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Teenagers & ADD/ADHD


by Chris A. Zeigler Dendy, M.S.

This summary of guiding principles for interacting with teenagers is from Chapter 5 of my book, Teenagers with ADD (1995). Hopefully, these tips will help improve communications within the family plus interactions around specific issues such as chores and homework. These issues are discussed in detail in Chapter 5 (Chapter 7 in the new edition to be released in 2005). In addition several of these topics such as shaping and defusing angry situations are discussed in Teaching Teens with ADD and ADHD.

ADDA-SR (Attention Deficit Disorder Association-Southern Region, Houston, Texas) asked if they could reprint this article on their webpage ( As a result, this document was singled out for recognition in the book, 300 Incredible Thing to Learn on the Internet.

1. Give unconditional positive regard

1.1 Reframe your perception of AD/HD
1.2 Keep a disability perspective
1.3 Enjoy your teenager
1.4 Nurture with touch

2. Treat your teenager as an equal partner

2.1 Give choices
2.2 Set reasonable expectations
2.3 Negotiate/consider compromise
2.4 Depersonalize problems
2.5 Assume good intentions
3. Maintain good communications

3.1 Listen when your teenager talks
3.2 Listen without being judgmental
3.3 Use active listening
3.4 Give "I" messages
3.5 Smooth ruffled feathers
3.6 Encourage expression of feelings
3.7 Teach by example
3.8 Avoid subconscious negative messages

4. Provide structure and supervision; be a coach

4.1 Establish a daily routine
4.2 Develop rules and consequences
4.3 Develop a contract
4.4 Schedule chores
4.5 Give advance notice and time frames
4.6 Set limits and state expectations
4.7 Provide developmentally appropriate supervision
4.8 Encourage to do as much for himself as possible

5. Look for the good; be positive

5.1 Provide feedback immediately
5.2 Provide feedback more often
5.3 Provide positive feedback before negatives
5.4 Use strong, meaningful rewards and consequences
5.5 Use behavioural charts
5.6 Be as consistent as possible
5.7 Increase positive interactions
5.8 Try grandma's rule/first we work and then we play
5.9 Start at your teenager's present level
5.10 Identify antecedent behaviour
5.11 Change the environment

6. Help build self-esteem

6.1 Build on your teenager's strengths
6.2 List strengths
6.3 Encourage pursuit of interests
6.4 Select sorts carefully
6.5 Provide support in religious environments
6.6 Match with good coaches or leaders
6.7 Make the school environment more positive
7. Teach new skills

7.1 Teach problems solving
7.2 Teach time management
7.3 Teach techniques for dealing with anger
7.4 Teach how to do job properly

8. Avoid negatives

8.1 Ignore minor misbehaviour
8.2 Avoid character assassination; talk about behaviour not the person
8.3 Avoid power struggles
8.4 Avoid badgering
8.5 Avoid nagging, lecturing, and arguing
8.6 Redirect interests; avoid saying no directly
8.7 Use their forgetfulness
9. Punish wisely

9.1 Use logical consequences
9.2 Impose consequences consistently and immediately
9.3 Use brief and reasonable consequences
9.4 Continue some consequences without escalating harshness
10. Weather each crisis as it occurs

10.1 Manage your frustration and anger
10.2 State facts and consequences
10.3 Don't say things you'll regret later
10.4 When frustration builds, take a break
10.5 If the teenager blows up, stay calm, lower your voice
11. Nurture yourself

11.1 Talk with your spouse or a friend
11.2 Seek professional help
11.3 Practice forgiveness

Part of this is from the books by Chris A. Zeigler Dendy Teenagers with ADD and Teaching Teens with ADD and ADHD click here to visit his site 2004

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