What is Behavior Modification for ADHD?

Tara Barnett
Tara Barnett
A child with ADHD playing.
A child with ADHD playing.

Behavior modification for ADHD is a way of decreasing the impact of negative symptoms of ADHD. This technique is sometimes used without the help of drugs, but behavior modification in its most basic form is a necessary component of any plan to overcome ADHD. The most straightforward way of implementing behavior modification for ADHD is to offer positive reinforcement for the successful completion of a task. While some behavior modification plans include negative reinforcement for failure to complete a task, this approach has largely fallen out of favor among parents. ADHD often involves bad behavior that can often be partially remedied with this technique, but behavior modification for ADHD can also be used to encourage completion of necessary tasks and overall focus, which can help a person with ADHD overcome bad behavior in other ways.

Behavior management may be required of a child who has consistent behavior problems at school.
Behavior management may be required of a child who has consistent behavior problems at school.

One way to implement behavior modification for ADHD is to assign the child a task and use behavior modification to help him or her complete it. For instance, if the child has a worksheet due, a parent might send the child to his or her room to complete it. In this case, the parent must offer positive reinforcement such as a compliment or access to a favorite game as a reward for finishing the worksheet. It is important to check back on the child frequently and to offer minor positive reinforcement and guiding advice every step of the way. This means that even if only a little progress has been made, the parent should verbally praise that progress and suggest a subsequent target for the child.

Some parents find that behavior modification for ADHD is more effective when used to correct everyday behaviors. In this case, a parent must be mindful of the child's behavior at all times and must react calmly and immediately to either good or bad behavior in order to make a firm connection in the child's mind. Sometimes, it is easier to focus on a single behavior, such as talking back or failing to listen to directions. It is very important that a parent implementing a punishment maintain a controlled attitude about the situation, because otherwise the child will likely engage in even worse behavior just to get a reaction.

While it is possible for adults with ADHD to benefit from behavior modification, adults must usually give themselves rewards and punishments rather than relinquish control of their actions to another party. This means that this type of therapy is only effective as long as the individual is able to maintain self-control. It is also possible for people other than parents to use this type of therapy to get results, but parents often have the most success because they have the most power to reward or punish a child. There are many more detailed plans for behavior modification for ADHD, but in many cases this simple method of offering rewards is very effective.

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    • A child with ADHD playing.
      By: Elena Stepanova
      A child with ADHD playing.
    • Behavior management may be required of a child who has consistent behavior problems at school.
      By: Dusan Kostic
      Behavior management may be required of a child who has consistent behavior problems at school.