A friend of mine has been going through the very lengthy and detailed process of testing her son for Attention Deficit Disorder. As I listened to her explain the symptoms, many sounded like my daughter. One expert describes this kind of brain as choosing what is most interesting instead of what’s most important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent my daughter to turn off her light or grab a jacket, only to find her reading a book in the hallway because she forgot what I’d asked her to do. Her last report card read something like, “Amazing writer but practice actually turning in the work so that you can get credit!”

So I looked for information regarding the disorder and found that (while I don’t think my daughter has ADD) many of the suggestions for dealing with the difficulties stemming from it would benefit any child, especially one with focus troubles. Parents can apply a few basic strategies to help those tense times when daily life becomes a battleground.

Put It All Out There

Lay out your expectations before your enter a situation. Plan ahead by figuring out what might happen and try to avoid it. This includes telling your kids what will happen if they don’t do something … or if they do. I face this every time we go shopping for a birthday present for a friend. We head into the toy aisle and suddenly both kids have to have everything in sight. Next time, I will explain beforehand that they cannot ask for any toys. If they are able to manage that, we will have more time to play at home. If they start asking for all the aisle’s contents, next time they won’t be coming with me.

Develop A Routine

Predictability is a friend to kids. Give them steps to take for daily activities and organization. Setting aside a specific homework hour helps them expect what’s coming and come to terms with it. Pay attention to their best times of day, then do the most difficult tasks first.

Use Cues

Certain things can prompt the brain to respond. You can use auditory clues like a timer or a whistle to finish or start tasks or a certain song for an activity. Visual cues like lists to check off or color coded words, folders, or other things prompt them.

Deliver Instructions Clearly

First get your children’s attention on you, then instruct them using a command versus a request. This means phrasing it as “Please take out the trash” rather than “Why don’t you take out the trash?” Keep things simple with only a few items, specific language, and brief.

Keep an Eye Out for The Good Stuff

It can be easy in our fast paced world to miss when our kids are doing well but they shouldn’t receive only negative feedback. Try to remember that they’re doing the best they can as well.

Diagnosing a child with a disorder can be complex and problematic, but certain realities are universal. We can learn from the research and give any kid a boost in their difficulties.