271: ADHD and Dads: Creating the Fatherhood You Crave, Larry Hagner

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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Struggling to connect with your child who has ADHD can be incredibly challenging, leaving you feeling helpless and overwhelmed. In this insightful episode of Beautifully Complex (first aired 2020), I’m joined by Larry Hagner, founder of the Dad Edge podcast and father of four boys, to explore how dads can create the fatherhood they crave. Larry dives deep into his own experiences with ADHD and fatherhood, sharing practical tips on using empathy, asking open-ended questions, and the importance of praising effort rather than focusing solely on grades. His heartfelt stories, like the regrets of pressuring his son, resonate deeply and provide valuable insights on how to avoid similar pitfalls.

You'll learn how to foster better connections with your kids through tactical empathy, reflective listening, and supportive engagement, especially during escalated moments. We also highlight the necessity for fathers to be more involved in their kid’s education, advocate for individualized teaching methods, and challenge the conformity-focused education system. Most importantly, we emphasize building a supportive community, where authenticity and vulnerability are celebrated, helping you navigate the intricacies of parenting kids with ADHD more effectively. Tune in to discover how to be more intentional and purposeful in your fatherhood journey, and turn challenging moments into opportunities for growth and connection.

3 Key Takeaways


Empathy and Communication: Use empathetic phrases like ‘sounds like,' ‘feels like,' and ‘looks like' to better understand children’s emotions.


Educational Insights: The need for a shift in the education system to better support varied learning styles, advocating for individualized teaching methods over conformity.


Fatherhood and Community: Build supportive communities for fathers, promoting authentic, vulnerable conversations to enhance personal growth and better support neurodivergent kids.

What You'll Learn

The importance of using phrases like “sounds like,” “feels like,” and “looks like” to better connect with your kids and understand their emotions, instead of reacting impulsively.

The significance of tactical empathy and how asking open-ended questions such as “How can I best help you right now?” fosters a deeper connection with your kids, especially during escalated moments.

The value of praising effort and hard work instead of just congratulating grades to encourage your kids to articulate the effort they put into achieving good results.

The effectiveness of acknowledging your child’s true feelings and using reflective listening, empathy, and validation, particularly when parenting kids with ADHD and autism.


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.

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My Guest

Larry Hagner

Larry Hagner is the creator of the Dad Edge Podcast. Featured as one of the top dad podcasts on iTunes. The show has reached nearly 10 million downloads. Larry is the author of 2 bestselling books. He has featured some of the most elite humans on the planet. He is the father of 4 boys and married to an amazing woman, Jessica, for the past 17 years. He loves to do anything active or adventurous.


Larry Hagner [00:00:03]: Men need to be challenged, and men need to have deeper conversations. Men need to be authentic and vulnerable with each other and I think a lot of men view that as like, oh, wow, that's a very feminine emotional thing to do to be authentic and vulnerable with a man. That's not the case. In fact, the strongest and most courageous thing you'll do is to interact like that with a man.

Penny Williams [00:00:25]: Welcome to the Beautifully Complex podcast, where I share insights and strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started. Welcome back, friends. This week on the podcast, I am actually rerunning one of the earlier episodes of the podcast, a conversation that I had with Larry Hagner of the Dad Edge podcast about ADHD and creating the fatherhood that you crave. This one is especially for the dads out there, which I know I don't address often enough, but I have the mother experience, and so that's what I typically share. But Larry came on, and it was a fabulous conversation.

Penny Williams [00:01:26]: He talked a lot about having ADHD himself and raising a kid who is also neurodivergent. He also talked a lot about how he approaches parenting his son with ADHD, and how he's able to both keep his cool and also show up really empathetically, and how that makes a difference for them and their family. And he just really goes in a lot of detail about creating the fatherhood that you want and how to show up as a dad and show up in the ways that your kids need. Right? So it's not just about creating your vision of parenthood, of fatherhood, but it's also about showing up in the ways that your neurodivergent kid needs. So without further ado, here is that episode with Larry Hagner. I hope you enjoy it. Welcome back to the Parenting ADHD podcast. I'm so excited today to be talking to Larry Hagner of the Dad Edge podcast, and we're gonna talk about his story in raising a child with ADHD, and all about dads, and how to better engage and understand what our kids are going through who have ADHD and better connections with family and all sorts of really valuable insights and information for dads.

Penny Williams [00:02:59]: Thanks so much for being here, Larry. I'm so honored to have you on the podcast and to talk about dads today.

Larry Hagner [00:03:06]: Yeah. Let's do it. Let's talk about dads.

Penny Williams [00:03:09]: Absolutely.

Larry Hagner [00:03:10]: Yeah. Good to be here. Thank you so much for coming on. You came on my show as well, and that was fun. We had a really good time.

Penny Williams [00:03:16]: Yes. We always have good conversations. I'm really looking forward to it. Do you wanna start just by introducing yourself, let everyone know who you are and what you do?

Larry Hagner [00:03:24]: Sure. So my name is Larry Hagner. I am the host and founder of the, as you were saying, the Data Edge podcast. I'm also the founder of Good Dad Project, which is basically just our umbrella organization. Dad Edge is really more the brand and and what we do, and I'm married. I've been married for 17 years. I have 4 boys, which are Woah. 14, 12, 6, and 4.

Larry Hagner [00:03:48]: And if you ever wanna know what it's like raising 4 boys, just imagine a drunk fraternity party that you never leave, that everyone wants to, wants to eat your food, pee on the walls, and, never go to sleep.

Penny Williams [00:04:02]: Yeah. Wow. Your wife's a saint?

Larry Hagner [00:04:06]: She is a martyr with a without a doubt. She's a martyr. There's a special place in heaven.

Penny Williams [00:04:11]: Absolutely. How did you get started in doing this work?

Larry Hagner [00:04:16]: So it really comes down to my own struggle as a father and just some of the things that I went through as a kid growing up. You know, I I didn't really know my biological father even though my parents were married for about 5 years. They got divorced when I was about 1, and then my mom got remarried when I was 5. And then my dad and I got reunited when I was 12, and we hung out for about 6 months and then we drifted apart again and, I didn't meet him again until I was 30 and that was by total accident. I was in a Starbucks with a friend, 30 years old, and who came walking in the Starbucks to get his morning coffee? It was my father. And we had a conversation, and that was 15 years ago, and we've had a relationship ever since. And my mom just going back to my yeah. Crazy.

Larry Hagner [00:05:05]: But my my mom was married 3 times. She dated men in between. And so I spent half of my childhood with out a father figure, and then the other half, the whatever man was involved in my mom's life, usually was there was some sort of toxicity. There was some sort of alcoholism, drug use, abuse. I mean, so it was a bit crazy. And and I really started Good Day at Project That Edge because of my own struggles as a father, and I was, you know, just headed down a a really dark path and was able to turn things around just more or less by starting the podcast and the blog and just being a student of fatherhood. And I never would have thought in a 1000000 years it would be where it's at today, but I thank God that it is.

Penny Williams [00:05:50]: Yeah. You were being intentional. That's when the good stuff happens when we're really focused and going forward with intention. You know, you decided to be really intentional about your fatherhood, and it's amazing. It's amazing what just taking a second to think about what we're doing and to move forward with purpose, how much different that really makes things.

Larry Hagner [00:06:13]: I agree with you. It does make a huge difference when you're intentional and and purposeful, and, I mean, that makes all the difference in the world.

Penny Williams [00:06:21]: Yeah. And not just in our parenting, but for our own lives. You know? They're more rewarding and fulfilling when we feel like we are achieving what we want to achieve, not just in the sense of goals and financial stability and those sorts of things, but just in general, you know, achieving real connection with our families is really not only valuable and empowering, but it kind of it gives that warm fuzzy. Right? It it provides that really good, happy, fulfilled feeling.

Larry Hagner [00:06:55]: Absolutely.

Penny Williams [00:06:57]: Why don't you start by telling us a little bit about your journey with ADHD?

Larry Hagner [00:07:03]: So I have a personal journey myself, and then I also have my oldest has it as well. So my own personal journey, I mean, when I am 45, so back when I was younger, I struggled in school terribly. Absolutely terribly. So much so that I actually failed the 8th grade and had to repeat. And so that, I mean, that was really tough. I mean, it's one thing to be held back when you're really really young, but it's another thing to be held back when you're older and especially that transition from 8th grade

Penny Williams [00:07:33]: to high school.

Larry Hagner [00:07:34]: Mhmm. It was really really crazy. And what I can tell you is that I definitely had issues with just focusing on school. It was like there there was just so much information coming at me. I mean, I went to a private grade school, so we had a lot of work, a lot of homework, and, you know, I could not focus on really anything. It was really, really tough. And, you know, I struggled, like I said, in school until probably junior year of high school. School.

Larry Hagner [00:08:01]: Like, no kidding around. My grades really struggled. I was never medicated. I never had an IEP. I did have some tutoring here and there that helped me. But one thing that I realized when I was in high school is that I just learned information differently. So if I looked at the teacher and watched him or her teach, I would lose focus, you know, if I looked around the room. What I did learn is that I was a more auditory learner.

Larry Hagner [00:08:29]: So what I would do was and some teachers didn't really realize it, but then my, you know, my grades were fine, so I didn't really get any slack about it. But I would literally keep my head down and I would put my hand kind of over my eyes, like, right around my eyebrows, and then I would listen to the words that the teacher would say and then I would take, like, meticulous notes. So if I heard it Mhmm. Reflected and then wrote it, I was able to learn it better. And I was also one of those people where test taking was really, really tough for me. Yeah. So what I did was is I went above and beyond when it came to studying. I studied long hours because that's how I was able to memorize material, and I did flashcards a lot because what I realized, I don't know if it was an ADHD brain or what it was, but I could remember writing things down.

Larry Hagner [00:09:15]: So I would write questions down, put the answers on the back, and then the flashcards would allow me to see the question, and then I would memorize what it looked like on the back. So that's what actually helped me memorize information. I did that all the way up until I graduated college, and I graduated with honors. But it took a while to really understand, like, how I learned because I learned very differently than people around me.

Penny Williams [00:09:38]: Yeah. And it's amazing that you had the motivation to do it. So many kids with ADHD in school, they get really discouraged by the time they hit 10th or 11th grade, and, you know, they start feeling like no matter how hard they try, they're not gonna succeed because they do learn differently.

Larry Hagner [00:09:57]: Yeah.

Penny Williams [00:09:57]: And the expectation is outside of really what they're capable of and just in a difference, not in a way that they're not intelligent or not capable. They just have to do it differently. And so I see so many, and my own son included, the beginning of junior year. He just quit trying. He just gave up. He was like, I've tried so hard. Nobody even acknowledges how hard I've tried. I still barely pass, and I'm so done, you know, and so it's been a real battle.

Penny Williams [00:10:28]: It's amazing that you were able to really fight for it. I mean, you really did. You fought for yourself, and that's so awesome, and you really achieved because of it. And I think, too, it had to have been great for your self confidence and self esteem to finally figure out how to do for yourself and learn and succeed in that way.

Larry Hagner [00:10:49]: It it was. I mean, it just it took forever because they didn't really have the resources that they do today.

Penny Williams [00:10:55]: Mhmm.

Larry Hagner [00:10:55]: You know, you were just pretty much labeled as an idiot.

Penny Williams [00:10:59]: Yeah. You

Larry Hagner [00:11:00]: know, like, oh, like, he's just he's he's dumb. You know? He, he doesn't really understand it. He doesn't get it. He's behind. He's this. He's that. So, yeah, kinda kinda crazy.

Penny Williams [00:11:12]: That's awesome, though. It's a good motivational story for a lot of other kids who are struggling in school that, you know, there is a way for you to succeed. You just have to figure it out, and I I'll say it's it's a very different culture in school now as far as special education and learning differently, but we still have an unbelievable amount to go to really understanding kids with learning differences and providing what they need. You You know, my son's struggle has always been that he has a really high IQ. He's super intelligent, but he can't focus. His working memory is terrible. His processing speed is a third of his IQ equivalency, and he has dysgraphia, so he can't write anything that's legible. And, you know, so he was just so wildly misunderstood because it's such a dichotomy to have a kid who's almost brilliant and who can't do a simple worksheet, right, successfully.

Larry Hagner [00:12:14]: Right.

Penny Williams [00:12:15]: And it's just really hard to figure out how to navigate that for for kids, for teens, and even younger kids who are going through it. It's always easier to give up. Right? And they fall into that trap so often, so it's such a great thing for you to share your story and for them to have these stories that really show that if you fight for yourself, you really can succeed, but it's kind of up to you, not entirely. You know, again, we need schools on board. We need teachers to understand, you know, we need some of those accommodations and so forth, but it is up to you to decide if you are willing to do the work, if you're willing to fight for it.

Larry Hagner [00:12:56]: Amen to that.

Penny Williams [00:12:57]: So it's an amazing story. Yeah.

Larry Hagner [00:12:59]: Yeah.

Penny Williams [00:12:59]: And and that's true for all of us. Right? We all have to figure out what we wanna fight for and what we're willing to put the work into. How much are you willing to share about your son? Is there anything you wanna share with everyone about what his ADHD experience has been like so far and what your experience has been like as his dad?

Larry Hagner [00:13:19]: Yeah. For sure. So my son, my oldest son is the one who's been officially diagnosed, and literally, we are exactly, like, I mean, we are literally, like, 2 peas in a pod. Mhmm. So, you know, he doesn't have an intelligence issue at all. I mean, he has a processing issue

Penny Williams [00:13:37]: Yeah.

Larry Hagner [00:13:37]: And he has an IEP. And, you know, I love the fact that these school systems now, they have extra help available that I didn't have growing up. So Yeah. You know, he does get pulled out of class and he does have extra help in math and reading, which is great. And, you know, he gets to take some extra time on tests and that kind of thing. And he's at that age now right now. He's he's 14, so he's very very attuned to the fact that he gets pulled out of class. Before, it wasn't really a big deal.

Larry Hagner [00:14:04]: He's like, oh, you know, I just, you know, but now it's like, wow, like, am I dumb? Am I this? Am I that? I'm like, no. Like, not at all. And what I can tell you is that he gets overwhelmed with information just like I used to. So the cool thing about having a son who struggles with the same things that I did, and he also actually had to repeat 1st grade. So we held him back on 1st grade. He just was struggling really bad. So we're like, you know what? Let's let's hold him back now instead later, you know, give him another shot. And now he's he's pretty much all caught up.

Larry Hagner [00:14:33]: His grades are actually fine. But I do see that he gets very frustrated and stressed out when there's a lot of things to do. So my job with him is number 1. The first thing I do is is empathy. Right? Yep. I I don't get upset with him. I don't get mad at him, you know, when he wants to get angry. Like, what I do with him is, like, I can see you're upset and you're frustrated.

Larry Hagner [00:14:59]: And I you know what? To be honest, I told I remember being in your shoes. So I understand what it's like to wanna lose your mind, throw your book out the window, and, you know, because you're so frustrated. Would you have any objection to me showing you some tips and tricks that have helped me over the years, but just took me a long time to learn? Yeah. So empathy, kinda meeting him where he's at, that calms him down. Just to know that, like, hey, my dad and my parents, they understand where I'm at. And the other thing that I so, like, so for instance with reading, right, if he has to do reading comprehension and he reads an entire passage and then he gets the question, he's like, I have no idea what the answer to this question is.

Penny Williams [00:15:36]: Yeah.

Larry Hagner [00:15:37]: So what I usually do is, like, I'll just say, hey, listen. You know, let's read the questions first. Just kinda get an idea of what information you're gonna need to get from reading this passage. And then the other thing I do too is I'm like, Ethan, you know, hey, there's there's like 3 or 4 or 5 keywords in this question that you can go find these 33 or 5 keywords that are in the passage. So instead of reading it all again and and going through everything again, maybe find a subtitle or maybe find these words in a paragraph, and then that's where you're gonna find your answer. Instead of, like, looking at 3 pages of words, look for the 3 to 5 keywords you can remember, and that's probably where you're gonna find your answer. And then just things like that that I can tell have really helped him, like, lower the amount of stress, lower the amount of, like, oh my gosh, this is so much work. So that's really helped him a ton, is just being able to break things down and not be so overwhelmed by the volume of work that he has.

Penny Williams [00:16:36]: Yeah.

Larry Hagner [00:16:37]: And then the other thing too is as far as, like, a confidence thing goes, I always tell him I'm like, listen. I have, like, pounded this into his head, and I always say, Ethan, grades are not the end all be all measure of how smart you are. There's not.

Penny Williams [00:16:50]: Yeah.

Larry Hagner [00:16:50]: They're a piece. Like, a and and actually a small piece. If you look at some of the most successful minds on the planet, they were average students, you know, and that's okay. So you can go out and be successful. And the and the example I use with him is I was like, dude, the smartest people that were in my high school, the smartest people that were in my grade school, their grades just came super easy. I can name several of them that are not successful

Penny Williams [00:17:15]: Yeah.

Larry Hagner [00:17:15]: In life. You know, they're not out there creating things, you know, they're out there doing, you know, a regular job. Like, even though they're quote unquote smart and brilliant compared to their grades, but that's not a measure of how successful you're gonna be or how smart you are. So I constantly reinforce that that please don't base, you know, your level of intellect on your grades. Yeah. Because that's not the measure. It's not the end all be all.

Penny Williams [00:17:42]: Yeah. Some kids just aren't good at school because it's not the right fit, not because they're not intelligent, not even because they're not learning. You know, if my son had been quizzed verbally instead of given written tests, he would have monumentally better grades because he's verbally fluent off the charts. You know, his verbal fluency is up there with his intelligence, but once you start putting it on paper and you have writing and you have working memory and you have all these other, you know, skills that he struggles with, it's a completely different ballgame, and then he feels incapable. So really finding the ways that celebrate who our kids are and allow them to succeed. You know, I talk to parents all the time. You have to give your kids opportunities to succeed. And if you have a child who's different, who struggles with learning or social skills or anything like that, you have to be very intentional with crafting these opportunities.

Penny Williams [00:18:48]: You know? Whether it's getting that IEP, doing tutoring, you know, finding an ally in the school, or even for activities outside of school, like scouts, for instance. Maybe your child is kind of behind socially. Maybe it would be better and they would be more able to succeed in that environment if they were with a scout troop that was more younger instead of being the youngest one in an older troop. You know, things like that. You just have to really understand who your child is. Like you said, really meet them where they are to help them to have these opportunities to succeed, and even the neuroscience now is backing the fact that the more positive experiences we have, that's the way our brain is making neural connections. The more negative experiences we have, it's wiring to that negative. So, you know, it's monumentally important, not just for their self esteem and self confidence, but kind of for the way that they move through the world, whether they're gonna move through on a more positive stance or a more negative stance.

Penny Williams [00:19:58]: So super valuable that you're really able to understand what he's going through. I mean, so many kids with ADHD don't necessarily have a parent who gets it. I don't have ADHD. I've kind of made it my life's work to understand as much as I can to help my child, but to actually have that experience, to have that insight of actually, you know, living a similar path is amazing for your son. I think it makes your connection to him stronger too, I'm sure.

Larry Hagner [00:20:32]: It it totally does. I mean, just the fact that, you know, we understand each other, that he has someone who supports him, who is empathetic. I mean, I remember my mom getting so angry with me when I wasn't making grades or Mhmm. You know, getting frustrated. But the thing is, I I don't blame her for that because, like, back when I was a kid, I mean, you're talking like 35 years ago when I was really struggling. We didn't have the awareness, we didn't have the resources, like, parents didn't really they had no idea what to do. Yeah. They were just like, wow, like, my kid just isn't smart, like, how defeating is that? And as a parent, I mean, even, like, with the whole COVID thing going on, and now suddenly every parent out there is thrusted into homeschooling, and now you're a teacher.

Larry Hagner [00:21:17]: I mean, trying to even teach 7th grade math to my kid was like I was like, oh my gosh. Like, I was like, I I I would tell my kids all the time. I was like, I know how to do this, but I don't know how to teach you how to do this because we're not really taught how to teach it. We're just taught how to do it, and that's like a totally different animal. So I can't even imagine being a parent when I was a kid and trying to, you know, help these kids figure out homework because it was totally different. You know, we didn't have the resources we do now.

Penny Williams [00:21:46]: Yeah. Yeah. They're really kind of swept under the rug almost, and, you know, I think back to when I was in high school, and I had some sort of volunteer credit class or something where I worked in the special ed department in the middle school next door, and I think back now, and all the kids who were identified, who were in those programs, were much more obviously disabled. Right? So the kids with ADHD, the kids who are more sort of high functioning, which I hate that term, but they were probably, and I'm sure this was your experience, just in class with everybody else trying to figure it out and nobody noticing that it was a whole lot harder for them.

Larry Hagner [00:22:32]: Yeah. I mean, totally agree. I mean, I think kinda going back to what we had then and what we have now, I think parents can really do a really good job of educating themselves on just resources and tactics and techniques and just understanding like how these kids brains just work just a little bit differently. And the thing that I know in your show that you constantly hit home is, look, your kid is not dumb. Okay? Your kid is most likely brilliant. Their brains just work differently, and that's okay. Yeah. I mean, that's totally okay.

Larry Hagner [00:23:10]: If you look and I don't wanna get on a tirade about the school system, but if you look at one area of life and history, look at all the things that have evolved over the years. Technology has evolved. Parenting has evolved. Like, you know, the workforce has evolved. And the one thing that hasn't really evolved in years is the way we teach kids in school. It is still the same way, pretty much the same way it was when I was a kid. It's pretty much the same way it was when my parents were kids. It's one thing that we just haven't evolved.

Larry Hagner [00:23:43]: Now I will say this. I think public school systems have gotten better about, you know, IEPs and identifying kids who need extra help, and then you usually have state support behind you when it comes to identifying and recording, you know, what exactly is necessary. You can get advocates now, which is great. So there's all kind there's a whole host of different resources now that we didn't have, but still overall, we haven't really evolved the school system, you know, to really match what maybe kids need these days. Even the kids that quote, unquote fit in that box and they do well in the system, they could still probably do a better job, you know, if you ask

Penny Williams [00:24:20]: me. I could totally jump on that tirade with you. We have not changed the way we teach in a 100 years. It was started as creating workers who did what they were told and all did the same thing, you know, for assembly lines and factories and things like that, and it's really still completely a system of conformity. We're still not teaching kids to think for themselves, to think outside the box, to do things differently. It's all, this is the one way you do this, and these are the things you have to learn, and it's a real struggle, especially for kids who don't get really interested or excited unless it's a topic that's of interest. We've really struggled with that too. You know? We're in, sophomore math last year, he was struggling so much with it, and he was like, I'm never gonna do this ever.

Penny Williams [00:25:17]: I'm never gonna do this again. The three things on my list that I might want to have as a job or a career in my life, none of them require this math, so why do I have to do it now? You know? It it's hard. It's really hard, and our education system definitely needs to evolve. We need to start teaching individuals instead of, you know, just the system of conformity, but, yeah, we could, I'm sure, both go on for days about that.

Larry Hagner [00:25:45]: Oh, yeah. I'm sure we could.

Penny Williams [00:25:55]: Let's shift gears a little bit and talk about fatherhood. You and I were talking before we started recording. The only experience that I know, of course, is motherhood, and I think fatherhood is a completely different experience. And sometimes fathers aren't as involved in the day to day kind of ADHD management, like doctor's appointments and medication checkups and therapy appointments and things like that, maybe not even IEP meetings or school meetings, and so I think it's really important. Again, we're gonna talk about this intention and purpose to really go forward making an effort to be really connected to what's going on even if you're not necessarily part of that day to day sort of machine of managing ADHD.

Larry Hagner [00:26:43]: Yeah. So where where would you like to start? How can how can I best serve, like, the fatherhood voice out there? May I'm probably talking to an audience full of moms, maybe?

Penny Williams [00:26:51]: No. I and, you know, I think we have dads for sure, and I'm seeing a lot more dads in our community, which is amazing, and I find that a lot of moms who listen or participate or even take my courses will then, you know, get dad involved. Oh, look. Oh, you've got to hear this, or they're passing it on, so to speak. So I think connection is the most powerful thing we have as human beings for a multitude of things, not just fulfillment and happiness, but also it calms our autonomic nervous system, which helps our brains function better. You know, it's really powerful stuff, and so how do dads really genuinely connect with their kids and make sure that they're kind of maintaining that?

Larry Hagner [00:27:38]: Mhmm. Yeah. So, luckily, I I've been in this dad space for years. We've got almost 6 100 episodes on on data edge podcast we've done. And so it's been a what I always say is I I'm no fatherhood expert, but I've got a front row seat to an an amazing education. And we've had experts from all walks of life. Anything from parenting to navy seals, to pro athletes, to, you know, experts like yourself who share knowledge on on ADHD, anxiety, depression, all kinds of different things. And here's what I can tell you.

Larry Hagner [00:28:14]: Couple of quotes that I think really resonate with fathers is without connection, you have no influence. Without connection, you have no influence. So what does that mean? You know, you can really do a disservice to the connection with your kid by getting in the weeds of of frustration and anger when it comes to schoolwork. Now here's what I'll say. I mean, there's a caveat. Every kid is different. Not every kid fits in a box. And to be honest, I don't know how to raise a kid who's given up on school because I haven't faced that yet.

Larry Hagner [00:28:46]: So I'm not speaking to the fathers or the parents who are like, hey, I can't even get my kid to do anything. Luckily, with our kids, they still have drive and motivation to do well in school even when they get frustrated with it. So here's what I'll say when it comes to fatherhood and fathers and that kind of thing. Get your hands dirty. Number 1, get in the weeds of these IEP meetings. You know, ask good questions, you know, come to the table, you know, asking for more help from these teachers during these IEP meetings. You know, force yourself to understand, you know, what exactly you know, because ADHD can be a variety of different things. So understand what exactly does my kid struggle with.

Larry Hagner [00:29:27]: So, like, I understand that my son has a problem with processing.

Penny Williams [00:29:31]: Mhmm.

Larry Hagner [00:29:32]: And here's the cool thing. I mean, if you're a dad listening to this, I I I'm think it's safe to say again, you would probably know better than me, but ADHD affects more men, more more males than it does females. So being a father, the chances of you, you know, growing up with ADHD and then having a a child with ADHD is pretty high. Yes. So allow your own experiences to use empathy with your kids. And, you know, what does that look like? What does tactical empathy look like? Tactical empathy is not sympathy. I'm so sorry you feel that way. I'm so sorry you're having problems in school.

Larry Hagner [00:30:05]: That's pity. And your kids don't want pity. You know, they want to be understood. They wanna be heard. They wanna be connected. So the thing that I always use, you know, men need a map. We need guidance. The one thing that I and I talk about this individual all the time because, like, literally, he's changed my life.

Larry Hagner [00:30:20]: But if you if you ever wanna pick up fascinating amazing book on communication, it will help you in your marriage work. Even dealing with a kid who has ADHD, pick up the book Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. Chris Voss was the chief hostage negotiator for the FBI, and his book is a crash course like PhD in communication. One chapter in particular is tactical empathy. And I love those two words, tactical empathy, because this sounds cool. It sounds magical. It sounds like a dad thing. Right? Tactical empathy.

Penny Williams [00:30:48]: Totally.

Larry Hagner [00:30:49]: So, you know, what does that look like? Tactical empathy is when someone is acting in a certain way and you're like, wow, there's a lot of emotion here. There's a lot of things going on. And one thing that I will tell you no matter if it's your kid, if it's your wife, it's your coworker, or whatever, however someone is reacting, responding, or behaving, it makes total sense to them in that moment. So, like, the fact that my kid is getting, like, irate with the fact that he can't finish his homework and and there's so many words on this page and he's overwhelmed and he is literally used the words, I wanna throw my computer out the window, dad. Yep. So instead of being like, dude, don't get so upset. Why are you getting so upset? This is easy. You can read through.

Larry Hagner [00:31:27]: This is 7th grade stuff. Man, all you gotta worry about is school. When do you get a full time job? Right? I mean, that's Yep. That's how we talk to these kids. It is. So if you can use the words like sounds like, feels like, looks like, Any one of those three phrases, sounds like, looks like, feels like, fill in whatever emotion you might see that your kid is displaying, and then allow them to talk. So, like so for instance, if I see my son getting irate, do I get my feathers ruffled? Sure. Because I'm like, I man, I just want you to calm down, but I don't say that.

Larry Hagner [00:31:59]: Like, Ethan, it feels like you're really overwhelmed right now. You know, is that accurate? Yeah. It's accurate. Like, I I'm really overwhelmed, dad. I'm really, really stressed out. Brother, I understand exactly where you're coming from. When I was your age in 7th grade, I thought I was gonna lose my mind when I was trying to do reading comprehension. So many words on the page and then trying to go back to the questions, and I'm just like, oh, I just wanna pull my hair out.

Larry Hagner [00:32:22]: Is that where you're at? Yeah. That's where I'm at. Okay. Now that we know where you're at, how can dad best help you right now? What what feels right to you? Mhmm. And sometimes he's in that head space of like, I don't know. I just don't know. I don't know what you can do. Okay.

Larry Hagner [00:32:36]: You know what? Do you mind if I share some things that have worked for me? They took me a long time to learn, and it worked for me. And perhaps, maybe if I go over some tips and tricks that have worked for me and I've had to learn it the hard way, maybe we can shorten your learning curve and you're you're you're not as as dad was growing up. So what do you say? Yeah. That'd be great. Okay. And then I'll go into here's how we can go through this. But when you start with that, sounds like, looks like, feels like, seems like, whatever. It seems like you're really overwhelmed right now.

Larry Hagner [00:33:06]: What that does is your your kid is now connected to you while dad dad sees me. Dad understands me.

Penny Williams [00:33:13]: Mhmm.

Larry Hagner [00:33:13]: I feel safe, you know, displaying whatever emotion is going on in my head, and I don't feel shame and guilt. They already feel stupid. Right?

Penny Williams [00:33:22]: Yeah.

Larry Hagner [00:33:23]: And and getting mad at them not only makes them feel stupid, but now discouraged. So don't do that. They wanna feel connected to you. So if you can use tactical empathy to connect with your kid, and then, you know, start asking really good questions. How can I best help you right now? What what feels right to you? I mean, the chances are they might be so escalated that they won't be able to tell you, but then you'll be able to go over through some suggestions. But I think tactical empathy is a really, really big one. I also think that here's a big one, Penny, and I know you probably already know this. I never and I don't care what kid it is.

Larry Hagner [00:33:56]: I don't care if it's my 14 year old who struggles with ADHD. I don't care if it's my 12 year old who, by the way, school comes so easy to him. It's not even funny. Mhmm. Or if it's my other kids, I will never ever ever ever congratulate them on their grade ever. Even if they got an a plus on a test, I I will never say, you are so smart. Good job on that a plus. No.

Larry Hagner [00:34:20]: Never. And let me explain why. When you do that, you're praising your kid for a result. You're not praising them for work. You're not praising them for studying. You're not praising them for how much time it took for them to put into that to get that grade. What I say is, wow. You know, you must have worked so hard to get that.

Larry Hagner [00:34:40]: Tell me what you did that that result happened. You got an a plus on that test. What what kind of work went into that? Because I'm sure you probably put in some hours to do that. And then that kid will then definitely will articulate, yeah. Here's what I did. Boom. Boom. Boom.

Larry Hagner [00:34:55]: Boom. Boom. Versus like, oh, you're so smart. A plus. You're so smart. I don't do that.

Penny Williams [00:35:00]: Yeah. Yeah. Always praise effort and the work that's put in, not the result.

Larry Hagner [00:35:06]: Exactly.

Penny Williams [00:35:07]: For sure. For sure. Yeah. And and you're doing a lot of reflective listening, and by asking, you know, tell me what you did that helped you to get that result, you're reinforcing that work in their minds. You know? You're pointing it out again so that later, when they come to a similar situation, they can pull from that. They're going to remember, oh, yeah. I did this and this. I worked really hard.

Penny Williams [00:35:35]: I really, you know, fought my disinterest, whatever it was, to do well with this thing, And, you know, the more experiences they have that are positive, the more we focus on the action, the better able they are in later circumstances to pull from that to maybe repeat that, and I'm a huge proponent of empathy. I think it's the number one parenting tool, validation, empathy. I never knew there was a term for it called tactical empathy, but I love it and it's everything. And, you know, it is really easy for us to react in the way that you said and that's the key. It's reacting instead of really responding with intention when our kids often look like they are overreacting. They often look like they're making a mountain out of a molehill. Right? And what we have to understand is that's true for them in that moment. That is a true, honest feeling.

Penny Williams [00:36:36]: That is what they are going through. That is what they are internalizing, what they're experiencing, And acknowledging that is super, super powerful because it does. It shows that they can trust us. It shows that we understand what is going on with them, where they are, what they're struggling with. It's monumentally powerful, really in the world in general, but definitely with our kids. I call the the phrase, how can I help you, the magic phrase for ADHD and autism because, you know, we're saying, okay? I I see where you are. I understand how you're feeling or at least acknowledge how you're feeling. What can I do? I want to help you.

Penny Williams [00:37:22]: I don't wanna tell you to behave better or to stop whining about something that isn't important. I want to show you that I get it and I wanna help, and I've learned recently that we really have to take that a step further to how can I help you help yourself? Because now our kids are teens, they're working toward independence, and we need to be furthering that that ability for them to step back in those moments and be able to figure out what they need for themselves as well because someday they're gonna have to use that. So, again, I I agree. Empathy is the number one most powerful parenting tool, really, strategy. It's amazing.

Larry Hagner [00:38:09]: It is. I mean, because at the end of the day, I mean, our kids need guidance. We have to guide them, but shaming them into a behavior, I think, is a temporary fix. Now am I guilty of that? Oh my god. Yeah. No. You know, when it when it when it comes to some things. But I can honestly say without a shadow of a doubt that I don't do that with school.

Larry Hagner [00:38:33]: I did do that once. And to be honest, I wish I could erase this off my son's hard drive of his mind, of his brain. So my son was in he's now he's gonna be in 8th grade when he was in 4th grade. And this is a really vulnerable story, you know, and full transparency of how our own fears can literally, like, just wreck a moment. And this was before I was really podcasting. I had just gotten started. I didn't know much about ADHD, and I looked at my son more through the eyes of he was lazy.

Penny Williams [00:39:10]: Yeah.

Larry Hagner [00:39:10]: And more through the eyes of, like, why don't you understand this? And he was in 4th grade. And he was in 4th grade. He he brought home homework. He was throwing a fit that he didn't wanna do it. And I looked at him and I banged my fist on the table, and I said, you better do your homework. I was like, because you cannot afford to do another grade over again. Do you understand me? Yeah. And I could tell, like, by look on his face, like, it it got to him.

Larry Hagner [00:39:39]: But I didn't realize how much it got to him, and I would say every now and again, like, hey, dad. Do you remember that time? And I'm like, it's like, man. I was like, look. I I I wish I could take that back. Like, I wouldn't have said that if I would have been better educated on what was going on for you. I was like, that was me looking through the lens of my own past and how horrible it was for me to repeat a grade. And, like, that was my own fear coming out in anger to yell at you, to motivate you because I didn't want you to experience what I experienced, which is doing a great over again. And that was my stuff.

Larry Hagner [00:40:15]: That was my own baggage, not yours. Yep. And if anything, I wish I could take that all over again, you know, but I, unfortunately, I just can't, and it just really sucks, but it is what it is.

Penny Williams [00:40:27]: And all you can do is what you know. And when you know better, you do better. Yeah. And I think it's so important for our kids to see us make mistakes. They need to understand that everybody makes mistakes, and our traditional culture of parenting, we are supposed to look perfect. We're never supposed to let our kids see us make mistakes, but it's so valuable for them to know that everybody makes mistakes. No one is perfect, And to see you, you know, handle that in the best way that you could to make an apology, to, you know, express that you wish you could take it back, you know, that shows him what real life is like. We all say things we wish we could take back at times.

Penny Williams [00:41:18]: We all make mistakes. We all do the wrong things. I tell my kids all the time about the really stupid things I did when I was a teenager and in college, because I don't wanna see them repeat those things. You know? And I want them to know that we're real people. We were in their shoes once or in similar shoes. We were their age, and we made mistakes just like they're going to make mistakes. It it's so important, and I think even, you know, having that conversation more than once about that one thing that happened because it hurt you so deeply that you went there It's important for him to really understand that you're human too and that, you know, I think he realizes that you didn't mean it in the way that it felt at this point because you've had that conversation. And, again, all you can do is what you know to do.

Penny Williams [00:42:16]: You know, I talked to so many parents with so many regrets. And if you were doing the best that you could do, how can you fault yourself for that? We have to give ourselves grace, and dads too. It's just amazing to me that we still try so hard to look perfect for our kids, and it's totally culturally ingrained in us to do it, and yet it's so much more helpful to our kids if we don't if we don't look perfect to them, which seems a little counterintuitive, but it's really not. Anything else that you wanna make sure that we talk about for our dads listening before we close the show?

Larry Hagner [00:42:59]: Yeah. For sure. You know, the last thing I'll say about dads is men in general are notorious about living life on their own. In other words, we're surrounded physically by people all day long, yet mentally and emotionally, we sort of live on our own isolated island.

Penny Williams [00:43:14]: Yeah.

Larry Hagner [00:43:15]: Every question that you ask us, we usually respond with good or fine. How's life? Fine. How's work? Good. How's the family? Fine. You know? So it's like the older men get we have relationships what I like to call well, actually not what I like to call it. This is not mine. Steven Mansfield, New York Times bestselling author of Building A Band of Brothers, also Mansfield Book of Manly Men, and now his newest book, Men on Fire. He talks about what's called rust relationships, which it's kinda like your college buddies or high school buddies or maybe even people you work with where you talk about the same five things, same shallow five things that you always talk about, and it's always over a beer because we don't know how to even interact unless we've got some sort of and don't get me wrong.

Larry Hagner [00:43:57]: Like, I like to drink every now and again too, but it's almost like men don't know how to relate unless they are drinking. Right?

Penny Williams [00:44:04]: Right.

Larry Hagner [00:44:04]: So what I'll tell you is that one of the best things you can do as a man is to create a tribe, a band of brothers that will support you, that are not only, like, know you, but, man, they are in your life. They're asking you questions like, hey, man. How are you and Jessica doing? Like, how's communication? Are you guys dating, you know, dating each other? Are you having good conversations? Are you being intimate? Like how are your finances? Like how are those things going? How's your stress level? How's your patience with your kids? Are you connecting with them? Men need to be challenged and men need to have deeper conversations. Men need to be authentic and vulnerable with each other. And I think a lot of men view that as like, oh, wow. That's a very feminine emotional thing to do to be authentic and vulnerable with a man. That's not the case. In fact, the strongest and most courageous thing you'll do is to interact like that with a man.

Larry Hagner [00:44:56]: And let me clarify real quick what authentic and vulnerable really means. It is not weak. It's not you weeping and crying and, like, I just wanna talk about my feelings. It is not that way at all. Being authentic and vulnerable is like, hey, man. I really wanna elevate my marriage with Jessica, and I see I see you and Penny, you know, really communicating well. You guys seem like you're so in love. Help a brother out, man.

Larry Hagner [00:45:21]: Like, what are y'all doing? Give me a day in the life so I understand and what I can do, you know, in my marriage. What what do you got? What you're doing is when you're asking for help or you're asking for assistance, you've just complimented the heck out of that guy, and you did it in a very masculine way. And you've opened up now the relationship to what I like to call an authentic relationship that isn't talking about what Trump just tweeted out or what what you did on the weekend or what sport your kid is in. Like, those are real conversations, and every guy, shoulder to shoulder, face to face with you, we want these conversations. So build your tribe. Build those people around you. It is so essential. It's so much easier and better to navigate life when you do it as a team and when you do it as a tribe.

Larry Hagner [00:46:06]: Mhmm. We were not meant to live isolated. So that's one thing I wanna say to men out there is never ever be afraid to ask for help and, you know, go arm and arm with a man who wants to do life with you or a group of men who wanna do life with you.

Penny Williams [00:46:22]: That tribe is so valuable. We all need someone that we can go to who understands a little bit, you know, who gets where you're coming from and can support you in that way and connect much more deeply than I think men in our culture do, typically. It reminds me of, actually, a Friends episode where they talk about how the girls share everything with each other, and so they decided the guys decided they were gonna share everything, and, it ended up backfiring on them because, of course, it was a comedy. It was not, you know, real life and real connection sharing, but it always reminds me of that when people talk about guys opening up and not typically sharing, and it's so important. And, you know, again, I can only speak from the mother female perspective, but we have built a mom tribe of moms who have kids with neurobehavioral and neurodevelopmental disorders and It's everything. It is everything to have a group of women who understand in at least, you know, 70, 80% of what our parenthood is like, of what the struggle is like some days, and you just need that support. You really do need that support to be able to be vulnerable and to grow because if we are not vulnerable, we can't grow in our relationships.

Larry Hagner [00:47:53]: Amen to that.

Penny Williams [00:47:55]: Super good stuff. So much good stuff, and I definitely encourage all the dads out there to listen to the Dad Edge podcast. I will have links of many different ways that you can connect with Larry and his work in the show notes. His website is gooddadproject.com. You will have a link to the alliance as well and the podcast and other ways to connect. For the show notes for this episode, go to parentingadhdinautism.com/271 for episode 271. I wanna thank you again, Larry. Such a great conversation.

Penny Williams [00:48:38]: So glad to have someone on the podcast representing the dads out there.

Larry Hagner [00:48:42]: I so appreciate you being a voice out there for us parents out there who are raising kids with ADHD and ADD.

Penny Williams [00:48:50]: Thank you. It's valuable work for sure, both of us. And so with that, we will conclude this episode. I'll see everyone next time. Thanks for joining me on the Beautifully Complex podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share, and don't forget to check out my online courses and parent coaching at parentingadhdandautism.com and at thebehaviorrevolution.com.

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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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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