How Do You Discipline a Tween With ADHD? 12 Tips

Reviewed on 4/14/2022
How Do You Discipline a Tween With ADHD
Tweens who have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) may present additional behavioral challenges for parents. Here are tips for disciplining your tween.

Tweens who have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) may present additional behavioral challenges for parents. Here are tips for disciplining your tween.

What Is a Tween’s Development?

During the tween (preteen) years, hormones kick in and puberty starts, often accompanied by a change in attitude. Tweens are still young and have child-like interests, but they also start to mature physically, emotionally, and socially during this time. Changing hormones can cause them to experience mood swings. 

Tween brains also undergo a growth spurt and “remodeling” of sorts, but the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain responsible for decision making, planning, thinking about consequences, solving problems, and controlling impulses—isn’t quite fully developed. Because of this, adolescents use more of the part of the brain called the amygdala, which is associated with emotions, impulsive reactions, aggression, and instinctive behavior. 

In addition, during middle school, friendships become more complicated and school work becomes more demanding, adding more stress to their daily lives.

12 Tips for Disciplining a Tween With ADHD

Here are some tips for preventing discipline problems with tweens who have ADHD: 

  1. Keep your goals realistic 
    1. ADHD cannot be “cured” so keep your goals realistic.
    2. Find ways to help your tween manage their condition with simple strategies.
  2. Don’t punish ADHD behaviors
    1. Disorganization or forgetfulness are not voluntary choices for kids with ADHD.
    2. Instead of punishing them for ADHD behaviors, teach them better organization strategies and time management.
  3. Create a written contract
    1. Spell out rules and have everyone sign them.
    2. Let your tween have a say in the rules. Kids are more likely to follow rules when they have input.
    3. Be clear on expectations such as study times, curfews, or household chores.
    4. Limit rules to the most important ones, and include reminders and enforcement. 
    5. Only make rules you can enforce. 
  4. Hold regular family meetings
    1. Regular family meetings can encourage open and honest communication and create an atmosphere of belonging, acceptance, and cooperation.
    2. Call an emergency meeting if needed to deal with a crisis or discuss an important matter.
    3. Get everyone’s input and use the meeting as an opportunity to discuss or change rules if needed.
  5. Anticipate problems 
    1. Know what you will do if your tween: 
      1. Skips school
      2. Calls you names
      3. Breaks curfew
      4. Comes home drunk
    2. Planning ahead allows you to deal with problems constructively and calmly.
  6. Let your child make mistakes
    1. Letting kids make “safe” mistakes in situations that are not harmful can help them learn consequences of their behavior.
    2. This encourages your child to develop independence and decision-making skills.
  7. Allow your tween to vent
    1. ADHD can cause strong emotions. Allow your tween to express their frustration, disappointment, resentment, and anger without criticism as long as they are expressed verbally, without abuse (no insults).
    2. Make it clear to your tween that angry feelings do not translate into angry acts or physical violence toward people or property.
  8. Respect your tween’s need for privacy
    1. Every tween needs some personal space. Resist your fears to obsessively monitor your child.
    2. Tweens with ADHD need to be listened to because they are constantly told what to do by others.
    3. If you have concerns, talk with your child.
  9. Don’t try to choose your child’s friends
    1. Trying to dictate who your tween can and cannot hang out with will almost always backfire.
    2. Keep an open mind. Even a child who seems like a “bad” influence may not be as bad as they seem.
    3. The only exception is if a friend places your child in danger, such as drug use or criminal activity.
  10. Increase privileges judiciously
    1. If your tween is responsible, allow them more freedom.
    2. Support their independence.
  11. Choose your battles 
    1. Not everything is worth fighting over.
    2. Only take a stand on important issues. 
  12. Establish zero-tolerance behaviors
    1. Tweens with ADHD are at higher risk of substance abuse
    2. Any behavior that is dangerous or illegal misbehavior requires swift and meaningful consequences.
    3. Spell out what those consequences are beforehand in the rules and anticipate what you will do if your tween engages in these behaviors.
    4. Be firm and be prepared to call the police if lines are crossed, such as physical violence.
Reviewed on 4/14/2022
Image Source: iStock Images