Positive Reinforcement for ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are development disorders found in a significant number of children and adults worldwide.


An ADD or ADHD diagnosis can be alarming at first, but after the initial shock there can be a certain relief. We will use "ADHD" as an umbrella term for all the variations of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder. 

Your child still has the same ADHD symptoms as before the diagnosis but now at least you know what you are dealing with and can come up with a plan to move forward.

When your doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, therapist, or whichever professional sits you down to talk about treatments for ADHD they will most certainly talk about the medicinal options as well as the behavioral modification options. 

They may be more in favor of one over the other and there is a lot of debate in this area but one thing that seems certain and agreed on is that positive reinforcement programs work with children with ADHD.

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All They Hear is No-No-No!

One of the effects of ADHD and ADHD symptoms is that children who have it often suffer from low self-esteem. This is understandable when you consider they have been told no-no-no their whole lives as their impulsivity continually gets them into trouble with adults. 

Their underdeveloped social skills and lack of appropriateness can make peer interactions difficult and friendships challenging.

Positive reinforcement takes the focus off the undesirable behavior and redirects it to the behaviors we would like to see in our children. Instead of yelling at little Adam for constantly getting out of his seat, the focus is put into reinforcing his staying in his seat. 

This seems like two sides of the same coin but the difference is huge. Only people who have dealt with a child with ADHD can understand how powerful this is.

Dealing with Impulse Control

When a child with ADHD gets out of his chair repeatedly it is because they have been distracted by something that makes them want to investigate or they are getting up without thinking about it for any number of reasons. 

A child without ADHD may weigh the consequences and decide that defying the rule of staying in their seat is worth the risk of getting up to investigate, but that mental sequence never takes place in a child with ADHD, they just end up out of their seat.

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You wouldn't punish a child for sneezing. It would be cruel to punish them for something they had very little control over and kids with ADHD have very little self-control. 

That is an issue they will struggle with and will need to work on over time but for now, punishing them for something they can't help is not productive and in many instances can be destructive. 

Positive reinforcement isn't a magic cure for ADHD symptoms, but it will allow you and your child to manage their behavior.

Positive Focus Instead of Punishment

Positive reinforcement rewards children for focusing on things they can control instead of punishing them for things they can't. 

When dealing with ADHD you need to remember that most people will not understand that your child is not being defiant, and they will see you as a permissive parent when you don't respond as if it were defiance. 

As a parent or caregiver who deals with a child with ADHD, you must first educate yourself and then you will find that you will then have to educate other people such as the grandparents and other relatives, friends, co-workers, the parents of your child's peers and, even in this day and age, teachers, coaches and youth leaders and so on.

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Resources are Scattered and Hard to Read

There are a huge number of ADHD resources on the Internet. Unfortunately most of that information about positive reinforcement is scattered among hundreds or maybe even thousands of websites. Much of this information is dry and academic making very little sense to most of us. 

Much of the rest of it varies in quality and may be outdated. Searching for positive reinforcement you are likely to find more useful information on it for training Dalmatians than its use as behavioral therapy for children.

At last, there is a resource that combines all the best information about positive reinforcement in place and explains it in a way a parent or caregiver can understand what it is and how to use it with your child. 

This resource was put together by a parent of a child diagnosed with ADHD who is also an expert on incentives and incentive programs.

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