Managing Children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)


Individuals with ADHD show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity–impulsivity that interferes with their functioning or development. It negatively impacts many aspects of an individual’s life, often bringing about academic difficulties, social skills problems, and strained parent-child relationships. There are three presentations/types of ADHD:


  1. The inattention presentation: Children often have difficulties holding attention on tasks or play activities, do not seem to listen when spoken to directly, are forgetful and lose their belongings, avoid, dislike, or are reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time, and/or fail to pay close attention to details or make careless mistakes in schoolwork.

  2. The hyperactivity/impulsivity presentation: Children often fidget with or tap hands or feet, squirm in their seat, leave their seat in situations where remaining seated is expected, talk excessively, have trouble waiting for their own, and/or interrupt or intrude on others.

  3. The combined presentation: This is when the child has enough symptoms of both ADHD presentations – inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.


To manage a problem behavior effectively, parents and teachers have to first identify why the behavior happens so that we can propose solutions that enable us to work with the problem at its root. To do this, parents/teachers can use the Antecedent-Behavioral-Consequence (ABC) model.


A – Antecedent: Identify the events that occur prior to the problem behavior or situation and predispose the student to engage in the problem behavior. Examining these events can help explain the problem behavior.

B – Behavior: Explicitly define the problem behavior that we want to manage. Comment on the intensity, frequency, duration, location and time that the behavior occurs.

C – Consequence: What happened after the problem behavior. These consequences may be desirable (extinguishing negative behavior) or undesirable (ineffective in extinguishing negative behavior).


An example of the ABC:


A – Antecedent: Child is tired and hungry after a long day at school and was promised a snack after he showed good behavior during the day. His mother denied him the snack and said he had to have dinner first.

B – Behavior: Child had a temper tantrum, crying and rolling on the floor, demanding for the snack.

C – Consequence: Mother gave the snack to him after he had the meltdown.


After analysing the behaviour using the ABC model, we can attempt to modify the problem behaviour to improve future outcomes. In addition, we can tap on the ADHD-guided Strengths Framework to help educators and parents better link problem behaviours to ADHD characteristics in order to more suitably respond to the student/child for better outcomes.



Having listed these ADHD traits as the cause of the student’s actions, educators and parents are reminded that ADHD is involved in causing the behaviour, and that managing this student’s behaviour is not the same as managing a student without ADHD. After listing the ADHD traits that have led to this behaviour, we want to also list the student’s strengths. Knowing their strengths help educators approach the child in a way that would leverage on their strengths, rather than to keep focusing on their negative traits. 


Despite all these strategies, it can be difficult to manage these behaviors at home or in school. These 6 principles may serve to aid teachers and parents change their perspective of the child and/or enhance their current behavioral management strategies:

  • Always be ready and anticipate situations.
  • Establish clear boundaries on what is and what is not acceptable in your class or home.
  • Choose to discipline, not punish. Communicate rewards and consequences clearly.
  • Differentiate between the child and their actions (doer and deed). Casual and careless comments like “You are always so forgetful!” causes the child to think that forgetfulness characterizes them when it does not.
  • Find positivity in the situation: Affirm the value and effort of the child.
  • Give priority to your relationship with the child: show respect and establish trust; show concern for the child and speak without accusation and presumption.


Written by:
Naomi Leow & Abigail Low
Specialist Psychologists

Article published on 9 Nov 2023