What to Do When Your ADD Child Takes Things Apart

"Taking things apart" is usually a sign of healthy curiosity.

Boy looking at plastic blocks
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Your child with ADHD loves exploring the inner workings of machines -- using a variety of tools he's found in Dad's workshop. And there's nothing wrong with that. Unless the tools he chooses happen to be power tools that could seriously injure him. Or the object he's taking apart happens to be a valuable family heirloom.

Why Are ADD Kids "Into Everything?

Kids with ADHD tend to have difficulty thinking through the consequences of their behavior.

They are often simply driven by the moment, unable to resist impulses, especially when there is something they are really drawn to and enjoy doing. In other words, your ADHD child may not think through the problems that can occur when he is taking apart your expensive clock. More significantly, he may not think about the dangers that can occur in the garage as he is fiddling with and examining one of his dad’s tools. Instead, he is living in the moment and enjoying the excitement and learning that comes along with playing with the tools and taking things apart.

Additionally, kids with ADHD often express and satisfy their curiosity by physically engaging with items of interest. You may hear a parent say, "My child is into everything!" And the child is often literally "into" these items as he or she feels and manipulates them in a tactile manner -- learning through physical exploration.

Tips for Limiting Problems While Exploring Passions

Of course, it's important to limit your child's ability to cause harm to others' belongings or to himself.

On the other hand, as one adult with ADD explained, "I did the same thing as a child and ended up having a successful 35-year career as a mechanical engineer!"

It's possible to support your child's interest in mechanics and engineering while also ensuring that neither your child nor your belongings are injured.

By setting parameters and limits around behaviors that are not acceptable to you, and providing active guidance, your child may be able to redirect his passions into appropriate learning opportunities.

Here are some ideas that may help:

  • Help your child to choose items that can be taken apart safely and without causing problems to other family members. Consider visiting a yard sale or junk shop where interesting mechanical objects are available at a low cost.
  • Set up a special tool box that belongs to your child. You could even set up a reward system through which she can earn additional tools to add to her collection.
  • Set up times for teaching your child about power tools and their safe, appropriate use. And perhaps this could also be special bonding and teaching time that he has together with his dad or mom.
  • Make and post a list of clear rules about tool use. Discuss consequences for breaking the rules ahead of time.

These are just some ideas of ways you may be able to redirect your child's impulses into positive learning experiences.

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