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Is it really that bad to spank your ADHD child? Well…
When my son was 3 years old, he started to really get unruly. And I don’t mean in the sense of a typical three-year-old. I mean screaming, raging fits that felt like little bombs of anger throughout the day. I was at a loss. I was a single mom living on my own and also caring for my one-year-old. Many of my other mom friends were just insistent that I needed to “discipline him better”, and these outbursts wouldn’t happen.
Oh how wrong they were. Sure, disciplining him is helpful. Now that he is 10 years old, he is a fairly well rounded child and those raging and screaming fits that come with ADHD are much fewer and further between. But I’ll never forget the lengths I went in an attempt to get him to stop his behavior.
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I spanked my ADHD child. And I’m not proud of it.
Granted, I only did this perhaps a handful of times before I realized it definitely didn’t work for him. In fact, the spanks came at bedtime when he would push my buttons to the max and would work the opposite way I intended. I’d spank him and he would turn over in his playful manner and say “that didn’t even hurt momma! try again!”
Ugh. I would lose my cool!
Finally, we came out of that mess. I definitely stopped spanking and instead tried a few other much more effective parenting techniques for ADHD kids.
The discipline method that seemed to have the best effect on his behavior at bedtime was being a broken record.
My oh my how much work that took, but it would eventually work.
“No, J, back to bed.”
“No, J, back to bed.”
“No, J. It’s bedtime, back to bed.”
This, coupled with supervision over him, repeatedly instructing him to close his eyes. Eventually, “bedtime” and its ritual sank in. But it wasn’t without a fight.
Looking back, I’m sure there are many things I could’ve done before losing my cool.
First off, you should know, that research has shown spanking is genuinely an ineffective approach to disciplining a child. It fosters a “violence is ok” understanding. Plus, it doesn’t actually teach the behavior you are wanting them to display. Spanking definitely never made J immediately tired and wanting to go to
But I digress, he was my first ADHD child. I made many mistakes.
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So what can you do when you are tempted to spank your ADHD child?
1st. You can most certainly walk away from your ADHD child.
They may follow you, but practicing active ignoring might be your saving grace. Sure, you would like for them to stay seated at the table to finish their food and getting up from the table seems counterintuitive. But I know how hard these children can push buttons. Give yourself grace and walk away. If your child follows, tell them “Leave Mommy alone for a minute.” If you are sure your child is safe from harm, I have even closed the bathroom door for 30 seconds and taken quite a few deep breaths.
2nd. Use the power of Distraction with your ADHD child.
If you haven’t begun being a broken record and can feel your own emotions escalating; offer to read them a book. Do something that might give them the attention they are so desperately seeking and might also give you 10 minutes to distract. I know to follow through is essential once you’ve made a demand, but ADHD kids are so all-over-the-place that a distraction is momentarily then coming back to the desired task might just be your saving grace.
3rd. Tap out.
As a single parent, I didn’t have a spouse to fall back on. But if you do, tap out. Have a code word that tells your spouse you are losing your patience and you need them to take over. If your spouse is the more short-tempered one, be sure you are on the same page in the desired discipline strategy. But don’t be afraid to say “I can’t do this right now, I’m losing it.” and ask for help. If you are a single parent, I was living very close to my own parents at the time and it wasn’t uncalled for if I called my mother to come over and give me a 15-30 minute break for my sanity.
ADHD disciplining is not for the faint of heart or for the short-tempered.
It requires so much patience. It’s even a little frightening when we realize that if we were the hereditary parent that passed the gene on, we might not have all the patience required for dealing with it.
Take a deep breath and remind yourself that with parenting any child, most things are a phase. They either get better with time, or they change with time and require a new version of you. But in general, with consistency, understanding, and grace with yourself and your child you will find a way to manage these outbursts without spanking your ADHD child.
Before you get there, your child’s going to ask the most from your patience. Be prepared, and you’ll be better for it.