How To Be An Ideal Dad to Your ADHD Child

Updated June 13, 2012

Be a Dad Deserving of Celebration

Father’s Day is a day to celebrate our Dads. Traditionally, the day is set aside for father and children to spend some time together. Gifts and cards are given, and meals shared, to mark the day as special from every other. After children and Dad dutifully spend the day together, time spent is logged in your memory bank and life goes on.

ADHD children need a strong fatherly role model all year long, not just on Father’s Day. Raising ADHD children is a challenge, for which most parents are not prepared. Despite best efforts, it is common for parents to eventually fall into the traditional roles of Mom as the primary caregiver, and Dad as the primary breadwinner. With the ADHD diagnosis of a child, the demands on both parents increase significantly. Suddenly, Mom’s schedule is overflowing with the child’s ADD related teacher, doctor, and therapist appointments, while Dad is working longer and harder than ever, trying to cover the increase in expenses due to ADD.

Life becomes busier than we ever imagined, as we struggle to meet the child’s practical needs of schooling, therapy, tutoring and more. In this process, little attention is given to what it is like being the father of a child with ADHD.

Generally, Moms tend to have more opportunity to reflect on parenting their child with ADHD. Because Dad’s usually attend fewer ADHD child related meetings, and tend to spend fewer hours with their children, it is important for fathers of children with ADD to reflect on how to be a good father to their ADHD children.

If you are the Dad of a child with ADHD, find an opening in your schedule, and pencil yourself in. When the time comes, turn off your phone, close the door, put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign, and get busy! Schedule a minimum of one hour to explore your memories, thoughts, and feelings, for this exercise.

Create Your Own Version of the Ideal Dad:

To get started, create a list of positive traits you believe make up the “Ideal Dad”, by answering the following questions:

  • What does the ideal dad look like to you?
  • How does the ideal dad sound?
  • How does he feel?
  • How does the ideal dad look at you?
  • What expression does he wear on his face?
  • How does the ideal dad spend his time?
  • What types of things does the ideal dad do for/with his child?
  • How does the ideal dad treat his child when disappointed in him?
  • How does the ideal dad treat his child’s accomplishments?
  • How does the ideal dad treat his child who is significantly different from him?
  • What are the key ingredients that you think the ideal dad possesses?
  • Do you treat your children’s mother with love and respect, in a way the children see it?

Once completed, look over your list of what makes a dad an “Ideal Dad,” for you. Recognize the likelihood that your child probably wants many of the same things as you listed, in her/his own version of the “Ideal Dad.”  And, understand that one of the best things you can do for your children, is to love their mother.

Reviewing your list, ask yourself:

  • “How do I measure up?
  • Am I giving, or depriving, my child the experience of an “Ideal Dad”?
  • Am I the best Dad I can be?
  • Am I even close to my picture of an “Ideal Dad”?

If you cannot genuinely answer “Yes!” to these questions, it is time to make some changes.

Next, make two columns. In one column, enter all items on your “Ideal Dad” list. In the second column, write several ways you will be the dad who has that trait. See the example in the chart below.


Behavior to Match Trait


  1. Commit to teach your child at least one new thing a week.
  2. Instead of criticizing your child for doing something wrong, seize the moment to show your child (without shame or blame!) how to improve it for next time.
  3. Provide gentle prompts of encouragement, & as reminders, instead of criticizing your child for being slow, sloppy, lazy, or whatever weak trait of your child’s you want to strengthen.


  1. Before entering the house after work, take a few minutes to sit quietly to clear your head, leave your work day behind, and focus on the family waiting for you inside the house. Make your return home about them, not about you.
  2. Encourage your children to talk about their day. Respond with interest. Avoid criticism. Engage. Support. Encourage. Most importantly, show them your love.
  3. Bring music into the home!
  4. Choose to find something to laugh about each day, instead of complaining or blaming.
  5. Show them you love their mother by doing something unexpectedly with, or for, her. Bring her flowers, or a small gift, when it isn’t Valentine’s Day or her birthday. Reach out and hold her hand, hug her, kiss her cheek, put on music & dance around the kitchen with her.

Next, type up your list of the “Ideal Dad” traits and print several copies of varying sizes, for your wallet, and to post. Post one inside your bedroom closet door. Every morning, and every evening, when dressing, look it over to remind yourself of who you want to be for your child. Be sure to take the time to read it. Each day, pick one trait on which you will intentionally work that day. Consider posting your list in several places to remind yourself to stay present to your fathering experience. Each day, before closing the closet door, vow to yourself that, for today, you will be the best father you can be.

Lastly, put two recurring appointments in your day planner or electronic calendar. The first one is to encourage daily follow through. Set it to go off during a time that you find particularly challenging (suppertime, bath time, etc.) with your child. If you can, enter “Ideal Dad” for the alert. When the alert sounds and you look at your scheduler, “Ideal Dad” serves as your self-check on how you are doing. Set the second alarm to recur once a month. Use this reminder to take time to mindfully revisit your list, update, and revamp it, as need be. Your list should grow and change with you and your child.

To be an “Ideal Dad” takes continuous, daily, intentional effort. It does not happen by reading a book and following a few of the suggestions until they fall off your radar. Fathering is a continuous process of being present and engaged, open and flexible, willing to learn from, and to teach, your child. Children are not significantly different from adults in their wants and needs. Everyone wants to be heard, validated, accepted, and loved unconditionally. Your child is no exception. Fathers who do this for their child are richly rewarded with a very special father/child relationship when the child becomes an adult.

This is not a one-time-and-you’re-done kind of exercise. You need to keep checking in with yourself, to adjust your parenting, to grow with your child.

About addcoach1

This internet blog is written by Regina Cashman, M.A., an ADHD Coach with a nationwide internet practice. Regina previously worked as a Medical Psychotherapist for Human Developmental Services before opening her private practice as an ADHD LifeCoach, helping to manage the multiple interventions and psycho-education of those with ADHD. Regina's website, ADDCoach Services, is found at Appointments are by video chat. ADD Coach Services helps individuals with ADD/ADHD, and those who love them, navigate the ADD maze so as to Master their ADD, rather than be mastered by it. Please provide comments and feedback!
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