On the Outside Looking In
Every parent of a child exhibiting any of the characteristics associated with ADD/ADHD/OD/CD suffers finger-pointing for the child’s “bad behavior” from family, friends, school personnel, or the larger community. Teachers respond unsympathetically because they are there to teach, not manage behaviors.
On the Inside Looking Out
The finger-pointing is hurtful and counterproductive. The parent is struggling to help their child behave at school so they can learn. Parents are struggling to agree on the best approach. Parents are struggling to work, deal with calls from the school, meetings with teachers, and suspensions; struggling to figure out how to handle that one child without neglecting the other children; struggling financially, likely unable to afford the counseling that may or may not help; and struggling to hold onto their sanity. On top of it all, no one is offering any real help. Where do you turn?
Challenges & Suggestions
The most common behaviors are described as impulsive, absent-minded, easily distracted, and lacking appropriate social skills on top of the normal stuff. The day-to-day challenges we face as parents in light of those behaviors include children who:
· Jump off the top bunk as soon as they learn to walk.
· Forget what you told them to do before you are done talking to them.
· Punch another child because they lost a game.
· Yell and cuss at a teacher who doesn’t believe them, even though they lie all the time.
We typically deal with more problems with our children outside of our homes because the expectations are different. Schools are more structured/rigid. The expectation is everyone has to fit into that structure, which isn’t truly realistic because we are not a society of robots.
Home is the safe place where the child can be themselves, loved and accepted by their families. Home is where impulsive behavior can be thoughtful, helpful, funny, and engaging. In public spaces those same behaviors can be unacceptable. In both environments, the child is the same person. The child is not bad, they just can’t live up to expectations everywhere you go.
The most important focus at home: consistency, a lot of patience, and grace.
Determine the rules and consequences for breaking the rules. Then stick to the rules no matter what. What motivates them to cooperate with the rules today may not work tomorrow, and sometimes they try to outsmart you. So be prepared to change the rules when needed.
Patience is basically the ability to control your emotions under pressure and seek to understand what’s going on.
Getting mad, yelling, and punishing might be the first reaction, but this doesn’t set a good example. Don’t let their behavior stress you out. The ability to respond calmly comes from a focus on the rules and consequences in place.
A child who is absent minded often requires to you repeat instructions. Knowing this means we have to extend grace and come up with strategies to avoid frustration. One way of decreasing the need to repeat yourself is to have them take care of tasks when you tell them, not later. If you notice when giving multiple instructions they forget some, then only give them one instruction at a time.
Lacking basic social skills means our children have difficulty making friends. This can leave them needy, desperate, and vulnerable to negative influences.
We have to do what we can to foster positive relationship opportunities for our children and monitor their interactions. As adults, we know what it’s like to grow up with friends we’ve known since elementary school. Or grow up with cousins the same age who are our closest friends. If your child has difficulty developing healthy relationships with other children, you can help by building relationships with people who have children the same age and are aware of your child’s challenges. Sharing your child’s challenges and how you are dealing with them is important in developing those relationships.
Appropriate adult supervision at all times is crucial to your child’s success until they are grown. Without it, inappropriate behaviors ensue. “Appropriate adult” means people who know your child’s challenges, understands and agrees with your approach, and is willing to accept the responsibility.
EXAMPLE: When my grandson was about 5 or 6, I took him to Sunday School. I was summoned because he had gotten mad about something and was knocking over all the little chairs in the classroom. By the time I got there, the teachers had the situation under control. He had calmed down, they talked to him about his behavior, and they made him clean up the mess he made. They told me I could go back to what I was doing. I was summoned by a witness to his “bad behavior.” But his teachers were a husband and wife who’d raised children of their own. Those teachers are truly loving, gracious people who worked with my grandson. They didn’t judge him or label him or kick him out.
If your child’s behavior is so disruptive in school that they are suspended more than they are in school or the school wants you to put your child on medication but you don’t want to go that route, consider homeschooling or a private school with smaller classrooms. Shop around. There are private schools that offer scholarships. I homeschooled one of my children through middle school and had a tutor come in once a week when needed. You can also connect with other families who home school for group activities. I was able to give my child a list of assignments and chores every morning that had to be done by a certain time. He was able to set his own schedule and take a nap in the middle of the day (which he needed) as long as he got his work done. I would check his work at the end of that time period, help him work through anything he had difficulty with, and then let him have the rest of the day as free time. He got to go outside and play with neighborhood friends after school. He got straight A’s because I was able to work with him one-on-one until he mastered one thing before we moved onto the next.
OUT & ABOUT
One of the things I learned was to NOT take my children into situations where I knew they would fail. For example, I was involved in the community a lot. So I took my grandson to a lot of meetings and classes where I would spend most of my time trying to control him, or I’d end up leaving early. I had to ask myself one day, why am I stressing myself out by creating these situations and stressing him out by taking him with me when I can honestly predict the outcome. He was just being himself, and I shouldn’t make him feel bad about that. It was my fault for taking him in the first place to events that had nothing to do with him.
The challenge our children face in life is learning to manage these behaviors. ADD/ADHD/OD/CD cannot be “cured.” Our children have to learn to manage their impulsive, absent-minded, easily distracted behaviors (self-control) and learn some basic social skills. This is a lifelong process. So it’s important the child to understands who they are, what their challenges are, and why. Knowledge is power. And it’s our responsibility to help them learn whatever they need to be successful in life. We can never give up because we are the only ones who truly love them enough to help them. The teaching doesn’t end when they turn 18 or 21. It just changes.
If you have questions or would like to discuss your challenges, feel free to shoot me an e-mail anytime to email@example.com.