Be mindful of your example.
Raising kids with ADHD is tough. They seem to have been born with the gift of instilling frustration even in the most peaceful of humans. It isn’t their intent, mind you. Far from it in fact. But, nonetheless, their innate behaviors can frustrate everyone around them, especially their parents.
When a parent is angry or aggravated, it only escalates the child’s behavior. Nothing productive can come from a clash of the titans in your own living room. Repeat after me, “No-thing.” Instead, everyone walks away angry and frustrated, your child feels misunderstood and down on themselves, and the issue that started it all didn’t get resolved.
I found myself yelling, “Why can’t you just ____” statements at my son, Ricochet, repeatedly, every day.
“Why can’t you just listen the first time I give instructions?”
“Why can’t you just stand in line without jumping around?”
“Why can’t you just calm down for five minutes?”
“Why can’t you just get the chore over with and move on?”
Well, he can’t “just” do these things because genetics and environment clashed to create a brain that simply isn’t built for it. Once I realized, and accepted that, I could begin my journey to calm and positive parenting — two parenting traits that are crucial to success in families with ADHD in the mix.
Calm is crucial.
Once you accept that ADHD behavior is not willful, nor lazy, you have built your foundation for calm. You are the parent, the leader by example more than declarations, especially with kids with ADHD.
Leave your emotions out of it. State facts in a calm and even tone. Your child may try to goat you, but don’t bite. Stick to the facts, remain even, and try to work with your child to find a compromise or resolution that can work for all. By doing this, you are modeling appropriate emotional regulation and social skills too — an added bonus.
“I want this new game but I don’t have allowance until tomorrow,” says Ricochet.
“Ok, Buddy. You can buy it tomorrow,” I reply.
“NO! I want it now. Tomorrow is too far away!”
“I’m sorry,” I say calmly and matter-of-fact. “The rule is that you have to have the money to spend the money. I’m happy to help you buy it tomorrow.”
Ricochet begins tossing things and slamming doors to show his anger. I let him cool off in his room for a few minutes, then go check on him.
“Your rules are stupid! It doesn’t hurt anybody for me to get it today!” he fires off, making sure I see the evil glare he’s sending my way.
“I’m sorry you don’t agree with the rule, but it’s still a rule in our house. Momma and Daddy don’t get to spend their money before they have it, so it’s something you have to learn as you grow up too.” Still totally calm and even, “You can make a purchase tomorrow. It’s almost bedtime now, so that’s really not so far away.”
“I like the way you retreated to your bedroom to cool off instead of continuing to fight with Momma.”
Is it hard to pull that off when your 12-year-old is melting down like a toddler? Ab-so-lute-ly! Of course. It’s a learned skill, but one paramount to your success as a parent of a child with ADHD.
Here are some tricks to use in the moment:
- Give yourself a time out.
- Take a walk around the block.
- Turn on some music.
- Hum a tune.
- Start singing a silly song.
- Close your eyes and take relaxing belly breaths.
What tricks do you use to remain calm in your day-to-day parenting?