Have you ever gotten frustrated with a child that isn’t listening to you, or perhaps you think is ignoring you? What typically happens is that we begin to escalate our voice, or express anger with the child.
ADHD children, especially, demonstrate the appearance of not listening. It is important to understand that the ADHD brain is a very busy brain, generating all kinds of internal distractions and easily prone to external distractions. All of these distractors have an equal share of a child’s attention, meaning, a child cannot prioritize which one to pay attention to at any given time. An adult voice is simply another cog in the cognitive chaos.
When we continually accuse the ADHD child of not listening or ignoring us, not only are we confusing them with our anger, but the words that our anger produces will have a lasting impact on their self-esteem. Here are a few strategies to support a child in their ability to listen to and process what we are asking of them:
Never address an ADHD child from across the room, or from another room. Your words will be lost in the space between you and the child. Go to the child and close the space.
Actively ask for the child’s brain. Say something such as, “I need your brain on me, or my words, right now. I have something important to tell you.” You will see the child’s eyes and ears turn to you, and you now have an available brain.
Give one direction at a time with as few words as needed. “Switching to math, now.” “Brush teeth next,” etc.
Have the child repeat the direction back to you to make sure that it was processed correctly.
Another tip involves remembering the tendril theory when an ADHD child is hyperfocused on an activity or task. I use words such as, “it’s time to start thinking about pulling those brain tendrils or roots out of the Legos or that awesome creation you are working on. You can *freeze* what you are doing and go right back to it after you are done with ______.”
Sure, all kids are able to actively choose to not listen to or ignore us, particularly when they don’t like what we are saying. Using these strategies will help you decipher if it is a situation where a child won’t listen (consequences then apply), or more likely, can’t listen and needs support.
Leave a Reply