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How can I know what motivates my child with ADHD to act inappropriately?

By asking the questions suggested below, clues may be revealed about which motivator is responsible for a specific inappropriate behavior in your child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The need for attention:
  • Does the behavior most often occur in a group of people when you are giving more attention to others than the child?
  • Does the behavior intensify if the behavior does not immediately lead to gaining more attention from you?
  • Is the behavior effective in redirecting your attention to the child and away from others?
  • Does the behavior stop after the child gains your attention but restarts if you suddenly withdraw your attention?
  • Does the behavior suddenly occur in the presence of a sibling(s) (particularly a younger sib) or peer(s)?
The need to gain an object or activity:
  • Does the behavior lead to the child gaining a valued activity or object?
  • Does the behavior usually occur after you have told the child that he cannot have or do something?
  • Does the behavior abruptly stop after you have allowed the child to have or do something?
  • Does the behavior begin soon after you have permitted another child to have or do something that is of high value to the other child?
  • Does the behavior provide the child with objects or activities that usually are not permitted through other means?
The need to avoid an unpleasant task:
  • Does the behavior occur after you have told the child to do something that is either difficult or unpleasant?
  • Does the behavior become so unpleasant that you withdraw or fail to enforce your demand to the child?
  • Does the behavior discontinue when you do withdraw your demand?
  • Does the behavior (such as a physical complaint) provide the child with a seemingly legitimate reason for not having to perform the unpleasant act?
  • Does the behavior stop soon after the child has complied with the demand?
Carefully inspect the questions suggested above. If you answer "yes" to more questions within one category than within the other categories, then that is likely the underlying motivator.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.