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Disciplining a child with Bipolar Disorder and ADHD
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Disciplining a child with Bipolar Disorder and ADHD

My 8 year old son is being treated for Bipolar Disorder and ADHD.  I am very confused about discipline.  I am told to set strict limits due to the ADHD, but this causes more Bipolar Problems.  My son is going to a Social Skills class while I attend a Parenting Class.  The other children in these classes are only ADHD.  The pdoc is teaching us to use reinforcement to obtain the behavior we want.  Last night I was very ill, but my son insisted I take him to the store to buy the reinforcer he had earned.  He has no concern for my feelings.  I try hard not to raise my voice at him but it is very difficult.  My question is: Are the discipline/parenting techniques for ADHD the same for Bipolar Disorder?

Thanks.
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Dear Cynthia,

In general, you don't have to alter your fundamental approach to parenting in light of a particular psychiatric diagnosis. To be frank with you, sound parenting rests more on good insticts and basic common sense than on anything else, and its foundation is a secure and loving attachment to our children.

All children require a good amount of structure, routine, organization, clearly spelled out rules, consistent and reasonable limit-setting, and systematic discipline.

Good behavior certainly does need to be reinforced - it's not a good idea to focus only on our children's shortcomings. In addition to teaching them what not to do, we need to devote considerable energy toward teaching our children the things we do want them to do.

At the same time, it's usually not necessary to drop everything and run to the store for a reward. In fact, incentive systems (which are quite effective in helping to shape our children's behavior) can be designed (and probably should be designed) with rewards that are readily at hand and which don't require any extraorinary adjustments to normal family life.

If you're interested in a practical, down-to-earth manual about effective behavior management and discipline, take a look at S.O.S.: Help for Parents (authored by Lynn Clark). It's a god send for parents who are trying to be systematic and consistent in their approach to discipline and behavior management.
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