Parenting Predominantly Inattentive Children vs. Parenting Combined Type Children

Parenting Predominantly Inattentive Children vs. Parenting Combined Type Children
So this is the fourth in a series of posts that I am writing about the differences between Combined type ADHD (ADHD-C) and Predominantly Inattentive ADD (ADHD-I). In the first post I wrote about the best course of action for folks with ADHD-PI who do not respond well to stimulants. In the second and third posts I wrote about classroom interventions for inattentive ADD and in this and the next post I am going to address ADHD-I parenting advice.

As many of you know, I have two children with ADHD. One is inattentive and one is combined type ADHD. They are as different as night and day, chalk and cheese and hot and cold, . The combined type child is a fairly typical combined type ADHD kid. He is hyperactive, impulsive, extroverted, very social, lives in the moment, is not a worrier but is also not very reflective and can be pretty oppositional, combative and difficult.

The inattentive ADD son is also pretty typical of the inattentive type of ADHD. He is socially awkward, can be hypoactive, tends to be wary and is a worrier.  On the other hand, this son is highly reflective, thinks a lot about consequences and is never oppositional or combative.

At first blush it would seem that the combined type child would be really difficult to parent and the inattentive child easier. Parenting is never easy and I would say that they are both easy and difficult to discipline but they are easy and difficult for completely different reasons.

As I am sure you have guessed the combined type child will argue with us.  If we say fast, he will say slow, if we say yes, he will say no and if you say walk, he is sure to run. Kind of a pain, right? Sure, but the inattentive son sometimes does not move at all no matter what you say. They both get themselves into trouble though. One for being too aggressive and hyperactive and the other for being too passive and inactive.

What make the disciplining of the combined type sometimes easier than the disciplining of the inattentive child is that the combined type kid has lots of stuff that he loves to do. Even more importantly he really loves to do these things.  Because he loves these activities so much, we have an arsenal of punishments that we can propose to him. These include:

· No sleepovers
· No Laser tag
· No sports
· No paintball
· No movies
· No screen time

The threat of removing these activites, because he loves them, motivate him to behave.

The inattentive son hates movies (too loud), laser tag (too fast), paintball (too violent), sleepovers (ruins his sleep habits) and sports (too uncoordinated). He does like screen time but as you can see, our punishment choices are kind of limited when it comes to motivating and disciplining our inattentive son. To make matters even worse, he is not very passionate about much so even removing screen time does not always have the impact that you would hope. He is pretty happy to sit in his room, lost in his "own private Idaho", doing nothing at all.

Given that inattentive kids can be perfectly happy in “Time Out", what is a parent to do when disciplining and motivation are in order? My next posts will give you suggestions for addressing these problems.


  1. Hoo boy does your inattentive son sound like my daughter, for better and worse.

  2. The contrast in the two sons illustrates the difference in genetic influenced personality, also, perhaps, it might have something to do with first child, second child interactions (a possibility?)

    It is very interesting the interests in the two boys, disciplining methods that have to be different with the different personalities.

    Some things to note, I would like to mention. Screen time loss is used as as way of (threatening) to punish the children, not threatening in a menacing way, but as a means of parental control to control behavior. Screen time, including movies, TV, video games and all of the above on the Internet, can be part of the cause of both types of ADHD. Parents would do well to think about positive non-screen activities to turn their children on to rather than overindulging their children in it or using it as a reward for good behavior. It can be causal, or it can be part of the package that intensifies or contributes to symptoms. Some feel that video game play might contribute to ADHD symptoms. Taking TV and electronics out of the bedroom is important for children in general, but esp. for kids with any type of ADHD. (Some references on this are Iowa State University study on video games and ADHD symptoms, as well as ADHD books by Association for Natural Psychology, which provides media studies on this subject, as well as positive activities, including art, that many children with ADHD bond with. Green time and art helps ADHD kids to focus. Video games and screen time might not always be causal, but the headline of the Iowa State article says that it can "compound" problems with attention.

  3. Thanks for your comments!! John, I agree with you. I have written several posts about the fantastic benefits of green space time and about the relationship of Inattentive ADD and video games. It is becoming increasingly difficult to limit screen time as many schools have begun to use online instruction in the form of "reverse classrooms" (where the student learns the material online and classroom time is used for problem solving), iPad assignments, and other screen related activities. I fear that educators have rushed to the use of these technologies without fully exploring the long term learning benefits of these changes. I am preparing a post where I address some of the pros and cons of screen use for academics. Thanks again for your input.

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