Reinforcing positive behaviour

Managing behaviours

Reinforcing positive behaviour

This section helps parents, carers and teachers to:

  • Identify opportunities during the day to give a child with ADHD praise for wanted, positive behaviours
  • Focus on the positive when managing behaviour and discipline.

On this page:

  1. Praising positive behaviours ↓
  2. Focusing on the positive ↓
  3. Moving from discipline to rewarding ↓

Praising positive behaviours

Praise from parents/carers and teachers can be very effective in improving the behaviour of children with ADHD, and maintaining that improvement. Children with ADHD may need more frequent and direct feedback for their actions and behaviour compared to other children.

Taking every opportunity to let the child know exactly what is positive and why can be very beneficial. This cartoon gives some examples of opportunities to praise and support good behaviour.

Opportunities to praise

A cartoon strip that gives some examples of opportunities to praise and support good behaviour


Consistent and regular praise is important to keep reinforcing positive behaviour in children with ADHD. A typical day may present many opportunities to praise positive behaviour and praise the child.

Typical daily opportunities to praise, children with ADHD

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Focusing on the positive

It is also important to focus on encouraging positive behaviour both at home and at school. For example, the child may pick up mixed messages if they receive lots of praise at home, but feel undermined when at school.

As parents and carers it can therefore help to:

  • Show the child that you care about what they do at school
  • Praise them for their school work.

You can print out this reward chart, or draw one like it. It can help the child to build towards a reward by recording positive comments from home and school. Once all the steps on both parts are complete, the child has earned their reward.

Reward wall

A printable reward chart to help a child build towards a reward by recording positive comments from home and school


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Moving from discipline to rewarding

Think about discipline not as a method of punishing a child for bad behaviour, but as a behavioural therapy technique to encourage good behaviour.

Here are a number of ways to move from punishing bad behaviour to encouraging good behaviour:

Punishing bad behaviour Encouraging good behaviour
  • 'Punish' unwanted behaviour
  • Reward wanted behaviour - notice them doing something right
  • Follow through on specific consequences promised for unwanted behaviour
  • Follow through on specific rewards for wanted behaviour
  • Take privileges away, for example computer time
  • Explain how the child can earn 'privileges'
  • Introduce restrictions on break time play, for example standing by fence for part of break
  • Ease off on restrictions when the child's behaviour improves
  • Use 'time-out' for child to think about what they have done
  • Focus on what they will do differently next time

This cartoon gives some examples of ways to manage behaviour day to day.

Managing behaviour day to day

A cartoon strip that gives some examples of ways to manage behaviour day-to-day

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Coghill D, et al. Child Adol Psychiatry Mental Health 2008;2(1):31.

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Handelman K. Attention Difference Disorder (2011). New York, US: Morgan James Publishing.

Laver-Bradbury C, et al. Step by step help for children with ADHD (2010).Philadephia, US: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

O’Regan F. How to teach and manage children with ADHD (2010). Nottingham, UK: LDA.

Pfiffner LJ. All about ADHD (2011). London, UK: Scholastic.

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These materials have been produced with practical advice and guidance provided by the expert European ADHD Awareness Taskforce.