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Raising Kids With ADHD

If you have ADHD, it is likely that one or more of your children also have it. 

The challenges of raising a child with ADHD are immense. The hyperactivity, lack of focus, impulsivity, emotional rollercoaster, etc. could quickly put even the most patient parent to their wit's end. 

So what do you do?

I do not have all the answers, but I would like to share a few philosophical touchstones that have helped me in raising my son. 

Philosophy 1: Your child does not wish to be making mistakes and getting into trouble. Your child drives you up the wall because he or she lacks the skills to do otherwise. 

I'm paraphrasing here from the classic book for parents of challenging children, The Explosive Child, by Ross Greene.

If you take this idea to heart, you will see that punishment and shaming often will make little sense and do very little to change the situation. If your child lacks the skills to turn off his video game and come to dinner, he is not necessarily being willfully disobedient. Timeout will not fix the situation. He needs to practice the skill he lacks.

I've heard one teacher describe the situation of punishing children with ADHD for certain misbehaviors as punishing a child who does not know how to read for failure to complete a book. 

In short, it is lack of skills, not conscious, willful disobedience.

Philosophy 2: Actually, this is more of an example of what proper parenting of a child with ADHD could look like than a philosophy. However, I think of this example so often that I keep it and the reasoning behind the action as a rule of thumb.

Here is the example:

Your child with ADHD spills his orange juice all over the table for the tenth time of the week. 

You can't believe it happened again. Right after you set the table. All over the meal you just cooked for him.

So what do you do?

We know what the bad example is. We've experienced it. It involves yelling and shaming....

This time, however, you do not yell, shame, or punish. 

You tell your child, "It's OK. Everyone spills."

Your child looks at you in disbelief. He's waiting for your explosion, but it does not come.

You grab a rag and tell him, "Everyone spills, but we clean up our messes. Now you need to clean up the spill."

He says, "I don't know how."

"That's OK. I'll show you how. I'll start and then you finish. Next time, you'll do it by yourself."

You and your child clean up the mess together. It is not fun, but there is no shame involved. 

The child learns how to clean, learns that he must clean up when he makes a mess, and has a learning experience with his parent.

The child spills again the next day. The action repeats. The parent gets the rag, cleans a little, and then lets the child finish.

The child spills again. This time he must clean up by himself.

After the third time, the child starts paying better attention to where he puts his cup. He does not enjoy cleaning up his messes. There is no shame involved, but he would prefer to eat and drink without doing that boring work.

The parent also learned. The parent had to learn to keep calm when they wanted to punish. The parent had to be patient and teach. The parent also had to deal with a child learning to do something new, in this case cleaning. So the cleaning job wasn't great the first time, or the second time, or maybe even the third time... but it was worth it, because the parent taught their child a behavior without shaming. 


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