ADHD: Survival Strategies for Parents
By Douglas Cowan, Psy.D.

1. Have Realistic Expectations. We all have expectations for our child; just make sure that your expectations are “realistic” for your individual child. If your expectations are too high, you will be constantly be subject to feelings of hurt or disappointment or anger.

2. Keep Your Home Organized. The more "scheduled" you can keep your home or the more "organized" you can be at home, the better for your ADD/ADHD child. Routines can help your child to accept order in his life. Be consistent with routines.

3. Simplify Your Life. Please don't try to do all things, be all things, lead all groups. Reduce the number of your commitments to others. Your child needs your time and attention more than others do (except perhaps your spouse). Spend more time at home with your child and family.

4. Accept Your Child's Situation. If your child is hyperactive, then come to the place of acceptance that your child is, has been, and will be: a person with very high levels of energy, limited impulse control, and difficulty sitting still. Don't feel guilty about it. Did you cause it? No. Is the child intentionally hyperactive? No. Don't waste your time trying to eliminate the hyperactivity, just learn how to redirect it into positive channels. Be patient.

5. Be Fair, Firm, and Consistent with your Discipline. Make sure your child knows the rules ahead of time. Review them as you need to. Always be fair to the child. Be firm. Don't reward inappropriate behaviors by ignoring them, but use your best wisdom on how to discipline or punish.

6. Teach to Incompetent Behaviors and Punish Rebellious Behaviors. Kids are weird. Know the difference between "incompetence" and "rebelliousness." Kids will forget to put the lid down on the toilet seat. They run through the house. They do kid things. When your child acts incompetently, then teach him how to do things the right way and have him practice doing it right. Rebellious or defiant behaviors, however, need to be disciplined through punishment. Yes, your child does need to know who's in charge, and that person needs to be you, not him.

7. Avoid Allowing Either Yourself or Your Child to Become Fatigued. We all get grouchy and irritable when fatigued. Don't schedule so many activities in your day that you or he gets tired. If it happens, either you'll be hard to live with, or he will. Cut back on your activities: do less, not more. Save your energy. Slow down. 8. Only Take Your Child to Places Where He Has a Chance to Be Successful. If your child simply cannot handle going to the store, or to church, or to birthday parties where they are serving punch and cake, then don't take him there. Or go but stay around and provide the supervision that he'll need so that he doesn't blow it with his behavior and have the event turn into just another failure in his life.

9. Watch Less TV, Not More. When we are tired, the tendency is to turn on the TV and just "veg out" in front of it. The problem is that the average person (yes, the average person) watches over 35 hours of TV per week. Since I don't watch TV at all, someone else out there is watching more than 35 hours to make up for me! Watching TV simply steals our precious time and the attention that we should be giving our family. Read books, talk to each other, play board games, go for walks --- but don't watch TV.

10. Take Care of Yourself Too! Eat right, work out and spend time with your spouse, your friends and yourself. Don't focus all of your energies on your ADD child. There is more to life. Read good books, not just ADD books. Pray. Enjoy sunsets. Go for walks. If your life reflects a sense of balance, then in a crisis you will respond with more wisdom and discernment.

Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., is a family therapist who has been working with ADHD children and their families since 1986. He is the clinical director of the ADHD Information Library's family of seven web sites, including, which helps over 350,000 parents and teachers learn more about ADHD each year.

Article Source:



Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders (CH.A.D.D.)
(800) 233-4050
This major organization sponsors support groups and publishes newsletters about ADD for parents and professionals.

Learning Disabilities Association of America
(412) 341-8077
Information and referral for parents’ resources, state chapters and local support groups.


ADD Resources

Understanding ADD

Discipline at Home

ADD Focus


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ADD/ADHD Behavior-Change Resource Kit: Ready-to-Use Strategies & Activities for Helping Children with Attention Deficit Disorder (Ready-To-Use)
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The Adhd Parenting Handbook: Practical Advice for Parents from Parents
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