All parents are superheroes. We firmly believe parents shape the world. Healthy children become healthy adults. Healthy adults are able to navigate complex emotional, mental and physical situations with grace and ease. Healthy adults make decisions that serve their truest selves, while also honoring and serving their loved ones, their communities and the world around them in equal measure. They have an optimistic outlook on life because they are comfortable with the notion that things will always work out.
Imagine a world of emotionally healthy and happy adults? It’s possible and it’s our mission! We start with the source - Parents!
There are many wonderful programs that specialize in positive, strengths based parenting and we use those methods and approaches as the baseline for Whole Family ADHD. However, children with ADHD may have social, emotional and behavioral lagging skills (see this blog on Lagging Skills.). What that means for us parents is that we have to take these positive and strengths based parenting principles to the next level - we must become SUPER PARENTS!
Super Parenting in Action
Children with ADHD often have what we refer to as Lagging Skills. Examples include:
Inconsistent responses to rewards and consequences
#1 - Emotional Dysregulation
How many times have we thought to ourselves or said out loud - “Why would this make our child so mad/sad/frustrated?? It’s just a little thing.” Or - “Why does our child get so silly around a group of friends? It's like they spin out of control.”
Children with ADHD swing from emotional extremes - and even though it feels unwarranted or “overly dramatic” - it’s very real to them. As a “Super Parent” - we need to honor how they feel, help them back to center and teach them the skills they need to learn how to regulate their own emotions in the future. But it won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen over several nights. It may take the better part of their childhood to learn these skills and even into adulthood- that’s why the Super Parenting Skill for Emotional Dysregulation is -
Anticipate. Plan. Be Proactive. Stay Calm.
This is where the P.A.C.K. becomes so important. You have to know your children to be able to anticipate their needs, plan ahead, be proactive rather than reactive in the heat of the moment, and above all else, stay calm.
Your calmness will help regulate their emotions.
#2 - Inconsistent Behavior
One day they eat dinner just fine. The next day they cannot sit still and barely eat a bite.
One day they make it through school with little to no issues. The next day the teacher is sending you frustrated notes. One day they dress and wash themselves. The next day it’s like they’re back in preschool all over again.
First of all - we note that this behavior in and of itself is not exclusive to children with ADHD. We know all parents may feel this way about their children, regardless of their neurological make-up. However, we also know that children with ADHD tend to swing in the extremes.
So what is the Super Parenting Skill?
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
Step by step instructions. Every Day. EVERY. DAY. Just because a child nailed a routine perfectly one day is not an indicator that they will complete it the same way the next day. Be prepared to repeat yourself every day. And make them repeat the steps back to you.
Some may choose to look at this as frustrating and overwhelming. This is where the P.A.C.K. comes in. Make it playful. Make it a game. Grow your patience muscle.
#3. Inconsistent responses to rewards and consequences
For weeks your child was responding well to their points / dollar / chore system - then suddenly it stopped working. Suddenly they don’t care if they lose dessert, or TV time, or their allowance.
But it was working so well???
Children with ADHD (and adults with ADHD for that matter) do not always have a reward system that works the way we would expect. For those with ADHD, the anticipation of the reward, even getting the reward, may not be enough of a motivator to overcome a competing desire. For example - the reward of getting more TV time for finishing homework may not be as much as a motivator to overcome the desire to play a game, play outside, etc. in that moment.
So what do you do?
You have to grow your bag of tricks. Be in the moment. Be adaptable.
Know Your Child
This is part of the P.A.C.K. - Knowing. If you know your child well - you know what drives them, what motivates them, what makes them feel happy and safe. If you know your child well, you can adapt a reward (or consequence - though we try to use those less) in the moment to overcome a competing desire. There is no “one size fits all” approach to this because every child is different and every family is different. But there are guidelines which help in all circumstances:
Give the reward a time limit - they have a finite amount of time or the reward expires
Make it accessible - it has to be something within your reach and within their understanding
Make it immediate - they get the reward as soon as action is completed
Do not get discouraged if things don’t work. You can talk to your child in their calm state and ask what motivates them. You can try different things, and you can try things you have already tried in the past - sometimes rewards that didn't used to work suddenly do. It’s not a precise science but an art, and act of love.
Who knew having a child with ADHD would you make a better negotiator than a top executive or expert salesman. But think of the positive - you can add expert negotiator and ability to think quick on my feet as skills to your resume.
If you’re ready to hone your Super Parenting skills - reach out for a free consultation today. We would be honored to work with your P.A.C.K. and help you create confidence and harmony in your home.