Parent Training and Education

Behavioral parent training programs have been used for many years and have been found to be very effective. Although many of the ideas and techniques taught in behavioral parent training are common sense parenting techniques, many parents need careful teaching and support to learn parenting skills and use them consistently. It can be very difficult for parents to learn behavior modification and implement an effective program just from books and websites on their own. Help from a professional is often necessary. The topics covered in a typical series of parent training sessions include the following:

  • Establishing house rules, structure and consistent routines
  • Learning to praise appropriate behaviors (praising good behavior at least five times as often as criticizing bad behavior) and ignoring mild inappropriate behaviors (choosing your battles)
  • Using appropriate commands
  • Using “when…then” contingencies (withdrawing rewards or privileges in response to inappropriate behavior)
  • Planning ahead and working with children in public places
  • Time out from positive reinforcement (using time outs as a consequence for inappropriate behavior)
  • Daily charts and point/token systems with rewards and consequences
  • School-home note system for rewarding behavior at school and tracking homework

>Some families can learn these skills quickly in the course of 8–10 meetings, while other families—often those with the most severely affected children—require more time and energy.

Parenting sessions usually involve an instructional book or videotape on how to use behavioral management procedures with children. The first session is often devoted to an overview of the diagnosis, causes, nature and prognosis of ADHD. Next, parents learn a variety of techniques, which they may already be using at home but not as consistently or correctly as needed. Parents then go home and implement what they have learned in sessions during the week and return to the parenting session the following week to discuss progress, solve problems and learn a new technique.

Parent training can be conducted in groups or with individual families. Individual sessions often are implemented when a group is not available or when the family would benefit from a tailored approach that includes the child in sessions. This kind of treatment is called behavioral family therapy. The number of family therapy sessions varies depending on the severity of the problems.

When the child involved is a teenager, parent training is slightly different. Parents are taught behavioral techniques that are modified to be age-appropriate for adolescents. For example, time out is a consequence that is not effective with teenagers; instead, loss of privileges (such as having the car keys or cell phone taken away) or assignment of work chores would be more appropriate. After parents have learned these techniques, the parents and teenager typically meet with the therapist together to learn how to come up with solutions to problems on which they all agree. Parents negotiate for improvements in the teenager’s target behaviors (such as better grades in school) in exchange for rewards that they can control (such as allowing the teenager to go out with friends). The give and take between parents and teenager in these sessions is necessary to motivate the teenager to work with the parents in making changes in his or her behavior.

Applying these skills with children and teens with ADHD takes a lot of hard work on the part of parents. However, the hard work pays off. Parents who master and consistently apply these skills will be rewarded with a child who behaves better and has a better relationship with parents and siblings.

Parent Education

As a parent, you will want to educate yourself about ADHD diagnosis, treatment and ways to manage it. CHADD offers a unique educational program to help parents and individuals navigate the challenges of ADHD across the lifespan. Information about CHADD’s “Parent to Parent” program can be found at Parent to Parent.

Parent Advocacy

It is also important for parents of children with ADHD to learn to advocate for their children so that they can secure services for their children and ensure their success in all facets of life.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, the Technical Assistance Alliance for Parent Centers (the Alliance) establishes and coordinates parent training centers nationwide. These training centers―Parent Training and Information centers (PTIs) and Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs)―serve families of children and young adults with all disabilities from birth to age 22.

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