In an interview recently, a summit host asked me for my #1 recommendation for parenting calmly with ADHD kids – how to help parents calm down and stop taking things personally. I thought about it for a long moment before I answered simply: compassion.
Compassion as Coaching Tip to Parent Calmly with ADHD Kids?
Compassion is the expression of sympathetic concern for another's difficulties. On the surface, it seems so simple, can it really be a coaching tip? Shouldn't we all have compassion for our kids? But it's actually a powerful strategy. Let me explain.
As parents, we tend to get frustrated when our kids act like kids – even neurotypical kids. It can be maddening when they tie their shoes at a snail's pace, or cry over something as simple as spilled milk, or behave immaturely in the car.
That is exacerbated when kids don't behave as maturely as other kids their age, as is often the case with ADD/ADHD kids. “Why can't they just…?” is our common refrain. We might lose our cool when our kids don't follow our directions, or take it personally when their emotionally reactivity feels like disrespect.
But I encourage you to think about what's happening with more curiosity. To help you stop taking things personally and parent calmly with ADHD, take a few minutes to put yourself in your child's place.
- What do you think it feels like to struggle with the motor coordination of tying a shoe, or carrying a plate and glass to the table (when your same-age peers have already mastered the skill)?
- What must it feel like to know you have a big report to do, but have no clue how to get started (while your best friend – if you have one – is already half way done)?
- How would you handle the frustration of knowing you're disappointing your parents, but feeling powerless to change it?
- Or to feel like whatever you do, it's not going to be good enough, anyway?
Your Compassion Sets the Tone
As parents, how we approach our kids' challenges sets the tone for how they learn to manage themselves. Your compassion teaches them to be more patient with themselves, and allows them to try harder without feeling like a failure. When you add in some acknowledgment, as we teach in the ACE Method, you'll set the stage for effective problem-solving. And that's the key, after all. We want to teach them to learn to problem-solve for themselves. But we can't do that effectively if we forget how hard it can be for our kids to be who they are.
ADHD kids have complex brains, and that requires us to parent more calmly, more patiently, and without taking things personally.
Give it a try. If nothing else, it feels better to feel compassion for your child than to constantly feel annoyed!