Top Ten Tips for Parenting ADHD and Spirited Kids from The Gift of ADHD
1. Advocate for your child. This means you need to “spin” your child’s behavior to friends, family and teachers. Has your child’s antics been any worse than our leading politicians? Probably not. Imagine the spinmeisters on talk shows who try to get their politicians elected. Do the same for your child.
2. Coach your child to name and feel ok with all their emotions. Kids act bad when they are mad, sad or ”scared”. When you coach your child to tell you what she feels, her bad behavior will heal.
3. Look inside yourself. Sometimes kids act out unexpressed conflicts of their parents. Are you struggling with depression, anxiety, rage? Get help for yourself and your kids will shape up.
4. Think of yourself as a coach. Your job is to coach your child to success in social, emotional and educational settings. Sometimes the answer is practice, practice, practice. Don’t get discouraged if you have to repeat yourself over and over again.
5. Ask yourself: “If my child’s most frustrating behavior was meant to teach me something, what would it be?” Many parents find themselves half distressed and half impressed at their child’s indifference to people pleasing. Sometimes this is just the lesson parents need to learn in their own lives -- many parents have become imbalanced in attending too much to seeking approval from others.
6. Forget about the competition. Your child can still strive to be outstanding without it being about comparisons to other children. ADHD and spirited children are sensitive to tension produced by parents’ competitiveness and the fear based motivation inhibits them.
7. Keep Yourself Alive! It takes a lot of energy to keep up with ADHD and spirited kids. You need to become your own energy source. Feed your own passions. If you are married, work to increase your intimacy with your partner. If you are single, keep your own love life alive.
8. Honor the kernel of self-reliance in all acts of defiance. Every time your child doesn’t do what you asked them to do, ask them for an explanation. Honor their independent thinking and consider what part of it you may want to incorporate into your discipline. Continue to insist that your child respect your rules while demonstrating respect for their own rhythm and logic.
9. Practice preventative medicine. Many times children’s bad behavior is a misguided attempt to get some precious attention. Fuel your child up with the highest octane energy you can early in the day. Spend a few minutes being entirely present with your child. Look them in the eyes, touch them lovingly and listen closely to your child. This intense presence will give them what they need and head off desperate pleas for attention. Sometimes just a few minutes will prevent large energy draining hassles.
10. Connect with your child’s teacher. Research has shown over many decades that your child’s educational outcomes are very closely linked with how much the teacher likes your child and how much they expect from your child. This is why you need to advocate for your child at the same time as you connect with your child’s teacher. Show enormous respect for your child’s teachers and try to forge a close alliance with him or her. They will go the extra mile for your child.
About the Author: Lara Honos-Webb, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist. She is author of The Gift of ADHD: How to Transform Your Child's Problems into Strengths, the forthcoming Gift of Depression: How Listening to Your Pain Can Heal Your Life and more than twenty-five scholarly articles. Her work has been featured in Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and Publisher's Weekly as well as newspapers across the country and local and national radio and television. She specializes in the treatment of ADHD and depression and the psychology of pregnancy and motherhood; she speaks regularly on her areas of expertise. Honos-Webb completed a two-year postdoctoral research fellowship at University of California, San Francisco, and has been an assistant professor teaching graduate students. She offers telephone psychotherapy and coaching. Visit her website at www.visionarysoul.com .