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ADHD Natural Treatment: Behavior Management

Despite the well-publicized benefits of medication for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, not all children derive benefits from it.  In fact, medication ceases to work altogether after three years and can cause serious long-term side effects.  Moreover, medications merely suppress the symptoms and do not address the causes.  By relying only on medication as a primary treatment, the child fails to learn that he or she is responsible for his or her life and behavior.  For these reasons, other natural treatments for ADHD are needed to effectively manage the disorder.

One of the most important natural treatments for ADHD is behavior management.  This approach is based on several simple principles about what makes children behave appropriately in social situations.  The first principle is that children generally like pleasing their parents and feel good when their parent acknowledges their good behavior.  The second principle is that children feel more motivated to behave appropriately when they understand the positive consequences of doing so.  Children will also behave appropriately in order to avoid the negative consequences of inappropriate behavior.  The objective of behavior management is to increase the frequency of proper behavior by stimulating the child's interest in pleasing parents and providing positive reinforcement when the child behaves appropriately. If negative consequences or punishment are provided when the child misbehaves, inappropriate behavior gets reduced.

Behavior management sounds a lot like basic parenting, but you'd be surprised at how many parents dislike the idea of providing rewards to their children for behaving appropriately.  They have the mistaken notion that giving rewards to desired behavior sounds a lot like bribery.  However, you can also look at it this way: behavior management is an opportunity for your child to earn extra privileges for being cooperative and mature.  Most parents already use this mode to discipline their children, but the difference between that and behavior management is that, in the latter, rewards and expectations are more explicitly expressed. 

Designing and implementing a good behavior plan is not easy, and you may require the help of a therapist to do this well.  You can start off by keeping these general principles in mind:

  • Be very specific about what behaviors are expected from your child in order for him or her to obtain the reward. Instead of saying, "Do what I tell you," be more explicit and say, "Clean up your room the first time I ask."
  • Make sure you have reasonable expectations of your child.  Do not set your child up for failure by setting expectations that your child cannot accomplish for his or her age.  For instance, punishing a 3-year-old child for being fidgety at the dinner table would create more problems, because 3-year-olds generally cannot sit still.
  • Create the feeling that the behavior management program is something you and your child are doing together, instead of something you are doing to your child.  One way you can do this is to get him or her involved by letting him or her decide on the rewards.
  • Start out the program by letting your child experience some initial success to enhance interest and motivation. As time goes by, you can raise the criteria for rewards. 
  • Give your child frequent feedback about his or her performance.  For instance, if the target behavior is "sitting still during meals," provide your child daily feedback about how well he or she behaves at the dinner table, rather than just giving feedback once in a while.
  • Children with ADHD will need shorter intervals for rewards. Promising ice cream over the weekend is too far in the future to be a good motivator for children with ADHD. Daily token rewards or opportunities to earn rewards are more useful. 
  • Since children with ADHD are more forgetful and inattentive, they will need frequent reminders about the expected behavior and the rewards they can earn.  You can do this while you give your child feedback on how well he or she is doing. 
  • To keep your child interested in the program, make frequent variations and keep it "new."  You can do this by changing the rewards (e.g., TV time on one day, small toys on the next). 

Behavioral management is a great tool to help the behavioral component of your ADHD child; however, it will not address the underlying causes of the disorder. This is why you also need to balance his or her body and mind with a process similar to the UnRitalin Solution.