The parenting style that could help ‘prevent ADHD symptoms from increasing’ in your kid, according to a new study

One study has suggested that tweaking your parenting style may prevent ADHD symptoms from increasing

Cute daughter hugging african american mother and smiling together
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If you've got a little one who's full of energy and excitement, tweaking your parenting style may prevent symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) down the road. 

Signs of ADHD include not being able to sit still, taking risks, difficulty following instructions and inability to finish an activity, so if you can spot some – or all – of these symptoms in your child, new research suggests that different parenting styles can make a difference to the symptoms. 

Now, we want to be clear – having ADHD is by no means a negative thing. In fact, some of the most incredible minds have claimed their diagnosis has been a superpower, such as Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Paris Hilton, Justin Timberlake, Candice Brown and Barbie’s Greta Gerwig. 

But back to the study. Researchers at the University of Waterloo found that how you raise your kid, their natural temperament and how their brain works all play into whether they might develop ADHD symptoms later on. Essentially, being excitable when they're younger, combined with the way they're brought up, could set the stage for the condition.

Dr Heather Henderson, a professor who took part in the research, is all about understanding how kids grow up. She explained it like this: “Parents can make a big difference by being more hands-on and guiding their kid through new stuff with words and actions.”

Uncle chasing the children in the garden during outdoors playtime

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Having a lively, energetic child is great, but it turns out they might struggle with things like controlling themselves and thinking flexibly. Following around 291 children from when they were babies up until they hit their teenage years, the researchers saw that a kid's personality – and how parents interact with them – can really shape how their brain develops.

They found that if your child starts off as high-spirited, they don't have the best executive functioning skills (like remembering information or being flexible), and you're not super hands-on with parenting, their ADHD symptoms could increase as they grow older.

Aura De Los Santos, a clinical psychologist and educational psychologist, agrees with the study's findings, and says that children learn to regulate their temperament and follow guidelines better through instruction.

She said: “Children need guidance and instruction to learn how to manage themselves, which helps them learn about self-regulation. It's important to remember that as children grow up, they understand the world around them, but in this process, teaching is fundamental for them to learn how to react and handle themselves according to the situation.

"The interaction between parents and children is essential for children to learn to adapt to different environments, to understand the world around them, to better manage their temperament, which influences the reduction of ADHD symptoms.

"I believe that many times parents underestimate the early interactions with their children, where they believe that they still cannot express themselves well or that they do not understand some things, when in fact children from an early age are absorbing many things from their environment and being guided from the beginning can help them to regulate and manage themselves.”

"More directive parenting, which is not controlling but guides the child with verbal and physical cues, can help develop the child's self-regulatory skills and prevent their ADHD symptoms from increasing"

Dr Heather Henderson

Dr Henderson says symptoms of ADHD typically stabilise from ages five to nine and decrease from ages nine to 15, "but for predictable cases of very young children with exuberant temperament and less directive parenting, that stabilisation may not occur.

"More directive parenting, which is not controlling but guides the child with verbal and physical cues, can help develop the child's self-regulatory skills and prevent their ADHD symptoms from increasing."

So, by being a bit more hands-on, but not overbearing, you can help your kid learn to regulate themselves and reduce the chances of the onset of ADHD.

In other family news, here's how to best support a child with ‘explosive’ emotions if you have a deeply feeling kid and mothers are less likely to struggle with their mental health if their kids’ grandparents live close by, new study reveals.

Daniella Gray
Family News & Wellbeing Writer

From building healthy family relationships to self-care tips for mums and parenting trends - Daniella also covers postnatal workouts and exercises for kids. After gaining a Print Journalism BA Hons degree and NCTJ Diploma in Journalism at Nottingham Trent University, Daniella started writing for Health & Wellbeing and co-hosted the Walk to Wellbeing podcast. She has also written for Stylist, Natural Health, The Sun UK and Fit & Well. In her free time, Daniella loves to travel, try out new fitness classes and cook for family and friends.