The other night I watched a prime time episode of Dr. Phil. The show was about a father who has been accused of locking his son (then 3 years old) in his room for 3 years, only allowing him out long enough to go to the bathroom once a day. The father’s explanation for this was that his son had ADHD and that locking him in his room was for his own safety.
I get so angry when I hear comments like that, and it seems I hear them most often when something awful has happened. The media is always quick to point out that the person in question was taking medication for ADD, as though that fact alone is enough to prove them guilty of whatever it is they’ve been accused of. In most people’s minds, I think, ADD equals bad and uncontrollable behavior.
Well, let’s be honest, here. Sometimes ADD does equal bad or uncontrollable behavior, but lots of times it doesn’t. And surely you’ve met a child or two without ADD who’s just as handy at finding or creating trouble. That’s what kids do – they get into mischief, they cause trouble, and throw tantrums. It’s how they explore their boundaries and find out about the world they live in.
It’s our job as parents to set the boundaries, and let them know when they’ve crossed them. It’s a full-time job, and for parents of kids with ADD or ADHD especially, it requires full engagement. That means you keep a close eye on them (which includes getting up off the couch occasionally), you do what you can to safety proof their environment (that way you don’t have to lock them in their room for 3 years), and you learn to expect the unexpected.
Kids with Attention Deficit Disorder are easily bored, impulsive, and dedicated risk-takers. That means that as a parent, you’ll need to learn to think outside the box, and what’s more, you may have to do it for much longer than you anticipated. Child-proofing the cupboard doors is only the beginnng. Your ADD child can come up with ideas that your other children would never think of, so you’ve really got to be vigilant. (Have you found your child on the roof yet? Or better yet, heading out the window, snowboard in hand?)
Keep in mind that as they get older, the stakes get higher. Drivng way too fast (especially down winding country roads at night, with the headlights off). Drinking, drugs, unprotected sex. Hanging out in the wrong places, provoking fights. I’ve had more than one young man tell me that he does such things on purpose, knowing he’ll get in trouble, just to relieve the boredom.
So how do you head this kind of behavior off before it gets to this point? I’ll save that for next time.