Parenting a Child with ADD and ADHD…It’s Not Your Fault

Image courtesy of Stock Photo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stock Photo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The parents of children with ADD and ADHD have a very challenging job. In addition to the obvious responsibilities associated with parenting, many other hats need to be worn. This includes cheerleader, personal organizer, friend, advocate, disciplinarian all while managing one’s own life and those potentially of other children in the house. In other words, this job can be a bit overwhelming at times. OK, I am being a bit nice here…this is a very intensive job. Just ask my parents…they’ll tell you that life was never dull with me growing up around the house.

One of the unfortunate side-effects to parenting a child with ADD and ADHD is the under-appreciated and often times even down-right abused feeling that a child can present. While trying to do what’s best for a child, a parent can often times be a punching bag, pin cushion, battering ram and lightning rod for the child with ADD and ADHD. This creates a feeling of helplessness and underappreciated. In reality, it’s not your fault. Now, it’s easy for me to put this into words on a page, but you have to believe this to be true.

I’ve worked with this mother for a long time. She has two children with ADHD. Both are very wonderful children and loving children, but they can be a challenge. When things aren’t going well, the mother will blame herself for her children’s issues. I often hear where did I go wrong or what could I have done differently. This isn’t a matter of bad parenting, it’s the way us folks with ADD and ADHD often times survive. We do what’s called creating 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 item at hand, we’ve won. Folks with ADD and ADHD are masters at getting out of sticky situations with any available resource. So why not make the forgetting of a homework assignment about my mother or father nagging me? It takes the ownership of the issue of my shoulders and gives it to you. And when you engage me in this argument, I am now redeemed. Because once again, your inability to understand my studying needs is interrupted by this arguing. In reality, I wasn’t going to study anyway. So you’ve given me the perfect excuse.

I advise all of my client’s parents that the most important thing he or she has to do is remain firm and make things concrete. Here’s some examples of things a parent can do to help the process.

  • Do not reduce a consequence
  • Use yes or no  and not maybe or we’ll see
  • Do not engage in pointless arguments
  • Use short and precise written instructions
  • Create routines
  • Love your child

The last one is the most important thing you can do for a child. That is what he os she often times needs the most.

My good friend and fellow ADD/ADHD CoachTara McGillicuddy invited me as a guest on ADD/ADHD Support Talk Radio discussing medication as an intervention for ADD and ADHD (click here). It is also available on iTunes as a Podcast (click here). Tara does many wonderful things and you should check out her website here.

I can be found on Twitter at ADHDEFCoach. You can also find me on FacebookDigg and Tumblr. For more information on my work, check out www.carrolledu.com and www.iepexperts.com. Feel free to email me at jonathan@adhdefcoach.com if you have any additional questions.

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