My six-year-old son was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 5. His preschool teacher was constantly sending home notes about his behavior. Josiah can be a challenging child. Through parenting classes and research and lots of trial and error I have found that the best way to handle my son is with patients....lots and lots of patients.
Unfortunately, patients isn't always so easy. Most parents I have come across who have children like my son, Josiah, have had pretty much the same reactions I have. The behavior can be so overwhelmingly frustrating that you sometimes over react. I have literally curled up in a ball and cried over my own reaction to my son. I hated myself for reacting to his behavior by screaming and spanking him when I didn't know what else to do.
I remember when I was growing up I always heard (and believed) "that kid just needs a good smack on the butt, it's his/her parent's fault he's/she's acting that way! They need to discipline their kids better." Little did I know I would some day have a little boy of my own with these same behavior problems only to find out....SPANKINGS DON'T WORK!
That's right people....that is why people don't spank their kids. Yes it is true that some kids can handle one smack on the butt, learn their lesson, and move on with their lives. For the most part however, we automatically assume that every time we see a parent at their wits end struggling to get their child to behave that haven't tried everything. The truth is they probably have and they finally figured out that yelling, screaming, spanking, and time outs didn't work for their kid. So what do you do when nothing works? You try the "new way of thinking".
Josiah is the kind of kid that is so creative taking his toys away only phases him for a few minutes....then he says "okay how about I pretend to be Buzz Lightyear and you can Jesse" (his two favorite toys). Spankings upset him but never actually changed the behavior at all. It is also hard for a child to understand that it is not okay to hit someone especially when they do something that makes you mad. Yelling at them every time they do something "wrong" just kills their self esteem making them feel like they can't do anything right until they lose confidence in anything they do well. If you think your child should "know better" regardless of how smart they are, you are thinking from the logic of an adult, not the logic of a child. A child's brain is not able to think and process things the way an adult can.
There are more and more behavioral specialists out there today that preach patients. I took a class in Tampa, FL called HOT DOCS which I would recommend for anyone and everyone even if your child doesn't have any behavioral difficulties. HOT DOCS teaches what is appropriate discipline and why it works. The most important thing I learned in this class was that the part of your brain that thinks and uses logic is not fully developed until you are 25-years-old.
Think about that! You may be telling yourself, "but my kid knows better"....but in the moment that they become overwhelmed their brain isn't processing those things. Their brain has to be trained and taught....you have to do the thinking for them and give short 5 word directions in a calm voice. Change will not happen over night but it does happen.
I also learned about schedules. Think about your mood when something doesn't go the way you planned it. Your frustrated, sometimes even angry, your late to work, you spill your coffee all over your work clothes, etc. How does it affect your mood and your performance at work or in the rest of your daily tasks. You become more irritable, children have this same problem multiplied by 10. They woke up late, didn't get to play before school, now their whole day is ruined and they act out because the part of their brain that thinks logically about how to react to this type of stress is not fully developed. This is why schedules and staying on schedule is an important part of a childs day.
My favorite tool that I picked up from HOT DOCS is the timer. It gives a definite start and stop time to everything my son and I do. Even though sometimes he asks for a few more minutes I just say, "Sorry the timer said we have to stop". It also helps in getting him ready for school because he can race to beat timer.
I choose to keep my son off of medication because of his age and because I want to teach him how to overcome his ADHD, not sedate him. I don't want the medication to change him like I have seen in some people, I want him to be Josiah and have fun, but to obtain the skills needed to overcome the obstacles that come along with his ADHD. There are tons of articles and books and diet changes out there and I recommend that you check them out and give them a try before placing your child on medications that can cause depression, anxiety, bed wetting, fatigue, etc. Remember that change wont happen over night and not to be discouraged if your child has a bad day or a bad week. Its a process but it is totally worth it.