In the last section, we discussed marital therapy for the parents of a child with ADHD. The four steps of marital therapy are evaluation, cognitive therapy, negotiation training, and getting it together.
In this section, we will discuss Five Tactics for Start Behavior. Start Behavior is the behavior you would like the child with ADHD to exhibit when starting an activity, for example walking over to hang up their coat.
Understanding the Five Tactics for Start Behavior
The Five Tactics for Start Behavior are Sloppy Positive Verbal Feedback, Kitchen Timers, the Docking System, Natural Consequences, and Charting. Sound interesting? Let’s look at how the Five Tactics for Start Behavior helped Courtney and her mother, Agatha.
Courtney, age 8, was diagnosed with ADHD. Unlike typical children with ADHD, Anne did not exhibit disruptive behavioral problems like talking out of turn or fighting with other kids. However, Agatha, was concerned because Courtney did not do what Agatha wanted her to do, like homework or chores. Courtney would also simply take too long doing certain things, like getting ready for school in the morning.
Agatha stated, "All the advice I get on dealing with ADHD kids is how to get them to stop doing something – getting in fights, being rowdy, that kind of stuff. But I just want to get my kid to start doing something!"
For children with ADHD who seem to be unmotivated, like Courtney, I find that any of the Five Tactics for Start Behavior can help motivate them. Listen as I explain how the Five Tactics for Start Behavior helped Courtney. Are any of these basic tactics that you may have missed in working with a current ADHD client of yours?
♦ Tactic #1 -Sloppy Positive Verbal Feedback
For the first of the five tactics for start behavior, Sloppy Positive Verbal Feedback, I simply give praise and positive reinforcement to the ADHD child on a regular basis. I suggested to Agatha that she take notice when Courtney did something good and praise her for that action, no matter how small or simple the task may have been.
I stated, "For example, if Courtney takes her shoes off when she gets home from school and puts them away, let her know that you noticed and appreciated it." Agatha tried this tactic with Courtney following our session. After a couple of weeks, Agatha noticed some improvement. Agatha stated, "Courtney still forgets to put her coat away sometimes, and she’ll misplace her book-bag every now and then, little things like that. But none of those are daily problems like they used to be."
♦ Tactic #2 - Kitchen Timer
The second of the five tactics for start behavior is the Kitchen Timer. I suggested to Agatha that she use a kitchen timer to help motivate Courtney to do things like completing her homework or getting up in the morning. I explained, "Kids have a natural tendency to want to beat the timer’s buzz." Agatha began using the Kitchen Timer to help Courtney keep on task in the morning when she was getting ready for school.
After a few weeks, Agatha stated, "I can usually get Courtney to school in plenty of time now. And I don’t have to yell at her about hurrying up! I always hated having to yell at her in the mornings, right before school." Does the Kitchen Timer sound like something that would work for an ADHD client of yours?
♦ Tactic # 3 - The Docking System
In addition to Sloppy Positive Verbal Feedback and the Kitchen Timer, I suggested to Agatha the third tactic for start behavior, the Docking System. I asked Agatha, "Do you give Courtney an allowance?" Agatha answered that she did give Courtney a $3 allowance every week. I suggested to Agatha that the next time Courtney did not do something she was supposed to do, Agatha might do it for her.
I then added, "But charge her for it." I explained that if Courtney didn’t do a chore, like make her bed, and Agatha had to do it, Agatha might then charge her 20 cents. If it happened again that week, Agatha could charge another 20 cents. I stated, "Let the money do the talking."
Tactic #4 - Natural Consequences
Agatha worried that some of Courtney’s behaviors were things for which Agatha couldn’t use the first three tactics for start behavior of Sloppy Positive Verbal Feedback, Kitchen Timer, or Docking System. Agatha then explained to me a specific problem with Courtney’s clothing decisions. Courtney never wanted to put away her summer clothes and start wearing her winter clothes.
Agatha stated, "Right now there aren’t problems, but every year it gets to be the end of October, and one day I’ll go to take her out somewhere, like to a drive-in movie, and find she’s still wearing her favorite pair of shorts and flip flops! Then I have to go digging through her closet to find pants and appropriate shoes. It’s a nightmare getting her anywhere on time on those days!"
I explained to Agatha that this clothing dilemma may be the perfect opportunity to use the fourth of the five tactics for start behavior, Natural Consequences. I stated, "If you’re going to the drive-in, you might want to let Courtney wear the shorts and flip flops. Remind her that it will get chilly, but let her make the decision on her own. After she realizes how cold it is, she’ll probably start wearing appropriate seasonal clothing on her own."
Tactic # 5- Charting
Finally, I told Agatha about the fifth tactic for start behavior, Charting. To do Charting, I suggested to Agatha that she may want a calendar. I suggested, "Hang it on the refrigerator door or the back of Courtney’s bedroom door." I then explained that Agatha could list the days of the week across the top and list down the side the chores she expected Anne to do.
Then I explained that when Courtney had completed the tasks, Agatha could put a sticker or grade on the chart for her. Clearly, Charting works through positive reinforcement, like the first tactic of Sloppy Positive Verbal Feedback, mentioned earlier in this section.
However, the Charting tactic uses reinforcement a bit differently from the first tactic of Sloppy Positive Verbal Feedback. As you can see, instead of motivating Courtney with Agatha’s praise, in Charting, receiving a sticker or good grade might help Anne feel inherent satisfaction from doing a good job.
Do you have a client who, like Courtney, has ADHD? Or maybe your client is the parent of an ADHD child, like Agatha? Would any of the Five Tactics for Start Behavior be beneficial for them?
In this section, we have discussed the Five Tactics for Start Behavior. The Five Tactics for Start Behavior are Sloppy Positive Verbal Feedback, Kitchen Timers, the Docking System, Natural Consequences, and Charting.
In the next section, we will discuss the Five General Principles for Managing ADHD Adolescent Behavior. The Five General Principles for Managing ADHD Adolescent Behavior are State of Mind, What Type of Adolescent, Relationship with the Adolescent, Seriousness of Problem, and Realistic Expectations.
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