Catch Them Being Good!

Catch Them Being Good!

  • 25 Feb, 2015
  • Lydia Herrera
  • ADHD, Attention Deficit Disorder, Disciplining an ADHD Child, Parenting an ADD or ADHD Child, support for parents of ADD/ADHD children,

Several years ago, the local school district implemented a program called “Catch Them Being Good.” The idea behind the program was to focus more on students’ good behavior and less on bad behavior. The program relied on the fact that whatever you focus on, you get. Therefore by looking for good behavior and reinforcing the good behavior, teachers (and parents) would get more good behavior. And it worked!

Now, I know that our ADHD kids can be experts in bad behavior. Their impulsiveness just makes it easier for them to do things without thinking about consequences or how their behavior may impact others. Right?

According to Dr. Robert Myers, a clinical psychologist who has worked with children with ADHD and learning disabilities for over 25 years: “Children with ADHD usually crave positive attention while being more likely to have a severe over-reaction to negative attention or punishment.” Does that sound like your ADHD child? That definitely was my son. What Dr. Myers is saying is our children will respond better if we “catch them being good!”

You see, our kids crave attention – any kind of attention. So if the only time we give them attention is when their behavior is unacceptable, they will do more unacceptable things to get our attention. Focusing on good behavior (Dr. Myers calls it “selective attention”) can be very helpful in increasing appropriate behavior while decreasing inappropriate behavior. He suggests we begin to pay attention to appropriate behavior through praise while ignoring inappropriate behavior. For example, your child is wiggling around and making silly noises while you are helping him with homework. Ignore the behavior and say, “Let’s see how fast we can get this work done.” When he settles down you can say, “Wow, you are really working hard and look, we’re almost done now.”

This may be hard at first because it’s usually the opposite of how we parents respond to our child’s behavior, isn’t it? It’s so automatic to jump on irritating behaviors and try to correct them, simply to make them go away. But, according to Dr. Myers, without knowing it, “we are rewarding the inappropriate behavior because, with these children, any kind of attention is better than no attention at all.”

And because we tend to ignore good behavior, we don’t reinforce it. So our ADHD child doesn’t learn that good behavior often leads to positive attention. Bottom line, when we reward the good things we see in our child, like good behavior, positive character traits, or good relationships, those behaviors will increase while ignored behavior will decrease. This is a strategy that can work wonders with a young child who has attention and hyperactivity problems. The sooner you start, the better.

If your child is usually behaving badly, it will take a lot of patience, and a calm voice, (and a poker face) to implement this idea. It may take a long time to turn things around. But wouldn’t it be worth it to try?

Obviously, we don’t want to ignore behavior that is dangerous to our ADHD child or someone else.  But we can try praising good behavior most of the time at first, and then move to less than half the time as things improve. The goal is for our child to gradually be able to control their behavior on their own.

Click here to order your copy of HELP! My Child is ADHD, where I share many more tips and ideas to empower you as you parent your child.

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