I know how you feel.
Your child struggles with ADHD and you are forced to stand on the sidelines, not able to make things suddenly better.
Because that’s what Dads do. You fix things. But, Mr Fix-it can’t fix this. Not ADHD.
So, if you’re like my husband, you hoped things would magically improve. Or hoped that as your child aged, the struggles would go away. But what if I told you, Dads, that with a bit of twerking (Not talking Miley Cyrus dance moves here), you could make it better. That if you changed the way you react, your child will begin to change their reaction. That if you tried less DO AS I SAY OR ELSE, and a little more I UNDERSTAND HOW YOU FEEL, SO WHY DON’T WE TRY IT THIS WAY AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS, you can put out big fires. That an arm around your son or daughter asking ‘How are things…want to talk?‘ is sometimes what your child is begging for inside.
A level of understanding that many fathers don’t reach, often because they weren’t raised that way. A little warm-fuzzy to help ease emotions when it seems they are out of control.
Sound too good to be true? It worked in my family, and we are the last family I would have thought could make progress. We had hit rock bottom, spinning our wheels in a giant mud pit of life. And we weren’t on the same page with our parenting. My husband was raised in a home where if you acted out, you were strictly disciplined. So in our home, situations would boil to the point where we would sit a child down and demand an explanation of their poor behavior before they could get up, not realizing one thing:
Our kids had no idea why they do what they do.
They are kids with ADHD. They don’t know why their brains can’t sit still, why they act emotional or angry when overwhelmed, why they constantly need to touch their brother or interrupt. They don’t. But, they do know one thing: They hate it. They want to control themselves. They want to behave.
I realized this and started parenting differently. No free passes here, just a calmer approach showing that I’m in control, even when my child is not. My husband took a bit longer to jump on board, still insisting that we needed to be more strict to see results. Less privileges. Longer minutes in time alone. It was sort of that old school theory: He’s the dad, and for Pete’s sake, deserved respect.
But, this isn’t a respect issue, Dads.
It’s about meeting your child where HE/SHE is. And when my husband started doing that, it flipped a switch in our home. A big one.
He gets it now.
We both agreed that raising our voices and demanding respect was only resulting in one solution: Making us feel in charge. It certainly wasn’t improving the behavior in our children. And so the cycle would repeat itself. Every. Single. Day. Kids act out, we lose our cool, demand that they stop at once, ground them, take crap away, go to bed, wake up, and hit repeat. Again and again and again.
Sound familiar? Well, throw that shit out the window.
Part of parenting is modeling the behavior we want to see in our kids. Showing them how to react and being there when they are falling apart. Offering some understanding and different solutions go a long way.
I remember the first time my husband put this technique in place. I was putting something away in our bedroom when our youngest was feeling overwhelmed and beginning to get angry. My husband could have easily shouted back at him to knock it off, threatened to count to 3, taken away his Xbox for 2 weeks, you get the idea. That always ended in tears and more screaming.
But, he didn’t. Instead, he told our son to take a deep breath and collect himself, and asked him to sit with his Dad at the top of the stairs. I watched my husband put his arm around our youngest and tell him he knows it is hard when he is frustrated to not get mad and yell, that sometimes Dad feels frustrated at work, too. Then he challenged him to 20 push-ups to ‘recharge’ his brain. (Redirecting his emotions.)
And it worked. I nearly cried. Our son took the challenge and they were laughing by the time it was over. No power struggle. No showing who’s boss. No telling him to ‘act his age.‘ Just a little understanding from his Dad.
It’s what every kid, ADHD or not, wants from a parent.
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Just discovering that your child may be experiencing similar struggles? Read more about the signs I overlooked when first learning of ADHD here.