Creating Conflict to Avoid Conflict…Compensation for ADD and ADHD

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol/

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol/

One of the most common themes from my clients is the idea of accepting responsibility for one’s actions. Having ADHD myself, I find this to be very difficult. This has nothing to do with being right or wrong; it more has to do with compensation. ADD/ADHD can manifest itself in a variety of ways. When we have a bad moment or struggle, the easiest way to deal with these situations is to change the channel. Turn the focus to something else besides the matter at hand.

A perfect example of this is when the parents of my teenage clients battle over homework. The teenagers will attempt to turn the argument into anything else instead of the topic at hand. I will hear things like my parents are driving me nuts all the time or the teacher didn’t tell me about the assignment. While I am not saying these may not be totally true, the bottom line is that the individual’s homework wasn’t completed. That has to be the focus.

In situations like these, especially when the client becomes belligerent towards his or her parents, I advise parents to make it about the matter at hand. It’s really easy to get engaged in one of these moments. I do understand that it’s not easy; we all go on the defensive. But the key is to rise above it and stay the course. When the ADD/ADHD individual gets off the topic, keep redirecting the conversation back to the original question. Let’s revisit the battle over homework completion. When confronted with this problem, the young learner starts screaming about not getting enough privacy to complete work. I advise the parents of this type of client to respond with…what does this have to do with you not completing your homework? Don’t escalate the situation, just stay on topic. Trust me, and many of you know this first hand, the client will try everything under the sun to make the argument about everything else; you just have to force the conversation to stay on topic. Once it becomes about something else, the ADD/ADHD individual identified an ineffective compensation strategy.

Most of the clients I see have moved way past this stage. The younger ADD/ADHD client continues to use this strategy to get out of things. For my adult clients, they continue to struggle in relationships and work. Fixing this process isn’t easy. But it can be done. It starts with seeking an effective professional intervention to refocus the conversation. What do I mean by this ?  Working with a qualified therapist or ADD/ADHD coach is a place to start. Keep in mind that working with a professional isn’t always easy; it requires commitment and the ability to hear things that may make you feel uncomfortable. The best professionals aren’t there to reinforce your incorrect actions; he or she will help you better understand how to improve your functioning. If this sounds like the right step, I would talk with different professionals and identify the right fit for your needs. It’s important that you feel totally comfortable with the person.

For more information on my ADD, ADHD and Executive Functioning coaching, please visit To learn more information about some of the other services I provide, please visit and I can be found on Twitter at ADHDEFCoach. You can also find me on Facebook and Tumblr. My good friend and fellow ADD/ADHD Coach Tara McGillicuddy invites me as a regular guest on ADD/ADHD Support Talk Radio. Tara does many wonderful things and you should check out her website here. Feel free to email me at or call 773.888.ADHD (2343) with any additional questions.


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  1. […] conflict to avoid conflict, or making things about everything else but the matter at hand (read here for more specifics on this strategy). If we can make an argument about everything else except the […]

  2. […] good at creating diversions from the issue at hand to something else…or as I call it…creating conflict to avoid conflict. By blaming his younger brother for lying he’s now totally pulled himself away from any […]

  3. […] As a compensation strategy for Bill, he has taken to lying. Whenever his mother asks him if he’s completed a task, he is telling her what she wants to hear. When questioned, he then Creates Conflict to Avoid Conflict. […]

  4. […] mother feels like she is losing a battle. Not only is her daughter creating conflict to avoid conflict, but now she is becoming verbally abusive. Plus, the mother doesn’t feel supported by the […]

  5. […] These types of decisions cause Janet to have regular conflicts with her parents. Instead of recognizing her contribution to this problem, she feels that her parents do not understand her. What I’ve noticed with Janet is that when an adult tells her something she doesn’t agree with, she will talk over the adult. It is her way of creating conflict to avoid conflict. […]

  6. […] with less-important things. Why does a person do this you might ask? It’s back to the idea of creating conflict to avoid conflict or doing things to avoid the issue at […]

  7. […] fault. He knew how to play his parents and this led to mayhem. I regularly use the term creating conflict to avoid conflict, and this kid was the master. Whether it was headaches, bad teachers or the weather, he found a way […]

  8. […] is where a lot of my work comes in with families…avoiding getting sucked into the battle of creating conflict to avoid conflict or in other words, arguing about everything under the sun except the matter at hand. An example of […]

  9. […] she refused to admit there was an issue. In essence, she because guilty of what I like to call, creating conflict to avoid conflict. It was everyone else’s fault and she had difficultly taking ownership. It impacted the […]

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