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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

ADHD & Low Self-Esteem: Helping Kids with ADHD Improve Self-Esteem

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According to Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., Associate Editor at Psych Central, children with ADHD can experience low self-esteem. Some of the staple characteristics of ADHD include not being able to focus, not being able to complete tasks especially not in a timely manner, being distracted easily, and being impulsive. All of these traits can lead to adults and even sometimes other children becoming frustrated with the child with ADHD.

Teachers may get aggravated by a student’s inconsistency or poor performance in school. Parents may become irritated with their child not completing chores, dilly-dallying when things need to get done, and/or not getting good grades in school.

Other children may get annoyed with the child with ADHD because the child may not focus closely on and follow through with a conversation, the child with ADHD may act impulsively by pressuring the other child to do activities the ADHD child wants to do (not letting the other child have a fair amount of choice) , or the ADHD child may not manage his emotions well and may become overly sensitive in situations that could create negative feelings.

Of course, there is not a one size fits all description of a child with ADHD. However, these are some examples of how a child with ADHD can end up developing low self-esteem or low self-confidence. When a child is put down, talked down to, or nagged by adults on a frequent basis or when a child has difficulty in peer to peer relationships, low self-esteem can occur.

Here are a few tips you can use to help a child with ADHD feel good about themselves which is important because they will then be more likely to make healthy and appropriate choices and grow into adults who appreciate and like themselves which can lead to more successes in all areas of life including education, career, and relationships.

4 Tips to Help ADHD Kids Have High Self-Esteem

Look at the Positive Side of ADHD Traits

Almost all personality traits can be both beneficial and troublesome. For instance, a child with ADHD who is easily distracted may use this trait to also enhance their own creativity although this trait is most often associated with bad behavior or bad grades in school or misbehavior at home. The trait mentioned above of not completing tasks in a timely manner can be viewed as a trait that allows a person to work quickly when needed (if the person tends to show this trait as procrastination) or it may also be viewed as a person who is relaxed and carefree (which can be a good trait in such a stressful, high pressure world).

Validate Their Feelings

It is important to listen to kids and to understand how they view their experiences. From an adult’s perspective a situation may not seem like that big of a deal, but from the child’s perspective the situation could be something that has really impacted them. It is important to help ADHD kids (and all kids) to know that you understand what they are feeling.

Recognize Their Strengths

There can be so much pressure for children to succeed academically. Kids have a lot of pressure to do the right thing and to fit the mold of what a “good child” should be. When ADHD kids don’t do as well as their peers in certain areas, especially academics, this can be hard on their self-esteem. It is important for adults in their lives to recognize and support the child’s strengths.

Keep a Healthy Balance in Life

Depending on what is important to the parents, children can spend an excess amount of time on any particular thing. A parent who values and thinks good grades are of great importance might especially emphasize that their child get good grades whereas a parent who is extremely into sports might emphasize that their child spend a lot of time practicing a sport. Neither of these is right or wrong. The point is that parents can influence what their child spends their limited amount of time on. It is best for ADHD kids to balance all aspects of life in whatever way best suits them as a person and the family as a whole. Academics, nutrition, exercise, play, family time, social time, and so on should all be kept in a healthy balance.

(Image Credit: © tomer turjeman)

ADHD & Low Self-Esteem: Helping Kids with ADHD Improve Self-Esteem

Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA

Heather is a freelance writer, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and social worker. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, applied behavior analysis, as well as Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. Contact Heather if you would like to inquire about obtaining her freelance writing services. You can view more articles and resources from Heather at and email her at [email protected] You can also advertise your autism services at one of Heather's websites: Heather is the developer of the "One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum."


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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2014). ADHD & Low Self-Esteem: Helping Kids with ADHD Improve Self-Esteem. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 9, 2020, from