. Provide healthy snacks, including protein,such as cheese or peanuts, throughout the day.
Want to learn more? See the on-line articles, below, or contact an AD/HD coach for more specific help. I offer a free half-hour initial consultation if you want to see if coaching is right for you.
by Bruce Duncan Perry, MD, PhD
by David Rabiner, PhD
a PBS Whole Child article
by Alix Spiegel
from the Parents as Teachers National Center
by Sherry Boschert