Motivating yourself to do anything is much easier when you focus on the positive. Being a great parent is no different. And positive parenting for a kid with ADHD? Well that's a whole different ball game entirely!
ADHD brains have many attributes that make parenting frustrating. In fact, for a parent of a child with ADHD, this is an understatement. Chaos can ensue without warning. It never ceases to astound me how easy it is to feel like you're turning into the world's worst parent, when you just want a day to go smoothly without your blood pressure skyrocketing. This can be a tough job!
By nature, the normal human brain is wired with a bias towards negativity. This evolutionary programming has kept us alive for thousands of years. Seeing things as more “dangerous” or “negative” kept us from becoming someone's snack when we wandered away from our caves.
While society has changed quite a bit since then, the protective mechanism of negativity is still hardwired. It's evident in many aspects of our culture.
Take the media, for example. It is rare to turn on the television, or open a magazine, and find a positive, heart-warming news story that inspires us to be better people. Most of the time, the news, or the chatter from our neighbors, has a somewhat negative feel.
Knowing about this natural bias allows us to proactively change our view of everything. If we choose to take the challenge, we can change our perception.
Children with ADHD often have many attributes that are real negatives. However, focusing on your child's struggles, your own anger at the situation, and the ensuing chaotic family environment can make it pretty difficult to be an empowered parent.
I am not suggesting that you ignore your child screaming at you at the top of his lungs “NOOOOO!” when you ask them to get dressed in the morning. Nor am I asking you to stop seeking academic support and assistance to overcome the disability aspect of the syndrome.
So what AM I suggesting? Here are some ideas to help you become a more positive, empowered parent:
- Reach down deep and stop mourning the loss of the child that “should have been.” It is painful to predict a lifetime of struggling for our children whom we so dearly love.
- Stop berating yourself for losing your temper again. Give yourself a break. Parenting these children is difficult. Re-train your brain. It will benefit everyone involved.
- Teach your children that the differences in their brain that cause them to struggle at times are the same differences that will skyrocket them to the top of whatever they are obsessed with! The brain always seeks functional balance to compensate for deficits. Just like blind people develop hyper acute hearing, ADHD brain differences are balanced with compensatory strengths – they may not be obvious, but they exist and need to be discovered.
- Search your child's passions for purpose. People with ADHD tend to over attend, or hyper focus, when they are very interested in something. They become “addicted” to the topic or activity at hand. This can play out in real life as extreme tenacity and an unmatchable drive. It is positively abnormal! When cultivated, it can lead to incredible success.
- Try not to impose your dreams of who you think your child should be on them. Try not to feel sorry for them and wish that life could have handed them different cards. Encourage them to be who their brains show them they are. Take their lead and think outside the box. Accept that ADHD makes people different. Teach them to embrace their differences and take pride in them.
- Be a source of endless support for your child. Even if you don't understand it, encourage any interest they may have, as long as it is not dangerous. Even if you cannot see any value for the future, support your child simply because they are interested. The world is changing, and what will be in demand tomorrow is impossible to predict. Withhold judgment so that you can truly see the potential of their interests.
- Work on improving mindfulness and being in the moment as often as possible, especially when your child is happy and engaged in a positive way. Talk to your child and spend quality time when they are able to do it. Not only will this nurture positive qualities, but it makes the negatives much easier for both of you to deal with.
Success with ADHD is all about re-defining success, for your child and their future, as well as your parenting.
If after reading this you still feel “stuck” wanting your child to be “normal,” you might consider getting some help from a therapist. If these suggestions appeal to you but you're not sure how to make them happen, you might consider getting some help from a parent coach.
These are not all easy tasks, and do not come naturally for most people. Dig deep down into your soul and ask yourself, “What kind of parent do I want to be?” Imagine what positive parenting would look like if you looked for the good things that ADHD has given your child.
A child with ADHD can make any dream come true when just one person believes in them. Be that person!