How to Set Realistic Expectations: Expect the Unexpected

Manage Impulsivity

We are re-directing our complex children all day long, from sun-up to sundown. Little re-directions. Big lectures. Their behavior is often “wrong,” and our corrections are constant. It’s exhausting — for everyone.

As you can imagine, our kids get tired of being wrong all the time. This leads to low self-esteem and a kind of “giving up.” They stop trying. Other times, they start coming up with ways that they can be right, which leads to lying and cover-ups. You can’t really blame them. Imagine how it must feel to be “wrong” all the time! At the same time, we get tired of the constant need to re-direct behaviors.

But what if we are actually correcting more than is necessary? We don’t want to make our kids “wrong” for the way that their brain is wired. They can’t do anything about that. So if we shift our expectations, and understand that it’s actually “normal” for a child with ADHD to be physically or mentally over-active, then we can take the shame, the blame, (some of) the annoyance and the embarrassment out of our corrections and redirections. We can make them “matter of fact.”

So expect them to do unexpected things, and make it okay to make mistakes. Limit corrections when you can, and save your redirections for what’s really important, or focus on one thing at a time. Do you need to correct every bad table manner at every meal? Or could you focus on one behavior, like using a fork, and let the constant movement and chatter go for a little while?

To expect the unexpected, and avoid making your kids feel “wrong” for not having the kind of self-control that you (and your child) would like:

  • Imagine that your child is driven by a motor that is constantly “on.”
  • Remember that your child actually needs “stimulation,” so instead of trying to stop it, think in terms of channeling it differently.
  • Accept that you’ll teach your child to learn self-control over time, one “table manner” at a time.

And when you feel the need to correct a behavior – and you will continue to correct behaviors, we assure you – remember to remove the judgment and re-direct without anything in your voice that makes your child feel “bad” or “wrong” for a behavior that he is not yet developmentally able to manage as well as you (or he) would like.

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