How to Build Self-Esteem in a Child with ADHD

ADHD often goes hand in hand with low self-esteem and depression. These negative emotions can start at a very young age. It may stem from feeling different from their peers, the inability to get the same results as others, and/or receiving extra criticism. As parents, it’s important to instill confidence in your ADHD child early on. Taking this extra effort is well worth your time and energy. If not, there can be serious consequences in the future.

Here are a few tips to help build the self-esteem in a child with ADHD:

·Positive reinforcement. In the past, I spoke about the benefits of positive reinforcement when it comes to autistic children, but the same principles apply to children with ADHD. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on the positive. Look for the good behavior and the good qualities that they are exhibiting and be quick to commend them. When giving commendation, be specific. Explain what they did that you liked and why you liked it. The goal is to help them to make the connection that their good behavior equals positive reinforcement.

·Encourage their strengths. What is your child good at? Are they artistic? Musical? Athletic? Take note of what they excel at and encourage them to pursue those strengths. When they are feeling down about not excelling in an area, remind them that every person has strengths and weaknesses, and then remind them of their “special” skills or strengths. Get their teacher involved in this. They can exert a powerful influence for the good over your child.

·Use rewards. Rewards can be a tool that you can use to help your child build confidence. The reward does not need to be something grand, but it should be something that is meaningful to the child. Explain how they can earn the reward. Then make it “visual” by perhaps putting together a chart that tracks their progress and then posting it in their room or on the refrigerator. They will be able to see their progress. Plus it helps them to set goals and see that they can reach them.

·Do not compare them to others. A child is an individual and every individual is different. Comparing a child to another will simply guarantee that their confidence and self-esteem will drop. Avoid making careless comparisons. Instill in your child your love for them and tell them what makes them special to you.

·Therapy. Therapy can help a child feel better about themselves. A therapist can help a child to recognize that their disorder does not reflect who they really are. Over time the therapist can help children with ADHD identify and build on their strengths as well as help parents to learn how to do this more effectively.

Continue to encourage your child. Express your love for them. It may not always be easy to raise a child with ADHD, but by applying these few suggestions, your child will be more equipped to handle their future with confidence.


For more information, visit Parenting a Child with ADD/ADHD. If you live in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington to set up an appointment for Adult or Child ADHD counseling, contact my office.

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