Several years ago, when Hank Aaron was asked, “What would you do differently if you played baseball today?” the always-graceful home-run king (at the time) replied: “That’s easy. I’d ask for more money.”
Well, the need to be rewarded for good performance isn’t exclusive to big-time athletes. In fact, recognition for a job well done turns out to mean a whole lot more to children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder than it does to adults in any profession or to typically developing kids, say researchers at the University at Buffalo. That’s because kids with ADHD — a common childhood disorder that includes symptoms such as hyperactive behavior, difficulty staying focused and inattention — demonstrate an increased sensitivity to reward. Verbal and other rewards increase their motivation to master cognitive tasks and control their erratic behaviors, plus they help them feel more comfortable socially and emotionally.
This is welcome news to the thousands of parents, family and friends who are looking for ways to help kids with ADHD feel more comfortable in their own skin and develop effective ways to manage their difficulties in and out of the classroom.
So if you have a child with ADHD or you know one who has the disorder, pay attention to what your child does, and find positive things to say about his or her behavior. Don’t lie (kids know when you are), but identify their effort and praise their hard work. With good cognitive behavioral therapy, positive reinforcement, the proper medication and support in school, kids with ADHD can thrive and even excel.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.