I often hear parents ask. “Is it the ADHD, or is something else?” I understand the question, because sometimes I find myself posing it, as well. Parents may name that “something else”: lazy pre-teen, normal 2nd grader, too much sugar, not enough sleep, just a boy. While I can relate to the question, and the underlying desire to know its answer, I find myself walking away from these conversations wondering, “Does it really matter”?
I wrote these words last fall, and it is still is one of the top questions I hear from ADHD parents! It can be difficult for us to determine when ADHD is responsible for our kids' behavior. The truth is, regardless of the reason, our challenge is to figure out how to respond effectively.
Recently, when I asked a mom if it really matters, she responded:
“Yes, because then I would know how to respond.”
That makes so much sense. For many of us, our brains are constantly looking for clear explanations. It's like our brain wants to handle our kids' behavior with a simple formula:
If A …then do this
If B… then do that
If C… then do the other thing
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But There Are Lots of Variables
In reality, it's not that simple. Particularly with ADHD kids, the same situation may lead to different results or behaviors at different times, depending on other circumstances like mood, energy level, other distractions, etc. Even if it looks and feels exactly the same, the solutions we came up with in the past may or may not work again.
While that can certainly be frustrating at times, there's another way to look at it: this gives you more tools to use in every situation!
Let's go back to our mom: She said that knowing whether it was the ADHD or not would help her to decide if she should:
- Be patient
- Fear for her child's future
If we leave the last one for another blog, she now has two options, instead of one. Any situation may call for a solution that includes both patience and a reprimand, or one or the other of them. On the surface, that may seem more difficult; but, for the savvy and prepared parent, it can be empowering.
What's In Your Toolkit?
The key is to always have at your fingertips some idea of what you might try, and then be willing to experiment as situations come up. For example, you could create a list of the coaching tips we have on the site that really speak to you. Then, you can pull them out when you aren't sure what to try. When the situation comes up you can ask, should I:
- Be curious?
Overall, the goal is to be quick on your feet, flexible and gentle (on ourselves and our kids!) It isn't easy to do in the best of circumstances, let alone when we are stressed out and overwhelmed. But having a clear set of tools in place makes a big difference – and takes the pressure off.
So next time you find yourself wondering, “Is it the ADHD or something else?” Take a deep breath, reach into your tool-box and take action. See what happens. It may open you up to a whole new world.