Parenting in general can be tough; parenting a child with Attention Deficit Disorder is even tougher. That’s partly due to some characteristics common to most ADDers: they are naturally inquisitive, impulsive, and prone to taking risks. Here are a few tips to help you meet the parenting challenge:
- Stay vigilant and engaged. Keep a close eye on them, preferably on your feet instead of the sofa. Yelling “What are you doing?” and getting “Nothing” as a reply won’t cut it. You are asking for trouble; get up and go find out what kind.
- Be alert to things in the environment that may be attractive to your child, and address them immediately and repeatedly. For instance, my son is an avid hockey player; when he was younger, all he needed was a frozen puddle to practice his stick-handling and he was happy. So, when we installed an above ground pool in the backyard, I could see right away that this was potential trouble. I told him when we installed it in the spring that there would be no skating on it, and I repeated that reminder when fall and then winter came.
- Think outside the box, because they will. If you don’t understand this one, you will soon enough. (See the example, above).
- Make sure they’re really listening, especially when you tell them something important. Ask them to repeat it back to you. (Our son found out early on that we had a stock set of things we routinely told him. This came to light one day when we asked him to repeat back what we had just told him, and he gave us something totally irrelevant. We learned from this experience; see below.)
- Come up with a set of house rules, applicable to everyone. Post them, and talk about them when you do. Then keep talking about them. Explain the reasoning behind each one. Don’t attempt this all at once, but in little bits and pieces. Keep the list as short and simple as you can, while still trying to cover your bases. You’ve got some of these rules already – things like “no hitting” or “no lying”. Don’t expect to get it perfect the first time; it’s a work in progress. Ask your kids for ideas, and see what kinds of rules there are in their classrooms if you need ideas.
- Remember to be positive, keep your sense of humor, and remember that they have ADD. People with ADD spend an awful lot of time being made to feel as though they just don’t measure up. It doesn’t help that they have a “deficit” and a “disorder”. Try to view as much as you can with an open mind and a positive twist. Pick your battles, and only fight the big ones. My son had a friend whose little brother (ADD) sprayed the kitchen floor with cooking spray so he could skate on it. Messy? Dangerous? Oh yeah. I don’t know how his parents handled it, but at my house, we would have had a good laugh, talked about how it was probably pretty dangerous, and then we would have cleaned it up together. My point is, your child needs to feel like he is perfectly fine just the way he is in his own home. Everyone needs a safe refuge to come home to when the world is beating up on you.
- ADD can be an explanation, but not an excuse. Understand the difference, because they will use it if they think they can get away with it. You can understand when they forget something, because that’s part of having ADD, but you can’t excuse it away. Because they have ADD, and are prone to forgetfulness, they have to work extra hard at not forgetting. You can help them find ways to remember that will keep them on track, but if they do slip up and forget something important, they have to pay the consequences just like everyone else.
I’m sure there are more great ideas for parenting ADD & ADHD kids than I’ve outlined here; what are your great ideas?