No, I have not read the book 50 Shades of Grey. Nor am I one of the millions who helped to set box office records on its opening weekend. If you are, there’s no judgement here. I only mention this record-breaking phenomenon because, let’s face it, it garners attention, and because it’s title is a great analogy on the infinite shades of grey involved in parenting a child with ADHD or autism.

Let’s think of the shades of grey as a spectrum of that color. There’s super-light grey and super-dark grey, and every shade in between.

shades of grey

You can equate this to the spectrum of ADHD — kids with mild ADHD have a little grey and kids with very severe ADHD have a whole lot of grey. And, being their parent comes with a lot of grey areas.

Which is ironic, since my moderately dark-grey kiddo is the most black and white, concrete thinker I know.

I can think of lots of grey areas in parenting kids with ADHD:

  • Medication
  • Alternative treatments
  • When behavior is willful versus when it’s part of ADHD
  • Lacking motivation as a character flaw, or as part of ADHD?
  • Defining ADHD and it’s symptoms
  •  Describing “typical” ADHD behavior
  • Knowing the right level of punishment
  • Comorbid conditions
  • Meltdowns
  • Etc.

I feel like I live a life of grey (which can be it’s own analogy too, but I won’t chase that rabbit just now). Am I giving my son the right medication? Enough Medication? Too much medication? Have we tried everything for him? Do I have him in the right school? Can’t the school be doing more for him? I need to tell his teachers not to tell him to ‘try harder.’ How much do I intervene in his social struggles? Am I a bad mom for letting him have processed ‘kid’ food sometimes? Do I let him have too much screen time?…

I could get swept up in a cyclone of greys and thrown into an abyss. {sigh}

It’s all grey when definitive answers and concrete guidelines don’t exist (which is totally ADHD). I even wrote the first step-by-step guide on parenting a child with ADHD, What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting ADHD, and, I’ll admit, it’s not a detailed guide for every child, because every child with ADHD is a different shade of grey. But it is a great guide for common ADHD traits and parenting kids whose lives are full of shades of grey (hey, I should have spoofed that title instead for my own book).

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Penny Williams
Author. Parenting Guide. Journalist. Speaker.
Penny Williams guides and mentors parents raising kids with ADHD and/or autism. She’s the parent of a son with ADHD and autism, and the author of three award-winning books on parenting kids with ADHD. Penny is the current editor of, Founder and Instructor for The Parenting ADHD & Autism Academy, and a frequent contributor on parenting and children with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications.