How do you effectively parent a child with ADHD?

If you’re reading this, maybe your child has just received an ADHD diagnosis, or perhaps you suspect your child has ADHD and are considering an ADHD assessment. This can be a challenging time for both the child and the parents or caregivers. It’s a new layer on top of the relentless challenges that parenting already brings.

How does ADHD affect children?

ADHD may cause children to be more inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive than other kids their age. It is challenging for children with ADHD to develop skills to control attention, behaviour, emotions and activity.

ADHD affects all children differently, but some examples of behaviours include:

  • Seem distracted
  • Seem not to listen
  • Have trouble paying attention
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Need many reminders
  • Poor school performance
  • Difficulties with organisation

They may also exhibit hyperactive and impulsive behaviours, such as fidgeting, rushing, interrupting, or have emotional outbursts.

Initially, you may not realise these behaviours indicate ADHD. You may think your child is just misbehaving, and feel stressed, and frustrated that you cannot seem to change their behaviour.

We hear you; we see you, and we’re here to give you ten tips to make your life, and your child’s life, hopefully a little easier.

10 Tips for Parenting a Child with ADHD

Knowledge is power

The more informed you are about ADHD, and particularly how this condition affects your child’s behaviour and daily life, the better prepared you will be. ADHD presents differently in everyone, so it is important to seek information from a professional to help inform your support strategies.

Some things you can do include seeking an assessment, following treatment recommendations, attending therapy sessions, educate yourself and your child on ADHD. Make sure you are involved.

If you’re not sure where to start, we have a ‘Guide to ADHD: Top Books, Website, Podcasts and more resources’, that may help you begin learning.

Manage behaviour consistently

The goal of behavioral modification is to help your child consider the consequences of an action and control the impulse to act on it. This requires empathy and patience from parents. Make sure to decide ahead of time which behaviours are acceptable, and which are not. Being inconsistent in behaviour management can be harmful to improvement. Rules should be simple and clear, and your child should be rewarded for following them. You can use a points system for good behaviour that can be redeemed for fun activities or money to spend.

Behaviour management is important, but try not to be too strict as children with ADHD may not adapt to change as well as others. Allow your child to make mistakes as they learn. Odd behaviors that aren’t detrimental to your child or anyone else can be accepted as part of your child’s individual personality. It can be unhelpful to discourage a child’s quirky behaviours, as long as they are not harmful.

To manage aggression, destructive and potentially abusive behaviour, employ a time-out system to calm both you and your child. If an outburst occurs in public, remove your child. A time out should be explained to your child as chance to cool off and reflect on their unhelpful behaviours.

Focus on teaching your child one thing at a time

If you focus on too many things, your child may become overwhelmed, and this will leave you stressed without any progress. Start small, pick one thing to focus attention on, and positively reinforce your child when they do something well.

Customise your child’s routine and structure

Work to understand your child’s needs, and develop a routine based on how they respond best. This may involve visual schedules, such as charts or colour coded systems to make routines engaging. Colour coding chores and homework can reduce chances of overwhelm with taskload. Try to balance consistency with the ability to adapt where needed.

Reduce over-activity and fatigue

It can be helpful to break up tasks into manageable pieces. Even morning routines should be broken down into discrete tasks (ie. Make bed, brush teeth, eat breakfast, collect lunch bag). Make sure to incorporate rest breaks into activities e.g. a 5-minute break for every 30 minutes of activity. If doing homework, alternate academic tasks with brief physical exercise.

Limit distractions

Children with ADHD may struggle to focus on tasks, and distractions may be detrimental to this process. Keep your space clutter free, and neat so your child knows where everything goes and does not get distracted. Regulate television, video game and computer time.

Encourage out-loud thinking

Children with ADHD may have challenges with self-control. Teach them to think out-loud when they feel the urge to act out. Verbalising thoughts and reasoning can help you to understand your child’s thought process and talk with them curb impulsive behaviours.

Encourage sport, exercise or a hobby

In addition to the well-known health benefits of exercise, physical exertion can be especially helpful for those with ADHD. Physical activity can burn excess energy in healthy ways and allow your child to focus their attention on specific movements. This increased focus and energy expenditure may decrease impulsivity. Many professional athletes have ADHD, including gymnast Simone Biles and swimmer Michael Phelps. Experts believe that sport can help a child with ADHD find a constructive way to focus their passion, attention and energy.

Work with your child’s school

Work with your child's school and establish ADHD-specific plans and agreements to support your child.

Seek therapy or counselling

It’s OK to ask for a little help. Your child needs your support and encouragement, but they may also need professional help. Find a therapist who can work with your child and teach them skills to make their life easier. Perhaps speaking to a therapist yourself or joining a support group may also help you manage the stress that comes with parenting and behaviour management.


Parenting is a journey filled with unique challenges and joys, especially when navigating the path of raising a child with ADHD.

Remember, knowledge is your most powerful tool. By understanding ADHD's intricacies and how it specifically affects your child, you can create an environment conducive to their growth and learning. Whether it's through consistent behavioural management, customizing routines, or seeking professional help, the key is to be informed, involved, and empathetic.