Labels are for jeans: Parenting kids with ADHD

Going to admit to something I’m not proud of. Most definitely a parenting fail.

My son text me from school one day to say one of his teachers asked for his parents phone number and I would be getting a call soon. My response:

‘What did you do?’

My son insisted he had not caused any problems, in fact, he was adamant about it. I should have believed him, but I wasn’t convinced. After all, what teacher asks for a parents phone number unless they want to voice a complaint? It’s not like teachers have the time to drop everything they’re doing to phone a mom or dad and brag about their kid. Right?


His teacher ended up texting instead of making a phone call, sending a whopping 3-paragraphs of glowing praise for what a great kid we were raising. That’s right, PRAISE. Not only was he not in trouble, he was being commended! What kind of message did I send my son in those four little words ‘What did you do?’ That he was ‘that kid.’ That kid who caused trouble. Here I was doubting his honesty over the reason behind the teacher’s message, yet he was busy making his father and I proud. As in, sobbing-Mom proud. His teacher used words like:

Fine young man
Excellent role model

Cue the tears rolling down my face. I read the message at least 12 times over. It’s what every parent wants to hear. We long for the day that someone who isn’t a blood relative tells us that our kid is going places. Pretty sure that means we didn’t totally screw up this thing called parenthood.

Still, my words were assuming and had poor timing.

This kid has come a long way since the days when his desk was shoved next to the chalkboard in first grade because he couldn’t stay on task. Since the time in 4th grade when I picked him up from a sleepover and thanked his friend’s mom with the usual ‘Hope he behaved for you,’ but was met with a blank stare because she was unable to agree. Since the time when we would literally trip over our own feet trying to get out of the mall because our son was overstimulated and melting down more than two pounds of butter on a 90-degree day.

My son is not THAT kid.

He is a leader, a fine young man, an excellent role model. He’s a kid who makes his parents proud, who learned how to present himself in public, how to invest in friendships, how to commit to hard work and enjoy the positive results. Struggles we endured early were no indication of what we could expect years down the road.

Learn from my mistakes, parents. Don’t believe the label. Because that’s all it is.

Your child is so much more. And if we box kids in and expect little from them due to a brain difference called ADHD, we limit their opportunities. Labels are for jeans, and even when those fit too snug, we can cut them off. No one knows a size 10 from a size 6, right? The kid who isn’t fitting a certain mold right now is certainly not destined to be the school dropout. Let me tell you why I know this to be true.

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3 years ago, my son’s 8th grade teacher saw in him something he didn’t see in himself . He invited my son and our family to breakfast at school where students would be recognized for contributions in the classroom. I still remember my son’s response:

‘Mom, I can’t believe I got invited. This is for the smart kids.’

You know, the kids who literally show up, eat a soggy chicken patty sandwich and get straight A’s. Not judging, but that’s not what life is like in our home. We struggled for As and Bs in junior high. In high school, we occasionally struggle for C’s. Yet, my son’s teacher wasn’t thinking about labels when he sent out those invites. He wasn’t solely thinking about the straight A students. He was thinking about the student who works hard, gives 100% and may need a pat on the back to keep making those efforts in his classroom. He was thinking about MY kid. He was letting him know his work was not going unnoticed. This teacher gets it, and I instantly got a kid who walked a little taller, a little more sure of himself.

The teacher who didn’t get my kid?

That would be my son’s first grade instructor, the one who moved his desk away from his classmates. While visiting his room one day, I witnessed a young girl in her room shouting and refusing to follow directions, and the teacher said to me in disgust: ‘That’s what you call a behavioral disorder.‘ I’m sure the girl’s mother would have appreciated (sarcasm alert) the sharing of private information and the teacher’s lack of empathy toward her child. It was one of many red flags in our communications.

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As parents, we must shatter those preconceived notions about kids with ADHD. They are smart. They are leaders. They are role models. They have a brain difference, and sometimes those differences will be what sparks their creativity and sets them apart from the norm. I have a feeling these kids just might be teaching their parents a thing or two. We’re raising some strong-willed kids, no doubt. Your role in shaping their minds into believing they are capable of more than criticism, timeouts and desks at the chalkboard will strongly determine their self-worth and grit on their journey. The attitude you portray during your child’s early years in the midst of ADHD will gauge how they define their abilities.

Be proud of your child and find the good. That good is buried under impulsive decisions and a need to feel accepted.

Be THAT parent.


Join the FREE ADHD Superparent: Find the Good 3-Day Challenge

Hey, parents!

I’m Deb! I want to invite you to a new FREE challenge that will help improve your child’s behavior! A child with ADHD is often criticized (at school and at home) and constantly corrected. As a result, they begin to expect the corrections, and consider themselves the bad kid. Over time, a child can adopt a ‘why bother’ attitude regarding efforts toward following rules and doing what is expected.

‘I couldn’t understand why I was always in trouble.’

~A child, following his diagnosis with ADHD.

This child knew what was expected, but couldn’t DO what was expected, due to his ADHD. What is ADHD? It is a brain difference that causes one to react and respond impulsively, without thinking about past experience or future consequences. Kids with ADHD live in a ‘now’ world, they live in the moment, acting first and thinking later.

You can imagine the negative responses they receive, all day, every day.

A child with ADHD who hears praise on a consistent basis will begin to see themselves as capable and work toward continuing the behavior that is being commended. Wanna jumpstart the kind of parenting your child needs in order to receive the type of behavior you really want?

Then get ready for ADHD Superparents: Find the Good 3-Day Challenge! And did I mention that it’s FREE? Yep, free for YOU! Plus, extras!

This challenge includes a daily email to your inbox describing that day’s activity, FREE parenting PDF’s, Facebook community love and another surprise when the challenge is complete!

Ready to jump-start the behavior you really want to see from your child?

Sign up below! And be sure to join our private Facebook community so you can chat about your progress with other parents. I will be there as well!

The ADHD Superparents: Find the Good 3-Day Challenge begins Monday, May 29th! 

Talk to you soon!

Kids describe what it feels like to have ADHD

My husband shared something with me last week that was a bit unsettling. He had just gotten home from a quick business trip to North Carolina (he doesn’t usually travel) and when I asked if the process of flying and luggage and check-ins and plane delays was overwhelming, this was his response:

‘Actually, you know what went through my ADHD brain when I buckled my seatbelt? I remember thinking, if the plane goes down for any reason, I would be okay with that.’


Husband: ‘Hear me out, it’s not what you think. I’m just saying, the tornado in my brain would be over. I would no longer feel like I was always behind, always restless, always living life in reverse.‘ I was stunned.  He quickly followed up with ‘Obviously, I don’t WANT that. I would never want you or the boys to be in pain and experience that. It’s just, until you live with ADHD, one can never understand the constant mental exhaustion. The motor in your brain never turns off.

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If you’ve ever wondered what it literally feels like to have ADHD, well, there you have it. I appreciated my husband’s honesty. They were tough words to hear, yet woke me up a bit. I thought I had a good idea of what someone with ADHD endures, but the magnitude is much more than I imagined. How the thought of not having to THINK about anything (let alone 20 things) actually seemed like…a break. Some relief. It reminded me of my role in all of this: To be mindful of his journey at times when my patience grows thin. He carries a heavy load.

What about your kids? How would they describe their ADHD? I recently posed that question and received some interesting responses.

It’s like having all the tabs open on my iPad.

My thoughts get noisy.

It is too much to describe in one sentence.

My brain goes back and forth and makes me feel stupid.

I don’t know, it is just normal to me.

ADHD makes me feel tired all the time.

It means always being blamed for things I don’t really understand.

It means feeling different than others.

It means losing recess a lot.

It means I forget things all the time. I don’t like that I do that.

My brain is having a party.

The traffic controller is asleep at a busy intersection.

Honest descriptions from some innocent youth. Their attitude toward ADHD will eventually be what shapes how they view themselves, their self-worth. ADHD brings some good qualities, though they are easily overlooked due to the frustration it also creates. For parents, it means often repeating instructions, heightened emotions, possible problems in school, trouble sleeping, etc. But, the person who feels the most frustration? Your child. Chances are that he or she is often reprimanded by teachers, often losing privileges at home, maybe the last one picked for tag, you get the point. My husband’s words were a reminder to have empathy for the people we love and what they endure every hour, every day.

As they live life in reverse.

Take a moment today to observe your child closely and find the good. Be mindful of your role in their journey!

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5 Words to Improve Your Child’s ADHD Anger

One of the phrases I hear from parents the most is they ‘need ADHD parenting help to reduce their kids’ angry meltdowns or crying episodes’ that happen with no warning. Each week, I send parents strategies and tools in my Raising the Blinds Weekly to make raising a child with ADHD easier. The response was so great I decided to share a version of a recent newsletter here on the blog as well.

Want a free cheat sheet of the 7 Do’s & Don’ts for Raising Kids with ADHD?  Yes, & Send me free ADHD parenting strategies each week!

We all know that ADHD parenting is hard. No denying that.

It’s sort of like waiting for the other shoe to drop. Just when you think you have prepared for the day, something is off with your child.

Homework struggles
Angry meltdowns

So, we become jugglers. Trying to maneuver emotions and hoping anything else that needs our attention can wait until we have a chance to breathe. Whatever the reason, we parents are human and sometimes (okay, show of hands, a lot of times?) parents raise their voices.


What if I told you the action your child really wants from you when they’re having a hard time? (Hint: It’s not juggling and it’s not angry Mom or Dad.) When they emotionally off, they want one thing.


Even better, what if you had the exact words your child needs to hear that would change things for the better? 5 simple words that you can use EVERY time:

‘How can I help you?’

It’s a powerful phrase. Then watch how the tone of the conflict begins to change.

My husband’s favorite phrase until he discovered these magical words used to be ‘These things happen. You need to cut it out.’ Or, ‘You need to calm down.‘ That did nothing but point out to our child that he was struggling.

Or he could have said, ‘How can I help you?’

When our other son was feeling overwhelmed to sit down and write a paper from start to finish, I could have said ‘Quit stressing and get it done already.’

Instead I said, ‘How can I help you?’ And suggested he break it up into 5 mini paragraphs, writing the topic in the first sentence of each one. He realized it was a manageable assignment and got it done.

Or when one of our children was having sensory overload and refused to attend a sports clinic, I could have said ‘Get a grip, you’re fine. Stop the whining.’ Instead I said, ‘How can I help you?’ He explained that it was too loud and he felt anxious being in a big crowd, so we came up with a compromise.

How can I help you? is a phrase that changes the tone of what is happening for two reasons. It validates what they are feeling, even if we don’t understand it. And it doesn’t shame.

Afterwards, they may want to talk, maybe not. Maybe they want to be alone, but you diffused the situation and can discuss it later once everyone is calm. (Including Mom and Dad.) One of my favorite responses came a day later, when one mother posted in our private Facebook community group ADHD Superparents:

After school today I used “How can I help you?” (from the email yesterday). It completely diffused my daughter’s upset. She didn’t have an answer but she stopped being mad so it was a win for me! Tomorrow I’m going to try it on my husband!

How can I help you? shows your child you may not have all the answers, but you are on their side to create a solution. And that’s what our kids want. They want someone on their team to help them navigate this journey.

How many times do your kids get angry, or extremely sad, and blurt out words like ‘I HATE myself!” They are really asking you to show them how to manage their emotions. They need to know that Mom or Dad are in control when they can’t be.

How can I help you? is a phrase that disengages. Give it a try today!

Want more? Read about the One Thing You Must Do For Your Child with ADHD HERE.


Teachers: Kids with ADHD Need THIS

When he can behave.’

Those were words spoken by my son’s first grade teacher years ago when I asked her when she planned to return his desk from the chalkboard back with his classmates. Her response told me two things.

  1. She doesn’t understand ADHD.
  2. She thinks he is choosing to not focus in the classroom.

This is a common problem headache for parents of kids with ADHD. Some parents in my ADHD Superparents private facebook community have admitted to lingering in their car when they arrive home from work to delay reading the dreaded negative remarks on their child’s behavioral report. It usually looks something like this:

  • Made noises.
  • Fidgeted at his desk.
  • Rolled around during circle time.
  • Interrupted instead of raising hand.
  • Loud and touching others.
  • Didn’t line up when asked.
  • Didn’t turn in homework.

It’s a note that leaves a parent feeling pretty defeated. Returning home with negative comments daily makes a child feel worse. Kids with ADHD aren’t sure why they do what they do, why they can’t sit still, why they KNOW what is expected but can’t seem to DO what is expected. They want to behave. They want to fit in. They want it more than their teacher, than their parents, than anything.

They want to feel worthy.

Don’t get me wrong, for those of us who haven’t had a memorable experience with our kids’ teachers, there are plenty of other teachers who DO get it. Teachers who know they play a role so important to a child’s confidence that they go beyond what is written in their job description. For me, that was my son’s 4th grade teacher.

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She suggested chewing gum for my son’s sensory issues/anxiety (it works!), gave him a heads up when a substitute planned to be in the room so we could prepare for the change, and positive redirects when he seemed off-task or chatty. Three years later, she is still his favorite teacher. You know why?

 She approached him as a person, not a number.

She met him where he was and responded to his needs. She recognized his struggles and never-ending worries that pierced through his ocean blue eyes. She showed him the way, rather than punishing him for not being able to do it on his own. I’m grateful for the time she invested in my son. For the hours teachers invest in all children, because they have an awesome responsibility.  Teachers spend their days shaping the minds of little ones. 

Many of us don’t have jobs with such purpose. And teachers who have a student with ADHD in their classroom have an even bigger job. That child needs their teacher to find the good. A nugget of something deep within that gives a child some self-worth. A reason to get up and attend school every day. Using negative reinforcement to teach a child who has ADHD sets them up to fail.  These are kids who won’t likely meet the typical school expectations. A teacher who gives these children the tools to succeed in school are doing something more than teaching.

They are meeting children where they are.

Doing this provides children a foundation for success, giving them encouragement and a game plan to learn acceptable behavior. Meeting a child with ADHD where they are puts them on a level playing field. It’s a chance to make strides and feel self-worth.

Send me a FREE copy of the ‘7 Do’s & Don’t of Raising Kids with ADHD’ so I can reduce the chaos!

For my son, his 1st grade teacher didn’t seem flexible about his difficulty sitting still. He fidgeted, daydreamed in class, often staring at the birds outside the window instead of participating during lessons. Mornings were difficult for my son to transition from a loud bus ride with no structure to quiet desk work. He arrived overstimulated, starting his day behind the start line of the race and spent his days playing catch-up.  If he didn’t complete his morning work, he was required to stay in at recess to finish. Recess being taken away is the worst outcome for kids with ADHD.

Kids with ADHD need recess like their parents need endless buckets of strong coffee.

Children need that release. Health experts say a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day plays a significant role in improving a child’s mood and focus. Teachers have reported that kids returning from a half-hour physical education class in school tend to focus more on lessons. So why is recess being used as punishment or time to make up work that wasn’t completed? These are kids who find it difficult to sit through a 45-minute family meal at a restaurant. Shouldn’t they have a 20-minute break at school to recharge?

Recess rant aside, we need teachers to embrace kids who are on a different path. Their destination is the same as others, they’re going to the same place, just not traveling the same roads.

Give them a roadmap for the journey and watch them grow.

Raising a child with ADHD means parents are also given an awesome responsibility. Read here about the ONE thing you should be doing.

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