Why Dads Matter
According to Gregory A. Fabiano, PhD, Assistant Professor of Counseling, School, and Educational Psychology at the University at Buffalo, fathers overall tend to be less actively involved in formal parenting programs for children with ADHD. Research also suggests that mothers typically appear to be more aware of the impact of their parenting approach on their child’s ADHD behaviour. However, fathers must take note that they too can have an enormous influence on the treatment process for children with ADHD. Dr. Fabiano highlights that fathers positively involved with children with ADHD tend to have children with fewer mother-reported behaviour problems and that fathers also contribute uniquely to their child’s academic achievement and academic sense of competence.
First and foremost, if your child struggles with symptoms that look like ADHD, seek out professional help. A comprehensive list of where Dads can get help for ADHD diagnosis, treatment and support in Singapore can be found here.
If you do receive a diagnosis of ADHD, you can then work with your child’s doctor, therapist, and school to create a personalized treatment plan that meets his or her specific needs. Effective treatment for childhood ADHD involves behavioural therapy, parent education and training, social support, and assistance at school. Medication may also be used though it should never be the sole mode of treatment.
At the same time, dads can take action in the domain that is within their direct control and help to create the most conducive home environment for their children. Children with ADHD need structure, consistency, clear communication, rewards and consequences for their behaviour. They also need lots of love, support, and encouragement. Here are some parenting tips for how to manage the signs and symptoms of ADHD.
Parenting Tip #1 Providing Emotional Support
Parenting a child with ADHD can no doubt be frustrating and exhausting for you. However, do keep in mind that your child is also experiences similar feelings of frustration. Their natural desire to please and conform to your expectations is often overshadowed by their fragile emotional state.
Remember that as dads, you can give your children the emotional support that you yourself might not have received as a child. Allow your child to vent while you lend a listening ear, then paraphrase what your child related, to validate their feelings and show that you understood.
In an Asian context where stoicism and reticence are emphasized, many dads may find it much easier to provide physical comforts than emotional comfort. As fathers, you must resist both gender and cultural stereotypes in order to provide your children with the level of emotional sustenance they need. By learning to empathise with and understand what your children can and cannot control, you can train yourself to deal with impulsive or inappropriate behaviour.
Parenting Tip #2: Practicing Calm Discipline
There is a direct link between the way children are disciplined and the degree to which they assume responsibility for their own actions and behaviours. Disciplining a child, especially one with ADHD, is complicated by dads’ own emotional response to what they consider inappropriate behaviour. The more emotionally consumed dads become by their children’s behaviour, the more likely they are to utilize ineffective disciplining strategies, such as hitting, screaming, threatening, bullying, or withdrawing love and attention.
Children with ADHD need consistent rules that they can understand and follow. Ensure that the rules of behaviour for the family are simple and clear. Write down the rules and place them in a common area where your child spends the bulk of his or her time. The most counterproductive actions you can take are to scream or hit your child. Doing so will simply make your child resentful and shirk from taking responsibility for what he or she did.
Parenting Tip #3: Remember Positive Reinforcement
While discipline is critical for establishing boundaries, also keep in mind that children with ADHD often receive criticism. Be on the lookout for good behaviour—and praise it. Praise is especially important for children who have ADHD because they typically get so little of it. These children receive correction, remediation, and complaints about their behaviour—but little positive reinforcement.
Giving your child words of praise or a little reward can help to alleviate the fear and self-doubt that they experience, as well improve their attention, concentration and impulse control. Focus on their progress and reward your child for small achievements that you might take for granted in another child.
It is possible for children with ADHD to overcome negative feedback, societal disapproval, isolation, and academic difficulty and enter adult lives making significant contributions to their communities and chosen careers. These children often had at least one person who unconditionally believed in them and focused on their strengths and talents.
Parenting Tip #4: Encourage Healthy Diet and Exercise
All children benefit from fresh foods, regular meal times, and staying away from junk food. These principles are especially true for children with ADHD, whose impulsiveness and distractedness can lead to missed meals, disordered eating, and overeating.
Prevent unhealthy eating habits by scheduling regular nutritious meals or snacks for your child. Doing so will help stabilise your child’s blood sugar, mood and energy levels. Furthermore, meal times offer a necessary break and give structure to their day.
Children with ADHD often have energy to burn. Organized sports and other physical activities can help them get their energy out in healthy ways and focus their attention on specific movements and skills. The benefits of physical activity are endless: it improves concentration, decreases depression and anxiety, and promotes brain growth. Find a sport that your child will enjoy and that suits his or her individual strengths.
Dr. Fabiano also notes that fathers are highly likely to be responsible for the child’s behaviour during team sports when peer interactions are emphasized. Given that many children with ADHD struggle to initiate and maintain appropriate peer relationships, it is especially important for fathers to help support their children in these settings.
As dads, you can adopt a variety of effective parenting strategies to help your child overcome daily challenges, channel his or her energy into positive avenues, implement healthy routines, and bring greater calm to the whole family. Remember that the earlier and more consistently you address your child’s problems, the greater chance they have for success in life.
- Kilcarr, P.J. & Quinn, P. O. (1997). Fatherhood and ADHD.
- Low, K. (2011). Fathers and ADHD Treatment. About.com Guide
- Smith, M. & Segal, J. (2013). ADD/ADHD Parenting Tips: Helping Children with Attention Deficit Disorder. Helpguide.org.
About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.
First published on 20-07-2013.