Parenting Coach

Practical ideas for social, emotional and behavioral challenges

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Move the goal post.

What you can do

Be prepared to adjust rules and consequences so you can help your child meet achievable goals. Have a few hard-and-fast rules for safety and other important matters, and enforce those rules consistently. But for everything else, it’s a good idea to pick your battles and compromise on the smaller things.

Try to say no less often, but mean it when you say it. Make it clear that you love your child and that you’ll do your best to understand what he’s experiencing with attention issues. Tell him how proud you are of his accomplishments, and be specific with your praise. Don’t expect perfection.

Try to catch him being good. Notice when something goes right, and comment on it.

What you can say

“Jacob, I know it’s hard for you to sit through Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house. Quite honestly, I find it a long time too. This week we want you to join us for dinner as usual, but you can be excused for 10 minutes after you finish eating.”

“We’d like you to come back when the dessert is served. I’ll give you a five-minute warning before you need to come back.”

“You did a really good job of practicing being excused at dinner last night, and Dad was truly impressed with you. Let’s try that next week at Grandma’s, OK? I think the 10-minute break will help you get through the last part of dinner.”

Why this will help

Kids with attention issues frequently behave as if they’re much younger than their actual age. That’s why it’s important to make sure the rules you come up with match your child’s level of maturity.

You can also reinforce positive behavior by carefully observing him and praising him for being good or doing something well. Doing this not only helps teach him how you expect him to behave. It also lets him know that you’re interested in him when he’s being good.

Adjusting goals to help your child meet them—and praising those successes—will have a much more powerful effect than repeatedly pointing out what he’s done wrong.

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