075: Guiding Your Child to Winning with ADHD, with Sarah Cheyette M.D.

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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What parents of kids with ADHD (and/or autism) want more than anything is for our kids to succeed. And, yet, success can be elusive with the many challenges and hurdles a neurodevelopmental disorder like ADHD adds. That's why providing opportunities for successes and wins for kids with ADHD must be a crucial part of your parenting plan.

In this episode, pediatric neurologist, Dr. Sarah Cheyette, and I discuss how to help your child win with ADHD. We're not simply talking about nurturing talents and interests, but also about teaching our kids resilience and showing them that they can, indeed, do hard things and succeed. 


Some of the resources may be affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission (at no cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.

Coach John Wooden's Pyramid of Success

Dr. Cheyette's Books: ADHD & the Focused Mind and Winning with ADHD

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My Guest


Dr. Sarah Cheyette graduated from Princeton University, and then UCLA Medical School. She did a fellowship in pediatric neurology and has been in private practice since then. She treats kids and young adults with ADHD, not just with medication but also with non-medication strategies such as those she outlined in her books, ADHD and the Focused Mind as well as Winning with ADHD. She brings a powerful professional perspective on the benefits and limitations of ADHD medication, and the many behavioral adaptations young people with ADHD must embrace to thrive with their condition. She and her husband have four kids and live in the San Francisco Bay area.



PAP 075: Guiding Your Child to Winning with ADHD, with Sarah Cheyette M.D.

Dr. Cheyette: If the expectation is that it's going to be hard, then I'm not knocked over every time so one gift parent can give to their child is go, wow, yeah, that does look hard. How do you think you can start it? How do you start things that are hard?

Announcer: This is the parenting ADHD podcast with Penny Williams each week. Penny shares proven ADHD parenting strategies in her hard one, ADHD, Bama wisdom. This is not your physician's podcast. Penny discusses the genuine grit of the moment by moment peaks and valleys of this special Parenthood. She'll lift you up and empower you to help your child and your family thrive. It's time to beat the chaos and challenges of raising a child with ADHD. Here's your host, Penny Williams.

Penny Williams: Thanks for joining me on this next episode of the parenting ADHD podcast. I'm thrilled to be talking to Sarah Cheyette on this episode of the podcast and we're going to talk about teens with ADHD and how to set them up for success and give them the opportunities for wins and their lives and then building self-esteem and self-confidence and setting them up for the future. Thanks for being here. Can you start by just introducing yourself, who you are and what you do for those who are listening?

Dr. Cheyette: Absolutely. First of all, I want to say thanks for having me on the show. Penny. I'm Dr Sarah Cheyette and I'm a pediatric neurologist, so I deal with kids who have neurological issues including ADHD. I'm the author of two books on ADHD, one called "Winning with ADHD," one called "ADHD and the Focused Mind." So I help people win with ADHD,

Penny Williams: which is exactly what we need. That's exactly what so many parents need help with is figuring out how to guide our kids who struggle sometimes in those areas to still feel successes and feel competent and confident. Do you want to start? I think with just some basics, what are kind of the building blocks of good self-esteem and confidence and feeling like you have something to contribute to the world.

Dr. Cheyette: Well that's exactly it, Penny. If you don't feel like you have something to contribute, you're not going to do very well. And in the context of ADHD, it's important that we keep in mind what makes kids focus and even try to do things. And one of those building blocks is confidence as the saying if you believe you can, you can, if you believe you can't, you can't. And yeah, and when people don't believe in themselves, they have a hard time focusing on doing anything and then their outcome is poor and then they say, see, I can't do that. And that makes them try less in the future again, with poor outcomes. And all of a sudden you're going down a negative feedback cycle that's hard to get out of, digging a hole past the tree roots and into the Earth's core.

Dr. Cheyette: Basically, the point of getting people to focus would be so that they've accomplished things and they feel good about themselves and then they notice and everybody goes, wow, you are awesome. And the team thinks about themselves as, yes I am awesome. I think I'm going to try this. I think I'm going to try that. I'm good at this. This is great. So, self-confidence is a super important part of getting on a positive feedback cycle. And that's really the point in what I do in terms of helping people try to get more focused. I love that you talk about it as a feedback cycle because I think that's really key for parents to have that perspective that it's very easy to get caught up and even stuck in whatever that cycle is, whether it's positive or negative. Absolutely. And that is the number one question I get, which is to say how do we get somebody from a cycle of failure to a cycle of success?

Dr. Cheyette: There are diagrams in my book, "ADHD and the Focused Mind" that talk about just this. If you're on a cycle of failure, it is possible to get on a cycle of success. one of the things that helps is shooting low, so to speak. So having smaller accomplishments but that are realistic. And if you can start accomplishing even just a little bit, then usually people start to feel better and better and better. It's like the little engine that could, you start low and you start going faster and faster and faster. Yeah. And really starting small. I talked to parents a lot about just find something that your child can succeed at and really customize or tailor that so that they absolutely can have some success because you can build from that. Absolutely need that feeling to keep it going. Motivate.

Dr. Cheyette: And if you can picture, your kid is at point a whenever that is. Hopefully it's nothing major, but it might be about to fail school or worse yet, not caring that they're going to fail school. they're shooting for my kid right now. Ah, that's tough on parents. It's tough on the kid too. , but you can't just push the kid or pull the kid to point B very easily and you certainly can't do it without going to point a to meet them. So, we have to find some way to connect with people even when we're angry at them, when we're disappointed in them. All these difficult types of emotions that parents have and they, they, a lot of parents feel like, ah, you can lead the horse to water, but sometimes you feel like dumping it over their head.

Dr. Cheyette: Sometimes you feel like just slamming, slamming the bucket on their rump. But you have to find a way to make that connection it at point a so that you can both travel to point B and how do you do that? You have to find a way to have some empathy for your kid. Do that with kids with ADHD, they hear 30 negative things for every one positive thing that they hear, 30 to one sad. It's sad. And if that happened to you, like don't you remember the bad things that people say about you, they really stick in people's heads. That's the way brains are built. So having some empathy and some compassion is good. Finding a way to respect the child so that there are some things the kid is doing okay. It may just be to making and keeping friends or something that you can say, well I get that.

Dr. Cheyette: Maybe it's their sport, their activity. Maybe it's not school, but what your relationship is not about school. find a way to connect with your kid as much as possible. I really like those art places where you sit around and you do the pottery together and you actually might talk to each other and it's very relaxing and if all else fails, go out for ice cream. You don't have to talk to each other. But who could say no to that? Yeah, just that connection. I think that's so important in general for our kids and for adults. Everyone kind of in the world right now. And it's so valuable. Even like you said, if you're not talking, if you're just there together, you're your child, that you care, that they're important to you, that they matter. And again, when they're hearing those 30 negative messages to one, that's a really strong message to absolutely that especially given that you are supposed to, like the optimal ratio is three good things for one bad thing.

Dr. Cheyette: And these kids not only flip the ratio, but they do that in 10 times that way. So it's one good thing for every 30 bad things. So that over time, and this is coming from your closest support network usually to it's your parents, it's your sibling, it's your teachers. So they're hearing those things from the people who know them the best and who surround them. And there are negative consequences for that.

Penny Williams: Yeah, I think it becomes their inner dialogue. They start to adopt that as their identity. And I see that, especially in my own son, as he became a teenager. At some point he just said, "okay, I'm not going to be understood by most people. I'm trying really hard. But nobody gives me any credit for that. They all asked me to keep trying harder, like I'm not trying."

Penny Williams: And so, he started a couple of years ago, he's 17 now, talking about how he's lazy. And he didn't learn that at home. we've never given, we've been very careful not to give that impression. And so they just get so many unintended messages and they really take them to heart.

Dr. Cheyette: Absolutely. And so, lazy is the number one thing that people call themselves with ADHD, sometimes stupid, but mainly it's lazy. That seems to be the biggest word coming out of their mouth. And that goes back to a sense of under accomplishment. I do point out when they're saying that they're lazy, that they're not lazy in many other ways. They are absolutely energetic when it comes to their hobby, their sport, their art, whatever it is. Sometimes their music, their band, or being a good friend, if your friend calls you, you don't go in, I don't want to deal with you here, Johnny on the spot for them. So there's many ways where people have to, many avenues I should say, to take off that self-identity of lazy, you can acknowledge that they are acting in a way that is unenergetic or perceived as lazy at times, but that's not who they are at their core.

Penny Williams: Right. That's so true. My son's therapist, many years ago, when he was little, probably seven years old, did an activity with him where they got the big piece of paper and he laid and she traced him and then they talked about, and they labeled his outline with all of the great things about him, everything that he was interested in, good at, passionate about. And I'll never forget when I got called back in and I opened the door, the first thing he said to me was, look at all this great stuff about me. Like awe, even absorb any of that without cognitively doing this activity of listing it because he kept getting all of these other negative messages. And some of that had to do with us too because we were still learning about ADHD. And, even for teens, we can do something like that with them.

Dr. Cheyette: Absolutely. I mean, it gets to be a little tricky sometimes because you remember how I said that the optimal ratio is three to one. If you hear only good things about yourself, you stop believing the person who's saying them. You just go, Oh, that's so-and-so. And in our society you gotta be able to produce something. Like you actually have to be able to do something as a team when you're little and you don't do anything, you just kind of flit around. People think it's kind of cute and nobody's really that fussed about it. As an adult, we have work to do, we have taxes to pay, there are half dues that we have to do and we have to accomplish them. So nobody really gets points for what they mean to do as an adult. Either it's done or you didn't do it.

Dr. Cheyette: And as a teenager and preteen, you've got that transition time where, people are looking for more than expectations during that time. And so you can't just tell your kid that they're okay, that they're great and the kid won't believe you if there's nothing to back it up and be the kid's going to want to have some sort of, I mean, he, he or she knows that there's got to be some actual, something behind that. So it's important for the kid to have that outlet. Okay. I had a terrible week at school, but I passed my karate belt test or whatever.

Penny Williams: Yeah. That's so important too, offering opportunities for success. What is your child good at? If they're really struggling with a lot of things, what is something that they can feel really good about and get them involved in that or nurture their curiosity in that area and help them, create the wins.

Dr. Cheyette: Yeah. And that helps you get an opportunity to cheer for them, to compliment them and they will have some real meaningful accomplishment. Yes. And I think, as you said, once they get to the teen or preteen years, they're much more cognizant of what's genuinely a success or a win and when we're kind of fluffing and trying to make them feel amazing and, and it can be really hard though to find that thing that they're good at.

Penny Williams: That thing that, actually makes them feel competent and confident.

Dr. Cheyette: Right. And that's the thing, sometimes you're in such a situation where the teen truly becomes depressed, and in part that may be from the ADHD, but by the time depression starts in, that really makes everything worse. It makes the ADHD worse because people have a hard time concentrating when they're depressed. And it makes it harder to believe in yourself, which as we said, is one of the ways that we get from the cycle of failure to the cycle of success. And, kids can really go downhill if they can't find something that is healing to them to do. Sometimes suggestions are best not from the parents. So I think what I'm talking about there. But and it doesn't have to be a psychologist. It could be a friend, a clergy, somebody who you trust, who could talk to your kid and think about what kinds of things might be interesting to them ? doing something with somebody that the kid likes or trusts. It doesn't matter what it is. I'm constantly being asked what's the best activity for ADHD? And I would sort of say it depends on what your kid likes. If there's a teacher involved, how the teacher is with your kid, the end product is the end product. It doesn't really matter, but the process is the important part. I think with any activity it's really helpful if the kid can see that there's something hard that they have to do to achieve. I mean, a hard activity builds a stamina and that is something that we absolutely need more of when we have ADHD. So, my first book, the "ADHD and the Focused Mind" was written with a karate teacher.

Dr. Cheyette: My kid's karate teacher. The reason was because all the things he was telling my kids to do in karate, if they could take into the other parts of their lives, they would be so much more successful. So things like focus your eyes, listen to your coach, and it's supposed to be hard. The kids are all going, school is hard. Oh, that's a test. I get it. It is supposed to be hard. It's school. It's not supposed to be easy. And so a sport where you go, wow, okay, I'm just, whatever the equivalent of a white belt is, I'm a beginner. I can see, the, the really advanced rock climbers do this. I, I have to do X, Y and Z. And eventually I will get up there. anything, any activity like that is helpful. And that could be sports. It could be piano, it could be music or it could be art. but an activity like that is, is super important.

Penny Williams: Yeah, they get that message because they perceive that it's really easy for everyone around them. So it must be that there's something wrong with them or the way they're doing it.

Dr. Cheyette: Right. And today's culture with the instant this and the instant bad, that is really kind of doing everybody a disservice. there's all this instant gratification stuff out there and, even a lot of success stories, we package things to make it look shiny and easy. even the ones who are, , very successful usually get there by a lot of hard work, even though it may be hidden. Yeah. Hard work and time. So luck favors the prepared. Right. you have to realize it's going to be hard. I have to work. And by doing those, by thinking about things that way, a lot of people are more likely to focus. They're like, okay, bring it on. I know I have to do this.

Penny Williams: And that's really where we need to get. That's the key is for our kids to be able to sit through and work through discomfort or a non-preferred task, but to keep going and not just avoid or resist. I see a lot of that. And I think that's a lot of what the procrastination is ? we're trying to avoid, as long as we can avoid that thing that's so hard because we don't think we can do it.

Dr. Cheyette: Right. But if the expectation is that it's going to be hard, then I'm not knocked over every time. So one gift parents can give to their child is go, "wow, yeah, that does look hard. How do you think you can start it? how do you start things that are hard?" This is a lesson that you could learn from the very beginning, and when you're smaller, child is saying, "wow, wow, this is hard." It's like, yeah, I have to do hard things, too. And when I do hard things, I start by breaking it into the smallest piece. "You don't want to do your homework? Well, let's see. Can you hip hop on one foot to the homework table" or something where you're at least starting the process. Teenagers will not hip hop to the homework table. Maybe you could say, "well, all right, maybe you could walk over to your computer and open the file" or something like that, or write the first sentence or put your name on the page.

Dr. Cheyette: So if you can learn how to start, that helps with procrastination, but really deciding that you're going to do it also helps with procrastination. If you're ambivalent about something, if part of you is like, "yeah, I really want to get this homework done, but Oh my gosh, I really want to be on Instagram too." Oh my gosh. , you're pulled in different directions and if anybody's pulled in different directions, it's hard to move. Right? One thing pulling you one way, the other thing pulling you the other way, so the more you can sort of strengthen the one that you actually hear ? "yeah, I want to get that a, or I want to get that C or whatever, wherever you are." But if you can think about it and realize ambivalence, sometimes you might decide, I'm actually going to goof off for a little while.

Dr. Cheyette: But the more you can put a decision into it, the more you will be able to put the full force of your focus behind it. I think it's best if kids work in short little bursts ? they're on or they're off. It's that in between that's the killer. Cause there's sort of working and there's sort of not working and it takes so long and it makes the process so painful. Better to do short little bursts. Using a timer is helpful and say, "okay you're on, you're off, and off is off and on is on.

Penny Williams: I like that cause that works in the breaks that they often need, but it also gives them something to look forward to.

Dr. Cheyette: Right. Look forward to the time that they don't have to be on for five minutes. If you watch people play tennis, they're hitting the ball for a set or whatever it is, a game, and then there's a time where they're sitting on the sideline and they're recovering, and then they go play another game. If they don't know how to recover, well, they are going to lose energy and they're not going win the last games of the match. So, the recovery time is got to be good recovery and then you're on again. Electronics can be okay for some people for recovery if they can put them down. But electronics often suck you in to make it harder to put it down. They're designed that way. Teams of neuroscientists designed them to capture your brain.

Penny Williams: They truly do. They truly sit and work that out on how long they can keep you going.

Dr. Cheyette: Absolutely. It is no coincidence that on YouTube, the other 20 fascinating videos that tie into what you just watched. They're right there. You have to watch them and they're ready for you.

Penny Williams: Yeah. I love that you use the word recovery. I don't think parents think about this. I don't think we think about the fact that for kids with ADHD, they're typically trying much harder than their peers to accomplish different expectations and they need time to recover from that. It truly is recovering. It's stressful, it's overwhelming. It can be defeating if they're not succeeding in the ways that they see others succeeding. And so that, using that language, that particular word "recovery" I think is so important for parents.

Dr. Cheyette: Absolutely. And again, from a sports perspective, a lot of kids with ADHD actually have strengths in sports for a variety of reasons. And using a sports metaphor is very helpful for a lot of them. when you play soccer, they have the break in the middle because otherwise you'd be exhausted if you were going running, the marathon or looks kind of like crap at the end of the marathon. Right? But the one who did the a hundred yard dash and it's like, yeah, victory. And so you want to run, you still have work to do, but you want to basically run your marathon in a series of very quick dashes.

Penny Williams: Yeah. And for a parent like me who's very type a, I always just want to get things done with, I want to sit down one time and I want to power through it because that's my personality and that's the way my brain works. And over the years I've had to really remind myself, and I still get caught in this trap with my son and helping him with schoolwork. But there's only two problems left. Let's just get done. And he's saying, I can't do anymore. He'll literally say, "I can't do anymore right now." And it's about being mindful, stepping back as a parent and acknowledging that they are telling us that they need, they're self-advocating and we need to honor that. It can be hard, it is really hard.

Dr. Cheyette: And Penny, I'm just like you, I'm like "let's get it done." My poor kids are like, what? What did you do? We even didn't even hear you start. And it's tough because it's sort of like, why can't you just do it? And the kids are like, I can't do it that way. And it's really important. And it's something I didn't think enough about. I don't think early on, but I'm seeing things from the kids' perspective. Like you as an adult, I have this automatic, yes, that's important. But the kids are like, I don't know if it's that important to me and they have a harder time completing it and then, they don't, from, from a kid's perspective, I don't want to do my homework because I have other things that I want to do.

Dr. Cheyette: And the adults are like, Oh my God, you're not getting into Harvard and your life is going to be ruined. And the kids like, it's great stuff and I don't really care about it. So, kind of coming back to where your kid is, is really important and trying to see things from their perspective, that doesn't mean you don't try to teach them or encourage them because they do have to learn how to do things even when they don't want to or when they don't find something is interesting. But, , kind of taking a minute to pause and giving them a reason to personally care about it, sort of like, okay, I understand you are doing trigonometry and you don't really care about that. And, and I understand that. No, I don't think you're going to have a job where you're going to do co-signs and logarithms and all that. However, in whatever job you have, you're going to have to learn how to do problems that are hard for you. So maybe this is just an exercise in problems that are hard for you. You would get a benefit from that.

Penny Williams: Yes. That's exactly what we're going through. Trigonometry and everything. You totally just narrated the last two months of my life. Those conversations are hard and for, there's a lot of kids with ADHD who are literal concrete thinkers. They want reasons for things. That's where we've really tripped up with this math is, why do I subtract 3X from both sides? Because that's the way you do it. Right? There's no explanation that satisfies and it becomes somewhat of a battle because we see the importance when our kids sometimes don't. Right? And then you just have to meet them where they are.

Dr. Cheyette: You do have to meet them where they are in order to move them forward in any way. You have to start where they are. And the thing about school is like, yes, I totally get that, I understand that they teach you a lot of junky stuff and I can't remember most of what I had learned in school, but I remembered how to get things done. And that is something that I am now really good at and it's made a big difference for me in my life. And this is truth, some kids seem to believe me because I really, really honestly believe that. But in terms of a more immediate type of reward, you sort of go, "well, I get that this isn't interesting to you, but life is not entertainment. How are you going to make it interesting? You have to make things interesting for yourself."

Dr. Cheyette: Sometimes the teaching of this stuff could be better. Sometimes the teaching is God-awful. I know my own kids at times have asked like, the, with the math and my son asked the teacher, why do you do it this way? It's so much easier to do it that way. Why are you making me do it this way? And the literal answer was because that's how they told me to teach it to you. Right? Like really that's as good as you got teacher. So, I think if you can give the kid more of a reason to believe in the thing, the kid will be more likely to do that. And if you can make it more personal or meaningful for them, that's important.

Dr. Cheyette: You could say to your kid, "You know how your basketball coach makes you do those running drills that you hate? You do them, don't you? And you always want to try to be first to finish them. It's the same thing. These math drills are good for [X, Y, or Z, whatever you can come up with], which sometimes it's difficult and sometimes you might just go, what? Okay, don't do it." The world will not fall apart. It's just school. It's just homework. And if those last two problems don't get done, so be it. Take the B. You may decide that, in any situation there's choices you have. One is to play, to win, right? Give it everything you've got. You're going for the A, you're going for valedictorian, you're going for whatever, and you're putting everything behind that.

Dr. Cheyette: But there are other times when that is not a good choice. Sometimes you're just there to play for fun. I'm just here to horse around and that's okay. And some days you're just putting in the level of effort needed to just play, not to lose. I just want to pass. I just want to get this. I just want to survive it. And again, it's important for the kid to decide. Oh, and the final choice, you could choose not to play at all. I don't want to do that and hope that our kids are not choosing that about school. We want them to play to win as much as possible in some situations. But kids cannot play to win all the time. Not only kids, adults get exhausted that way too.

Dr. Cheyette: So, there are times where you want to play to win, times where you play not to lose, times where you just play for fun, and times when you choose not to play. You need to give your child some cues to think about what situation are they in, what do they want.

Penny Williams: And sometimes that's so tough because they're not necessarily going to make an appropriate choice. It's hard for us as parents to watch them potentially make a catastrophic choice. But what I'm finding now is that they tend to come back around, they tend to learn from that and start to make better choices for themselves. Started to take ownership. So it's, it's hard, but it's not giving up.

Dr. Cheyette: You use the word catastrophic and I think that's an important word. You would do things differently if there was truly like a danger to life and limb and there's less choice that you offer. When there really is catastrophic consequences then you have a tighter leash.

Dr. Cheyette: However, failing class is not a catastrophic thing. And much better that they come out of an experience stronger for it than feel like you?re making them do everything. I had a kid in my office today who, this was the discussion we're having, he's like, "I don't want to go to college." He's a sophomore. "I've decided school is not for me." Okay. You can decide that. But then he's complaining that his parents? home only has one shower in it. It's like, okay, well let's kind of roll with this plan of not going to college and see. It sounds like you like houses where there's some degree of luxury. So, you choose it dude, but you own it. And this is the direction you're going in.

Dr. Cheyette: It's somewhat catastrophic cause it's like, "Oh my gosh, they're going to waste a lot of time, "but they may need that time and it's very artificial. If you're making them, then there's a lot of resentment and it's really hard for a lot of kids to sustain that as they leave for college. Then it gets expensive too. You're often betting a semester's tuition that your kid will go to college and not spend the whole time playing Fortnite. That's a genuine concern.

Penny Williams: I have a daughter in college now as well and she is neurotypical with just some anxiety, but was really determined to go away to school all because that was the program that she wanted and we felt like she was pretty prepared. She felt like she was pretty prepared and we all kind of went, "Oh, I think this might be hard for most kids."

Dr. Cheyette: It's supposed to be tough. And it is, it's a huge transition. And just so all the listeners know, cause a lot of people may be used to tracking their kids with canvas or school loop or power loop or whatever. You see everything you'd see basically whether the kid was asleep or awake in class and whether they raise their hands, every homework assignment, you could track it. what, in college your kid can slug everything and the college wouldn't be the ones to tell you. And so it's against the law for them to have these discussions with parents. And so nothing in college. So it's really important that you get to a point where you can trust your kid so that the kid knows how to ask for help when things are not going well and doesn't just try to hide and like, Oh my gosh, I hope it's, I hope it'll be better.

Dr. Cheyette: Or they wait until the day before finals to get a tutor. all these situations that can happen. as you're getting your child off to college, think about that in high school. Where is your child in terms of how, what kind of cues and support do you have to give?

Penny Williams: Yeah. Are they ready? And it's okay to not be ready right after high school. I think that's where so many parents get tripped up. Yeah. As you leave high school, you go to college, that's how you succeed. But for so many people it doesn't have to be that particular path or in that order or in that timing and you succeed or they can shift direction or, there's so many options when we stray a little bit from the path to either find a better path or figure out that we need to get back to the path that we were on. And there's so many hard things. There's hard things for our kids. There's hard things for us as parents. But the truth of the matter is that we can do hard things. We can do much more than we give ourselves credit for. And I think our kids can too, especially when we show them that we believe that they can do it.

Dr. Cheyette: I think in previous decades, uh, parents gave their kids more responsibility earlier in kids' lives. So, kids used to walk to school by themselves, have more chores, and more jobs than a lot of kids these days do. And I'm not saying those were the good old days, but, it does create a sense of responsibility and perseverance in a child to have the responsibility. We still have the same rule though, like high school's over at 18, you're outta here.

Dr. Cheyette: And, uh, even though our culture is different and we're sort of helping our kids more, and arranging things for our kids more, we still have that same cutoff, which doesn't make too much sense when you think about it. I think the community college option is a great opportunity for a lot of kids, because it gives them time to, figure out how to do college with more support than they would if they were going away to college. And also by the time they do go to go away to college and it gets more expensive, then, they'll get more out of their time at college colleges not going to be for everyone. And that's true whether you're in community college or a four year college or graduate school. There's no rules that you have to do these things. we do know that, it is easier to get that extra shower in your house and, you have, uh, a degree, uh, professional training or, or higher education. But there are other paths to success in other directions. There's all sorts of things that can be done without a college degree.

Penny Williams: Yes. And some of those things will make them a lot more money than some of the college degrees. We need more of the vocations now. And I think that's fantastic for a lot of people who have found that a four year traditional college experience may not be the right path for them. It's not for my own son. And we had to, over the years as he got closer and closer to being a teenager and thinking about what comes after, really be honest with ourselves and really have him discuss how he feels about different options, but he feels like he wants to do because if he doesn't want to go to college, $100,000 plus on college, it's going to go down the drain, he's not going to succeed if he doesn't have any desire to be there and to succeed. And it truly is not the only path to success.

Dr. Cheyette: That is absolutely true. Encouraging your child boxes is good because if being in the box makes him totally miserable, it's certainly not going to be sustainable. However, you have to be realistic as well. And so, doing nothing is not an option, but finding something that you can do and that doesn't make you throw up, it's going to be a good choice. So, sometimes parents have to adjust their expectations. so that you're focusing on the wellbeing of your child and the overall long-term path to success. Certainly focusing on which college, makes no sense really.

Penny Williams: And defining what successful looks like for your child or any other child. It's not just this one vision that we have as a culture. There are so many other ways to have a fulfilling and happy life. It doesn't require college and great ACT scores.

Dr. Cheyette: And one great way to increase the chance of success is by defining success as something under your control. So the outcome is not the measurement of success. I mean, of course it is in some respects, but you can always have a hard test or an unfair teacher, . But did you do the best you could? Did you put it all out there? Did you study, using those great studies techniques that you learned? Did you put in the time? Did you put in the effort? If you defined success, uh, to paraphrase John Wooden is the satisfaction of doing the best job you could do. then you're going to be a happier person and you're going to be less vulnerable to whatever outcomes push you higher, you'll have a center, you sort of say, "I did what I could."

Dr. Cheyette: And to use the karate metaphor, the boards will break or they won't break. But if you did the best kick you could do, that's all you can do right there. If you put it out there, if you did all the things that you were supposed to do, fantastic. And it's important to celebrate too. Like we said at the beginning of our talk today, it's easy to get down on yourself. And the way a brain is wired, brains have what's called the negativity bias, meaning that you do remember all the bad things more than the good things. And so it's really important to pick out, very consciously, the good things. So one technique that we talk about is saying three good things. So how was your day? And you'd ask your kids that and they'd go like, and then you go, all right, fine, whatever.

Dr. Cheyette: Or they go into a tirade about so-and-so said this and you did that and this one was mean and that's teacher yelled at you. Okay, I get bad things happened. Can you name three good things that happened? Again, there's that three to one ratio that keeps popping up. Every time you say a bad thing, you've got to think about three good things to pull your brain over the negativity bias and to help it really start seeing some positives over time that becomes more automatic. But and in the beginning your kid and it's great if you do this with your kid. Sometimes it's hard to remember the good things. Later on it becomes easier. But if you don't celebrate something, everything is work. Work, and then you don't want to keep doing it.

Dr. Cheyette: So, again, using a sports metaphor, if a basketball game was make a basket run to the other side, they make the other basket defend, run to the other side, nobody would care. It's the high fives that you get from your teammates at the side. It's the victory. It's the thrill of winning something that was hard. Again, if you do eat only easy things, it's not so fun. Everybody has more fun when they win the game against a really hard team. Right? Right. So it's more fulfilling. So, look for that high five you have, you might have to create it for yourself. You might have to remind your child to create it for themselves, but if you don't get the high five, it's just work, work, work, work, work, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And who wants to do that?

Penny Williams: So many good insights and strategies that you've shared. And a little bit of hope too, I think for parents. I feel like whenever we give parents permission to change their expectations, change their definition of success, it's really empowering for parents and then for their kids as well.

Dr. Cheyette: Yes, absolutely. Parents often feel like their children are a reflection of themselves and the parents can get embarrassed and parents feel like they are the failure when their child isn't doing well and trying to move past that kind of thinking to acknowledging that your child is an essential being and has been right. They've had those personalities from when they were young. They are not the blank slate. They are their own people and learning how to work with that except your child for who they are. And yes, you're allowed to parent and push to some degree. But uh, being realistic about who your child is and respecting who your child is and appreciating your child for who they are is a key part of not just parenting ADHD kids, but also parenting any kids.

Penny Williams: Yes. I totally agree. I think that a lot of what we talk about in parenting kids with ADHD or autism is really a best practice for parenting in general. It would be a nice shift for all families. . Thank you so much Dr. Cheyette for giving some of your time and sharing a lot of your wisdom with us. For everyone who's listening, you can get a link to Dr. Cheyette's website, her books, "ADHD in the Focused Mind" and "Winning with ADHD" as well as links to any resources that we've talked about here in this episode on the show notes. I thank you again...

Dr. Cheyette: Thank you so much for having me on your show, Penny.

Penny Williams: Take good care and I will see everyone on the next episode.

Thank you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it. Have something to say, or a question to ask? Leave a comment below. I promise to answer every single one. **Also, please leave an honest review for the Beautifully Complex Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and appreciated! That's what helps me reach and help more families like yours.

I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

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I'm your host, Penny.

Join me as I help parents, caregivers, and educators like you harness the realization that we are all beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect. Each week I deliver insights and actionable strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids — those with ADHD, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities…

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