Coaching, For Parents of ADHD Children

The use of Parent Coaching Cards in ADD/ADHD Treatment.  Help your children learn social skills and self control. Conference Transcript.

Dr. Steve Richfield - Coaching, For Parents of ADHD Children

Dr. Richfield is a child psychologist the creator of The Parent Coaching Cards. These cards help to develop frustration tolerance and other self control skills in ADD/ADHD children, as well as helping children learn to analyze situations, adapt to them, and restrain themselves rather than acting on impulse.

David: is the moderator.

The people in blue are audience members.

Conference Transcript

David: Good Evening. I'm David Roberts. I'm the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to I'm glad you had the opportunity to join us and I hope your day went well. Our topic tonight is "Coaching, For Parents of ADD/ADHD Children." Our guest is Dr. Steven Richfield. If you want to know what "coaching" is all about before we get into the conference, please click on this link.

Our guest tonight is psychologist and developer of The Parent Coaching Cards, Dr. Steven Richfield. Dr. Richfield is a child psychologist, parent/teacher trainer, and has been working in the mental health field since 1980. He is based in Pennsylvania and specializes in the treatment of disruptive behavior disorders and sees families with children diagnosed as having ADD/ADHD, behaviors that are difficult for both child and parent to manage.

Good evening, Dr. Richfield and welcome to I know that everyone here tonight hasn't had a chance to read your article on what a parent coach is. So, can you briefly explain that concept?

Dr. Richfield: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here. Parent coaching is a prescriptive type of parenting involving tools and goals to help children develop social and emotional skills.

David: What kind of tools and goals are we talking about?

Dr. Richfield: The tools range from Parent Coaching Cards to other concrete strategies developed by parents and children in a partnership.

David: So when you say the word "coaching" are you really referring to "tutoring" in the sense of teaching your child how to deal with various situations that may arise?

Dr. Richfield: Many skills such as frustration tolerance and other self control skills can be coached. The Coaching Cards offer an on-site tutoring forum. Parents can access the lessons right on the spot or prepare their kids for future challenges

David: For instance, what kinds of situations or behaviors is coaching good for?

Dr. Richfield: Let's say a child frequently clowns when in large gatherings - parents can explain how this leads to negative social evaluations. They can use the Coaching Card "Quit The Clowning" to prepare a kid for an event.

David: What age group are these cards good for? And at what age can you begin coaching your ADD child?

Dr. Richfield: Classroom environments, family gatherings, and recess are all coachable places. The Cards target ages 7 - 12 but are used with younger and older kids. Coaching can begin very early - in the preschool years.

David: And specifically, how is coaching effective in working with ADD-ADHD children?

Dr. Richfield: When your kids are younger they require a more personalized approach and parents need to be especially sensitive to their personalities. ADHD kids often do not access internal language - coaching gives them a roadmap to do so. By preparing them for challenges, rehearsing thinking side solutions, you carve out a path of adaptation. One very critical component is the "talk to yourself" message.

David: In other words, what you are saying is you simply analyze the behavior or emotional situation the child is or maybe facing (sort of like role playing) and work though that together. So if the situation arises again, the child will be better able to handle it.

Dr. Richfield: This refers to the content of thought that we are coaching in our ADHD kids that replaces the impulse discharge that so often characterizes their response to a stimulus. Yes, the analysis is compared to a video tape that is rewound and stopped at different points for review. This way the parent and child can revise the child's responses the next time the same plot unfolds.

David: On your site, you say "although there are many social and emotional lessons for children to learn, the Parent Coach accepts the fact that they have much to learn as well. Children will be far more receptive to a parent's attempts to coach life skills if they don't feel talked down to, but sense that they and their parent are 'in this coaching thing together.'" Does this put the parent more in the role of a "friend" to the child vs. being a parent?

Dr. Richfield: Also, the child uses the Coaching Cards in a preparatory way - as does the parent - so there is a partnership. The Parent Coach is all of these - coach, authority, friend, confidante - all wrapped up into one.

David: Dr. Richfield's site is here:

I'm wondering, Dr. Richfield, is it the "coach, authority figure, friend, and confidante" role that makes it difficult for the ADD child to figure out what the "parent" role is? Can it be confusing for him/her?

Dr. Richfield: It depends on the child. In order to minimize confusion, the parent is wise to first examine the Coaching Cards and see how they apply to the adult world so that the child understands that learning self control and social skills is a life skill. Coaching comes in when a situation arises that displays a gap between what the environment is asking and what skills the child may lack. Some kids prefer to use the cards without parental help while others will only get comfortable with them by themselves.

David: A couple of audience questions I'm getting center around this: Why is it more difficult for an ADD child to develop social and emotional skills?

Dr. Richfield: ADD kids are not very good at observational learning - a key component in social skills. Also, their threshold to restrain themselves is lower than the average child. This leads to self control problems. Coaching makes all of this clear and understandable so that they learn how to increase the powers of the thinking side over the reacting side.

David: Here's an audience question:

Pepper48: Does the lack of skills become a fear instilled in these children?

Dr. Richfield: Good question. Yes, many do recoil from social encounters because they fear rejection and have learned to prefer the company of their video games or other solitary pursuits.

David: What is the key component(s) of being able to help your child deal better or more effectively with social and behavioral issues?

Dr. Richfield: A warm, loving, and goal-oriented relationship that stresses safety, open communication, and clear tools for adaptation. The parent coach must stress that they are on the same side as the child. Too often the child feels like the parent is an adversary - an unfortunate residual effect of family conflict.

David: Here's an audience comment about observational learning:

zenith: I could only learn by observational learning since I couldn't concentrate enough to read or do something else.

Dr. Richfield: I think I understand your point. When a person observes they also must reflect upon those observations and compare them to previous learning and decide what strategies to keep and which to let go of, so observation is only the first step. There is much more cognitive process that goes into the growth of social skills.

David: Sometimes it can be very frustrating for a parent to deal with their ADHD child. Do you think that's what causes the adversarial role?

Dr. Richfield: Yes, I do. They test our patience; they make it hard for us to find our coaching voice, but there is a helplessness that they are trying to compensate for in the conflict they create. I often ask parents to ask themselves "What is the coaching response" when conflict emerges.

Help 1: Does an ADHD child usually show violence to others?

Dr. Richfield: No - not in my experience - this is an exception, but impulsivity can lead others to fear violence.

David: A couple of site notes, then we'll continue. Here's the link to the ADHD Community. You can click on this link and sign up for the mail list at the top of the page.

We have several excellent sites that deal with many aspects of Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Judy Bonnell's "Parent Advocate" site is here and "ADD Focus" is here. There are other sites too.

Dr. Richfield, would you say that repetition works well with ADHD kids?

Dr. Richfield: Impulsivity is the fuel that runs the ADHD child - and it can be confusing to teachers, parents, and friends. Parents can help their kids understand how their energy needs a discharge path and offer alternate outlets. Repetition can be very helpful because it provides a structured pattern for the child to turn to when certain feeling states are triggered.

David: When you say "alternate outlets" for the child's energy, what are you referring to?

Dr. Richfield: I recommend "walking paths" in classrooms and homes wherein the child can freely discharge their energy without feedback from adults.

Pepper48: How do you get them past the point of fear and that is after high school?

Dr. Richfield: The fear can be overwhelming but with our support they can take small steps. We need to recognize that these steps may start as symbolic ones and proceed slowly. Perhaps you have an example to offer?

David: One of the things I think you are saying is that the role of the parent coach is to help bolster the child's self-esteem and sense of being able to accomplish things on her own. Am I correct in that?

Dr. Richfield: After high school the world can appear as an even more confusing place, and yes, we are striving for that result. It comes from taking steps in their life journey, whether it be making a call on their own or applying for a job. Remember that the small social interactions often do not come naturally. These more invisible rules of the social world need to be revealed.

David: Besides the social and behavioral issues, how can we help our ADD children do better in school. Concentration seems to be a tough issue to deal with?

Dr. Richfield: Some interventions offer on-site reminders, such as the "Stay Tuned In" Coaching Card, while others involve the teacher providing feedback for attending to tasks. We can use stopwatches at home to help extend attention processes and challenge them to beat their records.

David: That's a good idea. I had not heard of that one before.

Dr. Richfield: I work with a lot of kids who enjoy competition, so I try to mobilize that healthy character trait in motivating them to control their ADD. This can be done in school as well. Remember that coaching doesn't always involve the Coaching Cards.

David: Do you think home schooling is a better way for these children to learn?

Dr. Richfield: Again, it depends on the child. I have not worked with many children who have been home schooled so I don't have much knowledge of the benefits and drawbacks.

David: I asked that question because I was wondering if the school environment (lots of kids and things going on) would be too disruptive for some kids - that maybe it would trigger impulsive behaviors.

Dr. Richfield: Yes, definitely. Large groups of children act as triggering stimuli and can undermine learning. I do know that many home schooling parents have e-mailed me about their successes with their ADD kids. They have also told me that they use the Coaching Cards as guidance curriculum.

David: Here's an audience comment:

Pepper48: My son does better in a one on one or by himself situation - less distractions.

Dr. Richfield: Yes, that is very consistent with the experience of most ADD children. The less potential disruptions the greater the on-task behavior. Perhaps you could make him aware of this and help him narrow his focus when with large groups.

David: Here's a question from someone who is interested in helping them-self.

ciceromae: I am 22 years of age, have ADD, and was doing pretty good in school until I started university. I have started the first semester about 4 times and still cannot do it well. Is there anyway I can help myself with this? I am from Mexico.

Dr. Richfield: First, examine where you are getting off track and develop a strategy to effectively manage the environmental or internal barriers. Many false starts in college are due to poor organization, insufficient willpower, and environmental distractions.

David: One final question for tonight: Is parent coaching a substitute for therapy for the child with attention deficit disorder?

Dr. Richfield: No, definitely not, but it can maximize therapeutic gains and diminish the length of therapy.

David: Thank you, Dr. Richfield for being our guest tonight and for sharing this information with us. And to those in the audience, thank you for coming and participating.

Dr. Richfield: It was a pleasure to be here

David: Good night, everyone.

Disclaimer: We are not recommending or endorsing any of the suggestions of our guest. In fact, we strongly encourage you to talk over any therapies, remedies or suggestions with your doctor BEFORE you implement them or make any changes in your treatment.

We hold frequent topical mental health chat conferences. The schedule, and transcripts from previous chats, are here.


APA Reference
Gluck, S. (2007, June 5). Coaching, For Parents of ADHD Children, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Last Updated: May 6, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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