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Ten Things To Remember If You Have A Child With ADHD

Ten Things To Remember If You Have A Child With ADHD

Having a child with ADHD is hard for most parents. Let’s face it, there aren’t many of us proudly telling other parents “Oh yes, my child has ADHD, and I’m so proud of him. It is such hard work, but it’s so rewarding”. It’s exhausting, never-ending and not for the faint-hearted. Because of the stigma attached to ADHD, most parents tell very few people. ADHD is often linked with other issues such as dyslexia, oppositional defiant disorder, sensory processing disorder, and a whole heap of other “labels,” so parents can find themselves feeling even more overwhelmed and lost in a morass of labels and confusion.

When you type ADHD into Google, a mere 58,100,000 results come back, and I can guarantee you that the majority of them will be negative, scary and gloomy. On the first page of Google results, ADHD is described as a brain disorder or a mental disorder involving neurodevelopment – talk about focusing on the negatives! However, there are so many positives to this type of personality that aren’t always discussed or highlighted among stressed and overwhelmed parents.

There is a legend that the Native Americans couldn’t see Christopher Columbus’s ships sailing to shore. It’s said that because they’d never seen anything like this before, their minds simply couldn’t process the information and their brains wouldn’t allow their eyes to see the ships. As the story goes, one man noticed ripples in the ocean, so every day he would watch the ripples, until eventually he could spot the ships.

Once he spotted the ships, he told all other the Native Americans, and then they too could see the ships. Now, where am I going with this? I’m telling you this because if your child has ADHD, like most other parents, you have probably spent an enormous amount of time sifting through some of the 58,100,000 Google results, and you are probably feeling sad, confused, overwhelmed and scared for the future of your ADHD child.

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Well, today, I would like you to think of yourself as one of those Native Americans, and I’m man who has just seen the ships. It may be hard for you to see the ships, and I totally understand that it could take some time, but just allow yourself for the next few minutes to open your mind to a more positive side of ADHD.

1. Learn about all the people in the world who are thriving with ADHD

There are so many amazing people on this planet right now who have ADHD and are thriving. There are so many writers, musicians, artists, actors, athletes and entrepreneurs who have ADHD and have learned to see it as a gift. They have learned how to use this “superpower” as their ultimate positive trait, and they are thriving in life. And it’s not just grown-ups, there are children and teenagers with ADHD who are making a mark in this world and sharing their journeys. Start to read about these people, gain knowledge about them, and empower yourself. Then you can empower your child and watch their confidence grow. Try searching Google for things like: “ADHD is my superpower,” “Thriving with ADHD,” and “ADHD kids rock.” You get the drift!

2. Discover who you are

There are so many parents who discovered they had ADHD after their child was diagnosed. I’m not suggesting that every parent who has a child with ADHD has ADHD themselves, but it’s becoming more recognised that the little ADHD apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Think about who you were as a child. What did you parents say? What did your school reports say about you? Were you a drifter or a wanderer? Remembering who you were and discovering who you are now could help not only yourself but also your child. And, better still, it may strengthen your bond with them. Remember the saying, “birds of a feather flock together.” Maybe you and your child have more in common than you think!

3. Help your child to find his or her passion

I know it’s hard when you feel that you can spend most of your day either screaming at you child or wanting to scream at him or her, but take some time to discover your child’s strengths. Does he or she like art, nature, or building things? Is your child good at running, dancing, or gymnastics? There was a little boy in America named Pierson Feeney (he’s one of the positive ADHD searches you should type into Google). His mum noticed that he would constantly move his feet and that he found it difficult to concentrate in school. Medication didn’t work for Pierson, so his desperate mum decided to try something different. She enrolled him into a dance school, and the rest, as they say, is history. Pierson now dances after school every day, and because of his love of dancing, he has learned how to focus on something he loves. He is now able to focus more in school and is thriving in life – for Pierson, ADHD is his greatest asset!

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4. Don’t feel embarrassed when talking to teachers

Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer, has won 23 gold medals, but when he was younger, he couldn’t concentrate in school. His mother was told by his teacher that Michael couldn’t focus on anything, yet he has gone on to be the most decorated Olympian of all time. He couldn’t concentrate in the classroom, but he could focus on swimming, and like Pierson, through his passion, he learned how to focus. Instead of talking about what your child can’t do, ask the teachers to explore what they are good at. Are they good at sports? Are they are a fast runner? A good singer? Do they have rhythm or a good ear for music, or do they have artistic talents? Oftentimes, kids with ADHD are very creative. Ask the school to work with you to find your child’s passion. If they are good at something, their confidence will grow, and they will thrive – this could be the thing that makes them succeed!

5. Accept what it is and go with it

So many parents want to try and change their child, and this could simply be because of peer pressure. We all want to conform and come across as a “normal” family, but kids with ADHD are different, and making peace with the situation and accepting it can be very liberating. Parents want their child to stop being impulsive, hyperactive and inattentive, but realising that their brains are wired differently, letting go of how you think your child should be, and embracing the child that you have is very healing. Recognising and accepting their flaws will help you stop and see their rainbows on a rainy day. Every child is good at something, but it’s often hard to see this when you are hell-bent on trying to change them.

6. Try to make peace with your child’s bad days

So many parents feel that their ADHD child does things to upset them on purpose. They don’t listen, and they are hyperactive and defiant. However, learning to make peace with it and accepting what is will help so much. When they act out, often it’s because they are over-stimulated or feeling anxious. Kids with ADHD can have emotions that are so much more intense than other kids’, and they struggle with the simplest of changes. A change in routine, a different teacher, or even a different type of clothing or meal can flip them into a rage. Remembering this on bad days or during bad moments can help so much. Just go with it, accept it and be confident in yourself as a parent. Try not to feel embarrassed in front of other parents; everyone is going through something, it’s just that no one talks about it!

7. Use a positive type of discipline

At the end of the day, we are raising mini-humans, and just like in the animal kingdom, they need the leaders of the pack to keep them in line. However, like animals in the wild, if you try taming your spirited children too much, they will fight back! This can then mean that you can’t even get them to obey a single instruction, which is draining and hard for parents. Using a simple method like “pasta in the jar” is great because it’s visual and easy for both the child and the parent. You simply place some dried pasta in a jar, and each time the child doesn’t listen to your instructions, you take one piece of pasta out of the jar. As soon as you take pasta from the jar, immediately give them a way to earn that pasta back. This allows them to act in a positive way and helps them to self-regulate. If they have all the pasta in their jar by the end of the week, then they get a reward! Simple!

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8 One-on-one time parent time is crucial

Having one-on-one time with your child who has ADHD is often something that can fill you with dread, but having that special time with your little bottle of pop can often be the thing that helps their behaviour. Don’t overthink it; this special time could be as simple as doing crafts together, taking the dog for a walk, or visiting the park. Try not to use this time as a reward for them; instead consider it essential “mental health” time. Even if they’ve had a particularly “bad” week and you feel like you don’t want to give them this special time, try and remember: the children who need the most love are often the ones who ask for it in the most unloving ways.

9. Give them a safe space

ADHD kids will often have more thoughts before breakfast than most people have all day, and in time, this could be their greatest gift, but when they are young it can send them into sensory overload! While going to a friend’s house to play or meeting friends at a café or restaurant might seem like nothing to you, to them it can seem like the end of their world. Allowing yourself to see who they and accepting it will help you in these moments.

Be honest with family and friends that you may not always be able to attend dates, and don’t apologise for this. You have a different type of child who needs to be nurtured in a different way. When you see that your child is overwhelmed, encourage your child to go to his or her safe space. It could be their bedroom (this is why it’s great not to use this space as a punishment room). It could be a den that they have made, even under the table – but it will allow them to self-regulate once again. Trying to get them to conform will often end in disaster for the parents.

10. Choose Love

ADHD kids can be hard to love, but at the same time they are often very intuitive, and they know when people don’t like them. They will feel disapproval from their parents too, and the more they feel this, the more they will rebel! Being mindful of how you talk to them and how you speak about them (when they are in earshot) will affect their self-esteem so much. Low self-esteem in children causes them to be anxious, which can then supercharge their ADHD. Their impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattentiveness will then be on steroids, and it will become almost impossible to parent them. Showering them with love (even on bad days) won’t breed spoilt children with attachment problems. It will instead raise their self-esteem and give you a happier, more compliant little human.

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Instead of thinking about all the negative aspects of ADHD, we need to think about the positives. We need to imagine Mozart composing his symphonies or Dali and Picasso drawing their masterpieces. We need to think about Jim Carrey and Robin Williams making people laugh, Steven Spielberg and Walt Disney creating some of the most iconic movies of all time, and David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue Airlines, making positive changes in the aviation industry. All these people not only had ADHD, but better still, they had someone who believed in them. Someone like that one man who could see not only the ripples in the water but the ships themselves. ADHD kids are hard to parent, but with a little compassion and understanding and a truckload of patience, they can become the most awesome humans! We could be holding the key to the success of future writers, musicians, artists, actors, athletes or entrepreneurs – let’s be the ones who help them achieve it!

Featured photo credit: Jason Rosewell via unsplash.com

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Susy Parker

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Published on December 20, 2019

Is Authoritarian Parenting Good or Bad for Your Child?

Is Authoritarian Parenting Good or Bad for Your Child?

Kate sits down to the dinner table and is eager to be a good girl and eat her dinner like her Mom and Dad want her to do. She is a sweet girl who wants the approval of her parents very much. It is not always easy though. During dinner, she stands up and starts to leave the table because she has to use the bathroom. Her Dad yells at her to sit back down. He tells her “we don’t just get up from the dinner table, we wait and ask to be excused after everyone is finished eating.” She begins to protest, wanting to explain that she needs to use the bathroom. Her father becomes more upset with her and yells at her that she is now talking back and she is not allowed to say another word at the dinner table until everyone is finished eating and then she can be excused.

Unfortunately for Kate, she can’t hold it, and she has a little accident because she is too fearful to say a word to her Dad. She doesn’t want to get yelled at anymore. She also knows that in her home, kids don’t have a say. What Mom and Dad say is like words carved into stone. They are strict beyond reason and they will not bend their rules. Therefore, Kate felt that she had no choice in the matter and when she could no longer hold it. There was nothing she could do about it.

Kate’s parents are an example of authoritarian parenting. They are strict, they are not emotionally engaged with their children, and they have very high expectations for their children. This type of parenting style leaves children feeling disconnected from their parents.

Kate wanted to communicate to her parents that she had to use the restroom, but she couldn’t even get her words out because her parents have such strict rules and demands of her. They did not care to hear what she had to say, because upholding their rules was more important to them. In their household, a child’s opinions and feelings do not matter.

This kind of strict parenting is not helpful for children. It can damage a child and leave them with low self-esteem, mental health issues, and doing poor academically among other problems cited by research in Parenting Science.[1]

What Does Authoritarian Parenting Look Like?

In the 1960’s, a researcher and theorist by the name of Baumrind established the well known theory of parenting styles. Those four parenting styles, which are well known today, are authoritarian, authoritative, passive, and neglectful. For proactive parents that are trying hard to be good parents, they will usually lean toward either authoritarian or authoritative.

Authoritarian parenting involves strict parenting and high expectations for children. This can sound reasonable and even like good parenting. However, the strict parenting is often characterized by lack of compassion toward the child, little to no flexibility in rules, and complete control sought over the child’s behavior.

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Parents who use this parenting style believe it is their job to control the will and behavior of their children. An article in Psychology Today explains how authoritarian parents operate:[2]

Authoritarian parents believe that children are, by nature, strong-willed and self-indulgent. They value obedience to higher authority as a virtue unto itself. Authoritarian parents see their primary job to be bending the will of the child to that of authority—the parent, the church, the teacher. Willfulness is seen to be the root of unhappiness, bad behavior, and sin. Thus, a loving parent is one who tries to break the will of the child.

For example, Jake has authoritarian parents. He wants to stay out past curfew on a school night because he has an opportunity to play in a jazz ensemble. He has been playing the saxophone for years and his ambition is to play in a college jazz ensemble.

With Jake still being in high school, his parents have a curfew. On school nights, it is 8:00 pm. This rule is instituted because his parents believe they need to ensure that Jake gets his school work done each night and that he needs to be well rested for school the next day. However, they don’t explain the why of their rules to him, they simply tell him that those are their rules. The jazz ensemble is practicing at 8:00 pm on a Thursday night and they have invited Jake to come play with them. It is a well known group and a huge opportunity for Jake.

Unfortunately, his parents say no. Their authoritarian parenting style is unwavering. He wants to discuss the opportunity and its importance, but his parents will not even entertain the conversation. They stop him mid-sentence and go over their rules again. There is no flexibility.

If Jake’s parents had been authoritative, they would have taken the time to hear out his case and would likely have granted him a later curfew for that one instance. They would see that, although they have a curfew, there are some instances when an opportunity is worth bending the rules. They would ask that he has his homework done before going to play with the group, and that he come home as soon as the practice was finished.

Authoritative parents have rules, but they are also flexible based on reasonable requests for exceptions. The authoritative parents are interested in how their children are thinking and feeling. Conversely, authoritarian parents are not likely to be interested in hearing their child’s thoughts and feelings, because they want to control the will of their child, not come to some middle ground.

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Here are some characteristics of authoritarian parenting:

  • They have strict rules that are unyielding and unwavering. This is often called “heavy handed parenting.”
  • They do not want input from the child about rules. They also feel that the child’s opinion does not matter, because they are the parent thus are the supreme authority over the child.
  • There are severe punishments when rules are broken.
  • There is an emotional disconnection between parent and child, because the parent is not interested in what the child thinks or feels. They are more interested in controlling the behavior of the child and having the child be compliant to their rules.
  • Children are expected to listen to their parents and follow the rules, there are no exceptions. A child that voices their objections will likely be punished for doing so.
  • The parents have high expectations, especially when it comes to compliance of their rules.
  • Parents expect that their child will be obedient and they do not need to explain the “why” of their rules and expectations. Compliance is expected out of sheer obedience, not because the child understands the reasons why the rules are set. Parents do not feel the need to explain why they set their rules.
  • There is a failure to have attached relationships between parent and child because of the overly dominant nature of authoritarian parents and their unwillingness to allow their children to have their own voice or free will.

Authoritarian parents are driven by a belief that they need to control their children. This means controlling their children’s behavior to an extreme. They are inflexible and don’t take into account the child’s desires, emotions, or well-being as being as important to enforcing rules to get the desired outcome. Authoritative parents on the other hand, seek to guide and direct their children instead of control. There is a distinction.

The Problems of Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parenting has many negative consequences to children. Children who are raised in homes with extreme authoritarian parenting are more likely to become dependent on drugs and alcohol, have lower academic performance, and increased mental health issues according to Parenting for Brain.[3] Children who are raised with authoritarian parents are also more likely to have lower self esteem, inability to make decisive choices, and have social skills that are lacking.

When a child is raised to be taught day in and day out that their voice does not matter, then that child will likely be ingrained with that belief. They will not value their own opinions because they have been taught that what they think does not matter and is of no value. This leads to poor self-esteem and low self-worth.

If a child doesn’t believe that their thoughts matter, then what they think about themselves overall is going to be affected. They will not think highly of themselves or believe that what they think, say, or do is of value. This will contribute to low self-esteem long term.

Social skills will suffer because a child who comes from an authoritarian home will be trained to believe that nobody wants to hear their opinion and that relationships are based on compliance.

For example, Judy is raised in an authoritarian home. She is now 18 years old and has her first boyfriend. Anytime that he asks something of her, even if she internally disagrees, she feels that she is supposed to comply and do what he says in order for him to like her and continue wanting to be with her.

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He wants to have sex. She does not feel that she is ready, but she will not voice this to her boyfriend because she doesn’t think that her opinion will matter or that he will want to listen to what she is feeling. She goes along with sex in their relationship to be compliant. She doesn’t want to be punished by disagreeing with not having sex. He says that they are ready for that next step in the relationship and she fears that the consequence of saying no would be that he ends the relationship.

Therefore, she doesn’t even voice her thoughts or feelings on the situation because she doesn’t think they have value or will be heard anyway.

She has been taught by her parents that her opinions and feelings don’t matter. She has learned from the past 18 years with her parents that what matters most is that she is compliant. She gets along with her parents best when she is doing exactly what they want her to do. This is why she feels the need to do the same with her boyfriend.

Going along with his decisions, being compliant, and not voicing her feelings will keep the relationship going and avoid conflict or punishment. The ultimate punishment in her mind would be that he ends the relationship.

With her opinions never being valued by those who she has loved the most (her parents), she has learned that she should not voice her opinion if she wants to keep the other person in the relationship happy. In her mind, because of how she has been raised, compliance overrides all else, and her opinion is meaningless.

However, her boyfriend is not her parents. He is understanding and would want to know how she feels. He wants a long term relationship with her and he loves her so much. His true desire is for her to be happy. He would never want her to have sex if she wasn’t feeling the same way that he was feeling. He would gladly wait and would want to hear what she thinks and feels about taking their relationship to the next level.

Authoritarian parenting methods can inflict great harm on a child. The child becomes emotionally damaged because they grow up believing that their opinions, thoughts, and feelings do not matter. Instead they are taught that compliance and being obedient supersedes all else.

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The Solution

The solution is to move from authoritarian parenting methods to authoritative parenting practices.

Authoritative parenting has been deemed as the best parenting method by researchers, according to Psychology Today. Parents who use authoritative parenting methods have rules for their children, but they are not looking for blind compliance. They recognize that having a relationship with their child is of great importance and therefore valuing the child’s voice, opinions, and thoughts is important.

Authoritative parents seek to guide and direct their children, but they do not seek to control the will of their child.

Parenting Coach Plan explains the foundation of authoritative parenting as the following:[4]

Authoritative parenting can be described as a style of parenting that combines firm limits and clear boundaries with fair and consistent discipline. Authoritative parents are also nurturing, highly-involved, and willing to speak openly with their child regarding expectations and the consequences for failing to meet those expectations. Rules are enforced and fair consequences are put in place for when those rules are broken.

Children raised in authoritative homes follow the rules because they understand the “why” of the rules. They are also bonded to their parents because they are able to talk to their parents openly. This bond helps nurture a positive home environment and a two-way relationship that can last a lifetime.

To learn more about how to be an authoritative parent and how to discipline a child using this parenting method, check out my article:

How to Discipline a Child (The Complete Guide for Different Ages)

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

Reference

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