Kids Want Rules, Boundaries—Especially Kids with ADHD

What to expect when you're not expecting ADHD

“We have a human need to have clearly defined expectations, and kids aren’t immune to that, especially kids with ADHD,” writes Penny Williams, in this brief excerpt (below) of her new book: What To Expect When You’re Not Expecting ADHD.  As with most good ADHD-centered advice, this can work well for adults with ADHD, too.

Define Expectations

By Penny Williams

Kids want rules. As much as they contest it, it’s true: they crave rules. They want to know where their boundaries are, whether they realize it consciously or not. They need to see these barrier lines both to stay within them to do the right thing and please us, and to push them and overstep them when they feel like getting in trouble garnering (negative) attention or making a statement.

We have a human need to have clearly defined expectations, and kids aren’t immune to that, especially kids with ADHD.

A simple system of routine checklists (as discussed in the book’s Step 3: Create Structure) often works because the checklists provide kids with consistent and clearly-defined expectations — they know undoubtedly when they’ll be rewarded and when they’ll be punished.

The structure of defining expectations removes anxiety and provides room for calm as well.

Imagine you are given a verbal command to stay within “your area.” If there’s a chalk outline on the floor around you, you feel pretty good that you can stay within that area — you know where the boundaries are, and you are comfortable with the task.

The structure of defining expectations

removes anxiety and

provides room for calm.

But if you are asked to stay within “your area” and there are no visible boundaries, nor instructions to define the boundaries of “your area,” you are likely to feel anxious about being able to comply with this task. You will be uncomfortable not knowing if you are successfully working toward your goal.

The power of clearly defined expectations is noticeably logical.

Of course, adding a reward at the end further encourages successful completion of the task.

Err on the side of defining too much rather than too little, and you will see the benefits of clearly-defined expectations in your family, too.

About Penny Williams:

wte_homeImageA self-described “veteran” parent of a son with ADHD, Penny Williams wrote a previous book about “ADHD parenthood in the trenches”, Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD. She is a frequent magazine contributor on parenting a child with ADHD, and co-founder of the annual Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, a weekend away for moms of kids with neurobehavioral disorders. Her blog: http://pennywilliamsauthor.com/blog/  Her website: http://parentingadhdchdren.com

2 thoughts on “Kids Want Rules, Boundaries—Especially Kids with ADHD”

    1. Thanks, Kris. Glad you like it.

      Reminds me of one of my favorite sayings, “Give ’em and inch, and they think they’re a ruler.” 🙂

      best,
      g

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