AN ADDITUDE READER wrote: “My 15-year-old aughter is just getting
by in school—mostly C’s and a D
or two. She is demoralized, and
doesn’t think she can do better,
because she has gotten C’s since
elementary school. However,
she has done well at lacrosse.
She is one of the top players on
the high school team. I would
love for her to transfer some of
her confidence from the playing
field to the classroom. How can
I help her use her experience
with lacrosse to build confi-
dence in academics?”
I’ve always been inspired by
the words of Henry Ford:
“Whether you think you can, or
you think you can’t—you’re
right.” Your daughter doesn’t
think she can do better, which results
in her not doing better. A positive
attitude is key for an ADHDer to
achieve her goals. The right attitude
will move her from a cycle of failure to
a cycle of success.
Playing lacrosse, your daughter is on
a cycle of success. A successful season
doesn’t happen without planning and
effort: The coach sets goals for the
team, your daughter and her teammates practice the skills needed to
achieve the goals, and the team puts
out lots of effort on the field. Your
daughter believes that her coach’s
goals are achievable, and that she has
the skills she needs to play well. On
game day—even against a tough
opponent—she believes that her team
can win, and continues to push if her
team falls behind. The victory is sweet
when it is achieved.
Being confident and hopeful about
winning enables her to work toward
the goals she sets for herself, even if
she has a bad day here or there. When
she does well on the field, she feels
great. The praise and rewards she gets
help her to be hopeful about reaching
her next milestone successfully.
In school, your daughter is caught
up in a cycle of failure. She doesn’t see
the possibility of success, so she feels
hopeless. Her motivation to work is
low, and she is likely to give up when a
Moving Forward from Here
If your daughter doesn’t believe she can
succeed, her ability to focus worsens.
She can’t prioritize and stick with one
task. For those diagnosed with ADHD,
focusing doesn’t happen automatically.
Many problems, such as poor sleep or
anxiety, worsen focus. But there is a
way to find focus and accomplish a goal.
What I call S.M.A.R. T. goal setting is
the key to moving from the cycle of
“I Think I Can, I Think I Can”
How to turn your child into a champ in the classroom.
BY SARAH CHEYETTE, M.D.
blue. The causes of bad behavior are
difficult to detect in children who are
U Never Miss a Chance to
Catch Your Child Being Good
Create a positive environment for your
child by decreasing reprimands and
reminders and increasing praise and
reinforcement. It may not seem right
to say “great job” for doing something
that you are supposed to do, but
finding things to praise throughout the
day sets a positive tone. The more that
good behavior is reinforced, the more
likely it will be repeated and maintained over time.
I Get Measuring
Probably the least favorite task of
busy families is to chart a child’s
behavior daily, but it is important.
Keep track of the frequency or duration
of behaviors that you want to change,
the better behaviors that you want, the
strategies that you have tried, effects
of medication changes, and how the
changes affected his behaviors. Making
a record will let you see if the plan is
working or not.
We know that active engagement
improves behaviors in children with
and without disabilities. Does this
mean that you have to spend the day
creating fun for your child? No.
However, teaching kids how to manage
“down time,” is critical, since problem
behaviors are likely to occur then.
Expanding the menu of activities for
down time will reinforce positive
behaviors. Some possibilities include
building with blocks, looking at books,
playing on an iPad, completing
puzzles, or even watching TV. A
CHRIS TINE O’ROURKE-LANG, PH. D., is a
board-certified behavior analyst who specializes
in working with children with ADHD and autism