What are some strategies for managing ADHD?

Parenting a child with ADHD: Tips for success

Families must understand that children will adapt their behavior to their parents’ behavior. Children can learn rules, follow them, cooperate with siblings, and complete homework and chores more often when effective family strategies are put to use in the home.

Such positive changes don’t come easily—changes in behavior often take time and focused effort. Excellent behavior management strategies for the home can be found in the book 1-2-3 Magic by Dr. Thomas Phelan.

Parents may find the following strategies helpful for managing ADHD in the home:


  • Give clear and specific directions and limits. Children with ADHD need to know exactly what others expect from them.
  • “Catch” your child being good. Punishing a child only teaches what not to do. Recognizing and acknowledging positive behaviors is an effective way to teach and increase appropriate behavior.
  • Set up an effective behavior system. Create a consistent system to reward appropriate behavior and respond to misbehavior with alternatives such as "time out" or loss of privileges. Corporal punishment (spanking) is not advised, as it is not effective.


  • Stick to a schedule. Follow the same routine every day, from wake-up time to bedtime. The schedule should include time for homework and play.
  • Use a calendar or planner. Create a place to write down important reminders, responsibilities, and events. These tools may be especially helpful for adolescents and young adults who struggle with time management.
  • Organize items that are needed every day. Have a place for everything and keep everything in its place. This includes clothing, backpacks, and school supplies. An organization checklist may be helpful.

Homework time

  • Pick out a homework area. Set up in a quiet area without clutter or distractions.
  • Use less verbal prompting. Give clear and brief instructions. Find ways to silently redirect a child to tasks, such as a gesture, a special sign, or brief “instruction lists” taped to a mirror the child uses.
  • Set a timer. Have a time frame for working on homework. If the child does not finish, take a break and set a new time to finish.
  • Allow breaks. Allow time to rest and recharge, especially if a child has long assignments or homework in many classes.
  • Praise effort and completion. Reward the child’s completed work instead of punishing incomplete work.

Teaching a child with ADHD: Tips for the classroom

Teachers may want to use these strategies for managing a child with ADHD in school:

  • Use consistent classroom rules. Create a system to reward the child for following classroom rules. Respond to breaking of classroom rules in a consistent way, with alternatives such as "time out" or loss of privileges.
  • Seat the child to succeed. Placing the child at the front of the class or near good peer role models can cut down on distraction and set the child up for success.
  • Clearly state instructions and expectations. Children with ADHD need to know exactly what others expect from them. Give brief and specific instructions for activities or assignments. Combine verbal instructions with written instructions.
  • Provide immediate feedback whenever possible. Children with ADHD respond best to feedback that is timely and specific. Positive or negative feedback is best when it is given right after the child’s behavior.
  • Use less verbal prompting. If the child is frequently “off-task,” find ways to silently redirect him or her, such as a gesture or special sign.
  • “Catch” the child being good. Praise the child for appropriate behaviors, such as following classroom rules, completing an assignment, or contributing to a classroom discussion. Timely praise is an effective way to teach and emphasize appropriate classroom behaviors.
  • Use a daily report card. Research has shown that daily report cards are an effective tool to manage behaviors for children with ADHD. The Electronic Daily Report Card (https://e-drc.com/) is a free online resource to help teachers and parents set up and use a daily report card.

Living with ADHD

For more than 60% of children with ADHD, troublesome symptoms continue through adolescence and into adulthood. The following behaviors and problems might stem directly from ADHD, or might be caused by problems with adjustment:

  • Chronic (long-term) lateness and forgetfulness
  • Lack of organizational skills
  • Low self-efficacy (poor self-confidence or the feeling of being ineffective in getting things done)
  • School and employment problems
  • Trouble managing anger
  • Impulsiveness
  • Anxiety

If these issues are not managed appropriately, they may cause emotional, social, work, and educational difficulties for adults with ADHD. However, with the right combination of resources, family support, social support, and treatment programs, problems related to ADHD can be effectively managed.

ADHD and its difficulties may be treated or managed with the help of these strategies:

  • Individual cognitive and behavior therapy (the Summer Treatment Program, social skills training, parent training)
  • Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Relaxation, stress management, or mindfulness training to reduce anxiety and stress
  • Behavioral coaching or occupational therapy to teach strategies for organizing home and work activities
  • Job coaching or mentoring to support better working relationships and improve on-the-job performance
  • Family education and therapy
  • Time management training

In addition, some adults with ADHD may benefit from medication to address symptoms and difficulties with inattention, distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior.

Helpful information for adults living with ADHD can be found at the following websites:

  • Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD): www.chadd.org
  • Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA): add.org

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