Raising kids is awesome.
They can make you laugh with their hilariousness. They can make you melt with their cuteness. They can
inspire you with their kindness. But raising kids is also very hard. Between temper tantrums, the constant
noise and mess, teaching them all the life skills they’ll need as adults. Introducing…
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I am honored that the e-book I wrote titled Raising the Blinds on Anxiety: Workbook for Kids following
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before August 14th!) You will also find a few books that specifically address ADHD! (Win-win!)
A child with ADHD receives two negative interactions per minute.
Mind-boggling, right? As parents, we get so focused on wanting our kids to behave and correcting their daily wrong-doings that we don’t always think about the effect it has on our children. The negativity surrounding ADHD can be overwhelming. You try to do your best to be a good parent. But, parenting ADHD almost requires more than good, we have to be great. (No pressure, right?) Hey, I get it, Mom and Dad. You juggle a lot.
Like, a lot…a lot.
Then you collapse at the end of the day from the heavy emotions. Why does ADHD parenting require so much more? Because it isn’t just a focus thing, that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Our job as parents is more than just scheduling doctor’s appointments and meeting with teachers. You have fires to put out as you try to make sense of it all. Are you ready for the challenge? It’s not easy. This blueprint will give you an idea of what ADHD parenting involves. Some of you will be nodding your head in agreement because you live this on the daily, others just strapping on their seat belts for this journey will likely be thinking…WHAT?!? Hang in there, I promise, it gets easier.
In no specific order, Moms and Dads of kids with ADHD juggle:
Distraction Kids with ADHD are like a television. They are easily distracted, often changing channels.
Sensory overload Meltdowns are often the result of things being too loud, too bright, too hot, etc.
Emotional immaturity Kids with ADHD are often 2-3 years emotionally behind their peers.
Homework struggles Sitting for long periods of time can be difficult during homework due to distraction.
Sleep Issues Settling an ADHD brain isn’t easy, often keeping the child awake for hours at bedtime.
Friendships Establishing & maintaining friendships is difficult for kids who stand out due to high energy.
Power struggles Kids tend to argue as a result of their brain seeking activity.
Anxiety Kids with ADHD can also suffer from anxiety and or OCD.
High energy Self-explanatory, but ADHD means lots of energy to burn off & not enough time in the day.
Medication (if you choose) Meds can be a successful form of treatment, though some bring side effects.
Appetite Medications often suppress a child’s appetite, causing concern for parents and weight loss for the child.
School 504/IEP’s Children can struggle to keep up in the classroom or have behavioral needs that may qualify for assistance in school.
Public Ignorance Everyone has an opinion. And some speak uninformed opinions for all to hear.
Family seesaw effect Siblings get neglected by default, or arguing with a spouse/partner over parenting decisions.
Meltdowns Emotions can unravel and often don’t match the situation. Little things for adults can be big things for kids with ADHD. (See sensory.)
Interruptions ADHD means kids are impulsive & often interrupt conversations, not recognizing social cues in the moment.
Lying Kids who lie are often fibbing to cover up impulsive decisions/guilt.
Impulsive Kids with ADHD live in a ‘NOW’ world, not thinking of consequences. They live in the moment, and act impulsively.
That’s a lot, yes?
So, someone please tell me why parents aren’t nominated for some sort of an award? I can see it now…
‘I would like to thank the Academy, and all the parents who offered me unwanted advice in the grocery store.’
No? Okay, fine. The point is, parenting a child with ADHD is no easy feat, but it IS doable. For married couples, single parents, grandparents who are raising kids all over again, it can be done. If you’re drowning in all of it, hear me loud and clear:
YOU can do this.
One of the biggest mistakes parents make with kids who have ADHD is they rely on traditional discipline. Tactics that don’t bring results are repeated day in and day out and then parents wonder why it doesn’t work. Worse? They repeat the process all over again. I know, because we did the very same thing in my family. And we did this for 9 looooooooooong years. Want an example?
My son would touch everything in the store. Even after repeated warnings to stop, he touched anyway. I was convinced he was being disrespectful and ignoring me. (He clearly heard me, right?) We would ask why he chose not to listen? (In reality, he didn’t CHOOSE to not listen.) He would respond, ‘I don’t know.’ We would tell him to sit in his room until he could provide an answer. And he never had one. He never had an answer because he had NO IDEA why he did what he did. And his parents had NO IDEA what we were doing.
Parents of the Year.
But, we changed all that. You can, too! I couldn’t take just ‘getting through the day’ anymore. I wanted a better quality of life for my family. I wanted to understand my son and how to help him function at his best. I loved him, but there were times I didn’t like him and that made me feel empty inside. Then our second son was diagnosed and we were all over the place. I knew that no change=no progress.
Parents, change your mindset. Learn what makes your child tick, the strategies needed to reduce the chaos, the triggers to avoid, how to diffuse emotional meltdowns, all of this, and create the life you deserve.
Instead of putting out fires on repeat, prevent them. Manage them with ease when things get heated. My oldest knows we are a different family today. During a recent emotional moment for him, I remained calm. So calm that my son paused and said, ‘I appreciate you not blowing up. When you stay calm, it keeps me from getting all worked up like I used to.’ I love these moments because they are tiny victories for us both. Your family deserves this. Your child deserves this. Stop spinning your wheels and learn how to help your child in the comfort of your own home.
Join others, like Carrie, in learning effective ADHD parenting strategies that will change your family with my course…
It’s the course I wish I had years ago when I desperately wanted answers and didn’t know where to turn. This course allows you to step inside your child’s mind, see why they do what they do and covers parenting strategies that work!
‘Deborah, I want to thank you for your parenting tips. Every single one has relevant advice that actually works! Because the tips are given as small changes, I can change that little part of how I parent. You are awesome!’
~Carrie, an ADHD Superparent
I invite you to join me in taking a step toward reducing the chaos in your home!
Two years ago, I fired off an email to Bethenny Frankel on the television reality series ‘Real Housewives’ after she spit out an uneducated comment about tourette syndrome during one of the series episodes. (My son has ADHD, yet he also juggles the stress of anxiety and tourette syndrome.) Obviously, Bethenny’s words left me, well, pissed. As in, off came the gloves and Mama Bear went on the defense. It’s been a couple of years since I angrily hit SEND on that email without hesitation, (zero response, by the way) and I’ve learned a couple of things that all parents of kids with ADHD can apply.
1) Invoke the 24-hour rule before sending angry emails out into cyberville. (My husband has even taught me to write the damn thing as a form of therapy, then save it as a draft. 9 times out of 10, the email ends up in the recycle bin.) Unfortunately, I learned this AFTER blasting a couple of teachers with emails upon learning that they handled a situation improperly (and later told my son ‘Hey, tell your mother to calm down.’) GAHHHH
2) People don’t understand _______ (insert condition here), and that’s okay. Teach them.
Why the change of heart in #2? I have learned over the years that offensive comments usually come from a lack of knowledge, not a mean spirit. Heck, I didn’t understand ADHD, or anxiety, or Tourette Syndrome at first, either. I remember thinking our doctor was apparently not qualified when he first diagnosed my son, despite my child touching every canned good in the grocery aisle, never requiring sleep, and meltdowns that we, at the time, chalked up to disrespect and lack of discipline. The doctor spent 45 minutes with him, glancing at paperwork through squinted eyes and came to this life-changing conclusion. How could he know this in such a short visit? And why was his wallpaper brown and orange, and clearly in need of an upgrade?
Well, Doc was right. (And I was right about the wallpaper.)
Since then, I’ve severed ties with friends who made insensitive remarks and quickly learned that no one benefits, certainly not my kids or yours, by slamming doors. If there is a lack of knowledge in the community about these disorders, lets put out what we know. (Hence, this website.)
For the record, some of my favorite websites that are also putting it out there:
Others may not ‘get’ ADHD, and that’s okay. They don’t tuck your child in to bed each night. (Or watch him/her get up 9 more times for a drink, snack, bug bite itch, change of clothes, another blanket, one more hug, a night-light or monster check under their bed). Let’s shatter the sterotypes, the stigma of mental health, and THEN if friends or family still make uninformed comments, you have my permission to stick a boot in their a**.
Okay, not really. But, don’t spend much time debating their comments. I’ve learned that my energy is better spent with my kids. You are your child’s biggest advocate. No one else can be their voice when they are too young to speak for themselves.
Uninformed people usually fall into 3 categories, from my experience:
The public figure (Bethenny from Real Housewives)
The Co-worker (Who told me my son with anxiety needs to ‘chill, and man up.’)
Friend or Relative (Who said ADHD is ‘just about focusing a little more.’)
For your sanity alone, find ONE person (I’m happy to step up to the plate, if you’re out of takers!) who accepts that your child has ADHD and doesn’t judge the chaos you are sorting through each day. Someone who says, ‘I’m here if you need to talk.’
For me, I have always appreciated a letter my father wrote me that stated ‘Your boys are the highlights of my days.’ He researched ADHD, as did my mother, and told me to find some patience. Despite my kids running circles around my dad with a never-ending fuel tank, he never considered my children a burden and encouraged me to look for the good. All parents need one, more if you have them, unconditional supporter to carry the load when it gets heavy.
YOU are that person to your child. They need parents to guide them through the chaos as it will be a factor in how they view themselves as they develop their self-esteem.
How so? Here’s an example…
Discussing ADHD in front of your child as a negative: ‘There he goes again, never stops talking. All day, every day.’ Believe me, your children hear you.
‘Here we go, throw your fit like you always do.’
What is your DEAL? Did you take your MEDS?’
All of the above phrases can be a true confidence-killer, and taunt the child instead of modeling the behavior you want them to adopt themselves. We wouldn’t tell a child with diabetes ‘There you go with low blood-sugar again,’ or a child with asthma ‘Could you stop with those breathing problems, already?’ so why do we address ADHD as though our children are PURPOSEFULLY causing problems?
One mom emailed me a couple of months back to say her son decided to ‘Pull his crap again today.’
Yet, he didn’t.
He didn’t CHOOSE to misbehave. Often, a child feels out of control during a meltdown, or other factors may be weighing heavily on the situation: Lack of sleep, hunger, overstimulated, anxiety, sensory, etc. Changing our attitudes as parents will begin to change the dynamics in our home. This mother won’t see improvements in her child until she changes her mindset that he isn’t trying to make her life miserable.
It begins with us.
Kids with ADHD need to understand how they are wired, and not be chastised for a brain difference (or anxiety, or tourette syndrome, or any other condition) that is beyond their control. We are on the same team. The scoreboard isn’t us against them (though it may feel that way on many days). Any progress is a step in the right direction, no matter how slow.
The Cubs didn’t win the World Series overnight, correct? 😉
Root for your child. And then share with others when they are misinformed. It’s all part of the job when parenting a child with ADHD.
Part 2 of this series is tomorrow, along with some exciting news I have been waiting to share with you!
Don’t miss it!
Join my private Facebook group ADHD Superparents
Some kids have tons of freckles and snort when they laugh. Some kids use an asthma inhaler. Some kids are afraid of the dark. Others are so shy they struggle to order for themselves at restaurants.
Our kids have ADHD. We can look up the medical definition of ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, or we can look at it like this:
ADHD is a brain difference, not a dead end.
When you’re a parent and you first learn of ADHD, you devour every piece of information you can find and come to the grim conclusion that A) Life will forever be difficult and B) Your kid will be living with you until they are 23.
Neither are true.
As a mother who has been on the ADHD-train (two sons and husband are all ‘brain-different’) for over 9 years, I can look back and see the countless hours I stressed over whether my kids would fit in, figure it out, or feel like enough. So, here I sit, writing this to provide some relief to all of you moms, dads, grandparents or guardians, who have just jumped on board for the journey. If only I could know then what I know now, it may have caused that lonely experience in the neurologist’s office with the hideous wallpaper during diagnosis to not feel so isolating. Find hope in this letter, because this will be you 9 years from now, 5 years from now, or maybe next year…
LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF (The Mom Whose Child Has Just Been Diagnosed)
It’s okay. You want someone to hold your hand and tell you everything will be fine. You don’t know how life will turn out, as you sift through the overwhelm while the days expire in slow-motion. But, things will be fine. You will be proud of the roads you travel. Your kids will grow and make progress. And ADHD will one day not rule every single moment of your lives.
Your kids aren’t their ADHD. Think of their best 5 qualities, that’s what makes them the child you adore. ADHD is their something extra, like a birthmark or that scar on your ankle. ADHD is not a disability, but a brain difference. Your kids think faster, react stronger, notice more. Guide them as they sort through all of this. They need a roadmap, but roadmaps are good. It means they’re going places.
You are your child’s best advocate. You tuck them in at night, you know what they need and what works for them. Take a stand. Fight for their rights in school and be their voice when they can’t speak for themselves, then teach them to advocate on their own as they mature.
Your child won’t be the class screw-up in school. Sure, you may get some disapproving stares at the grocery store or the school calls you more than your mother-in-law, but this isn’t permanent. Your child is navigating their differences, ironing out the wrinkles. Hold your head high and don’t sell your child down the river. This is NOT their future.
Find their hidden talents. Your child will struggle to focus, sit still and regulate their emotions, but they have strengths that need to be nourished. Find what they do well, whether it is music, gymnastics, or writing and invest in those interests. Pay for guitar lessons, sign them up for a class and encourage their abilities. Your child needs something to proud of, to feel good about. Find that something.
Don’t be so quick to punish. Instead, learn the value of ‘How can I help you‘ and ‘I can see that you’re struggling’ during meltdowns. Both take longer to deliver, but are more effective than silencing your child and extending a punishment, which is similar to pressing the gas pedal of a car while the emergency brake is on. You will spin your wheels with that method, then be left wondering why things don’t improve. Validate your child’s feelings and the chaos will lessen. Replace punishment with discipline, which means ‘to teach.’
Your extended family will struggle to understand. You didn’t either at one point. They will offer their best solutions, and you will always feel like they can’t quite grasp what you endure every day. Understand that they don’t live your life, they don’t tuck your child in to bed at night.
You and your husband must get on the same page. You and your spouse need to parent the same way to be effective. If you try showing your child how to manage their emotions, and their father opts for stern warnings with a raised voice, you will send mixed signals. It would be like sitting at a traffic intersection and getting both red and green lights. Confusing, at best.
You will hear from others good things about your child. You will receive a letter from your son’s teacher describing what a leader he is, and cry with pride over the young man he is becoming. The kid who served in-school suspension for impulsively throwing food in the lunchroom will eventually be the kid who volunteers to help elderly neighbors move and offers to help make dinner. Other parents will comment often on what a respectful teen he is, and you will see he has a bright future in store.
You will feel an instant connection to other parents who know words like dopamine, meltdowns or melatonin. It’s like a secret club that no one gets invited to, and you wish you could have all of these parents on speed-dial.
Expect bad days. Your child will always love you, even if they say differently. On the flip side, you will always love your child, though you will have days that you don’t like them much. And that’s okay. Not only is it okay, it’s human.
Your child will find their way. They may need a boost socially, some guidance and advice on how to be a friend and respect boundaries, but it will happen. You will throw birthday parties for 9 boys, resulting in a broken ping-pong table, and realize it’s too much for your son. He will tell you in tears the next day that it was too loud, too overwhelming. You learn to only invite 1 or 2 kids next time, and hope (worry, lose sleep, pray) that those kids want to attend.
You can make an impact. How you speak of ADHD in front of your child will impact their self-worth during important years of their life. Don’t let it be the barometer for their confidence. Don’t let him hear you say ‘He can’t remember to turn in his homework to save his life.’ They aren’t their diagnosis, and you aren’t a failure at parenting. You will do fine, so speak highly of your child and ignore the self-doubt along the way.
Sure, there will be difficult moments, but bad days won’t translate to a bad life. Just a different one, a different journey that ultimately will take you to the same destination as others. And you will realize years down the road that you not only parented a child who may have been in an hurry to see the world, but a child who has much to offer.
Want to Reduce the Chaos in Your Home? Grab my ADHD Superparents 5-Day FREE Email Course HERE!
JOIN the FREE Private Facebook Group ADHD Superparents!
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.
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.
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.
(And don’t forget to sign up for my FREE ADHD Superparents: Find the Good 3-Day Challenge and turn around your child’s behavior! It starts Monday!)
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!
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:
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.‘
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!
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.
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.
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.
They want VALIDATION.
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.
‘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.
- She doesn’t understand ADHD.
- 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.
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.
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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Two things I learned in the early years of raising kids with ADHD.
1) No two kids are alike.
2) It’s exhausting.
Okay, make it 3 things, because I also learned that my husband and I weren’t on the same page regarding parenting tactics. Hell, we weren’t even in the same book! Back then, it went something like this:
Husband raises voice and demands the behavior stop or else.
Husband and kid power struggle begins while wife (that’s me!) steps in and tells husband he is being too harsh.
Husband and wife begin arguing.
Kid gets tired of waiting around and disappears from the room.
Repeat cycle all day, every day.
Not super productive. Remember those 2 things I mentioned earlier? Well, our kids also learned 2 things:
1) My parents don’t know what they’re doing; are not a united front.
2) I’m not sure what I’M supposed to be doing; getting mixed messages about my behavior.
Instead of teaching them strategies to handle emotions when they feel out of control (that’s what is really happening during a meltdown), we were either expecting them to pull themselves together or ignoring their needs altogether because we couldn’t get out of our own way to address them.
Back then, I was reading every book about ADHD that I could find, meanwhile my well-meaning husband seemed to be stuck in old-school parenting mode, saying things like ‘Because I’m in charge’ and ‘Well, I’m the Dad’ or my favorite thing he would tell me (*sarcasm*): ‘The boys just need more mental toughness.’
Cue me banging my head with the pantry door right about now.
Since our parenting differences and stress from the aspects of life with ADHD kept us from communicating effectively, I chose to write my husband a letter. Figured he may ‘hear’ my words better if they were written down as a visual. I was honest, sharing that we needed to wake up and get a grasp on our daily life. That we were drowning in chaos and could do better for our kids.
That I needed him to join me on this journey. He agreed.
It’s no wonder we were sailing in choppy waters when we first discovered ADHD. We weren’t a team, and you don’t win playing for yourself. Wins happen as a team. And a good team doesn’t just show up one day and take home a trophy. You have to practice to be successful.
So, we did.
We began by practicing 3 simple rules when we were struggling to remain calm with our highly emotional kids.
♦Walk away: We gave each other a free pass to walk away when we could feel our patience running low. Nothing wrong with saying we need a break and letting our spouse take over. We’re human. Rely on each other when necessary.
♦Apologize: We expect our kids to apologize when a situation calls for I’m sorry, and sometimes parents need to tell kids they messed up, too. Model the behavior you want to see in your children. Did you lose it and knee-jerk react with your child? Own it. Tell them you didn’t react the way you had hoped and you’re sorry. The message? When we make a mistake, accept the blame and do better moving forward. Parenting is teaching. For kids with ADHD, getting defensive and passing the blame is common, so there is no better lesson than seeing mom and dad show some empathy for the person who ended up as their sounding board.
♦Have a code word: Remember that Walk Away rule? Well, sometimes we don’t recognize that we’re getting hot under the collar on our own. Another set of eyes and ears (your spouse) will recognize our temper flaring and give us a nudge. Rather than undermining you in front of your child, we created a code word to use.
Our code word? ‘Diet Pepsi.’
One night, my husband blurted out ‘You NEED a Diet Pepsi’ and I bit my tongue. I had been raising my voice, upset by our oldest who was being argumentative. I had wrongly engaged in a power struggle with a 12-year-old.
A minute later, our youngest ran into the room with a can of Diet Pepsi from the fridge, announcing, ‘Here, Dad said u needed a Diet Pepsi.’ Boy, did I ever! (On second thought, make your code word ‘wine.’) We both were laughing over his literal interpretation, enough that it diffused the angry environment brewing in our home.
What about YOU?
Are you and your spouse/partner using the same parenting tactics? Or are you sending your kids mixed messages? Need an ADHD Parenting cheat sheet to get back on track? Print it out! Kids with ADHD need lots of structure, clear expectations and CALM PARENTS.
You can’t teach a child to behave better by making them feel worse. They need, and actually WANT, parents to show them, teach them and explain to them what they want them to do. Calmly. They need the message to be clear and concise, from both of you.
Its no wonder our home was total chaos. I would parent my way, my husband would parent his way, and we hoped the two versions would magically collide and make life easier.
THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN.
We both agreed what we were doing wasn’t working and it was time to make a change. You can do this too, starting with this little nugget today!
‘Meet your kids where they are.’
Don’t hope they act like the kid who has it all together. Don’t wish they could be independent like you were at their age. Don’t nag for them to meet your unrealistic expectations.
Meet kids where they are. Your kids will learn and grow. But, it doesn’t happen overnight. Tackle one struggle at a time, not by yourself, but as a team.
Soon enough, you’ll earn that trophy.
Many of us dread exercising, even though we know it is a proven method to get us in to shape. (Raise your hand if you feel like patting yourself on the back following 15 minutes on the treadmill. Guilty!) But, what about exercising the brain? It is a healthy option for anyone, and an even greater benefit to individuals who struggle with symptoms of ADHD.
Exercise flexes the brain’s muscle, so to speak. It flips a switch for our executive functions and helps to increase mood and focus.
So, why wouldn’t we encourage our kids to be active if they struggle to stay focused?
Exercise offers kids with ADHD many benefits. It improves working memory, and increases focus so they can be more alert in class and less impulsive, decreasing the severity of ADHD symptoms. It also allows the child who has trouble winding down his brain when it is time to fall asleep the chance to burn off that extra energy.
Some children with ADHD find it difficult to exercise, so the form of movement they choose is important. Not every child with ADHD excels at competitive sports due to lack of coordination or the inability to follow fast-paced, complicated directions. Any activity that raises the heart rate will do: martial arts, running track, swimming or even cycling where kids tend to compete against their own individual ability are great examples. Or maybe your child with ADHD isn’t eager to join a school sports organization or any organized sport.
Exercise as a family!
Find an activity that appeals to your child, (walk the dog or play catch in the yard) and use it as a time to bond, all while helping improve your child’s focus in a natural way. My husband has been known to run the boys through a fun obstacle course similar to the television show WIPE OUT in our basement, just to get them off the couch. (Or on the couch, as my husband sometimes allowed. I pick my battles.)
As a child with ADHD, your son or daughter often feels misunderstood, always expecting to fail, so the benefits of exercising together will also help to increase their confidence! A competitive game of HORSE with Mom or Dad at the basketball hoop can create some friendly competition while releasing endorphins.
Schools appear to be jumping on board with the notion that exercise can improve kids ability to focus. An elementary school in Colorado has changed time-outs to time-ins when kids misbehave, offering them 10 minutes on a stationary bike or an elliptical trainer instead of sitting them in a hallway. It’s a win-win for the student and teacher. A school in North Carolina launched a program in 2010 called Read and Ride, where students can pedal on stationary bikes while reading their favorite book. An elementary school in New Jersey is following suit, and began asking parents for old exercise bikes to help ‘get the wiggles out.’ Kids earn time to go to a separate room filled with stationary bikes and pedal out their impulsivity. Teachers often say kids returning from a half-hour physical education class tend to focus more on lessons.
Children often lose recess time when misbehaving, but it is the worst outcome for a child with ADHD.
So, why take ADHD medications if exercise helps work in a similar but natural way? The effects of exercise only last a few hours following the activity, serving short-term but big benefits. It can help to clear your head, though other interventions like medication can be helpful and offer benefits throughout the day. Likewise, medications aren’t the only fix for ADHD symptoms. Health experts recommend a combination: Medications, behavioral management and exercise, along with education for the parents. A great site to follow is ADHDaze, written by a mother whose daughter and husband have been diagnosed with ADHD. Jennifer covers it all, including why their dog became a great therapy tool for ADHD, sensory, diet and why she first chose to share her journey. You can also find her on twitter at ADHDdaze1.
Many people don’t try new things because it requires stepping outside of their comfort zones (hello, hot yoga class that I attended ONCE) or it addresses something even bigger: RISK. Toss that worry aside. Exercise is a no-risk treatment for kids and adults with ADHD and teaches healthy long-term habits. Studies show as little as 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise can benefit the brain, so why not give it a try. Your waist may or may not be trim, but your brain muscles will be firm.
Get to flexing!