Asking any kid to settle down and focus is a challenge. But, wrangling one with ADHD is whole other set of rules. Parenting a young child with attention and hyperactivity disorder (based on the numbers, it’s probably a boy) is not only exhausting, but their DGAF attitude can leave you feeling helpless, frustrated, and prone to flying off the handle. Elaine Taylor-Klaus is the co-founder of ADHD-coaching program ImpactADHD and author of Parenting ADHD Now!: Easy Intervention Strategies To Empower Kids With ADHD. She sees thousands of parents of hyperactive kids a year, and they all look like they need a nap. If you’re on the brink of a breakdown, here are some road-tested tactics to help you get things under control.
Understand Your Kid May Be Like You
Do you daydream a lot? Are you forgetful? Lose things easily? It’s entirely possible your kid’s just like you. “Either the dad has issues that are similar to his kid’s or he doesn’t,” says Taylor-Klaus. “It could show up as struggles with anger, impulsivity, or organization.” If this sounds like the man in the mirror, then focus on how ADHD shows up for you. Then take a look at yourself and make a change (shamon!). “Get support, coaching or therapy,” she says. “Treat it, but cut yourself some slack and give yourself time — because change takes time.”
Spoiler alert: Dads tend to have the least amount of patience with their kids for so-called bad behaviors that they engage in themselves. “If you can recognize that it’s hard for you and hard for your child, then you can shift to compassion,” says Taylor-Klaus. While it’s difficult to see your disorders manifest themselves in your kid, it gives you more of a chance to understand them.
Start With Your Relationship
The ultimate goals in raising a kid with ADHD are to understand how it shows up, learn coping strategies, and teach them the strategies so they can use it for self-management. And this only works if the relationship is solid. “Your child should feel that you have his back,” she says. “The strongest support for a child is to learn to self-manage; that he can learn from his mistakes rather than being in an environment where he can’t do anything wrong.” So, instead of just automatically doling the timeout, try to slow your discipline roll.
Reach An Understanding
Next time your kid is in trouble, Taylor-Klaus recommends putting yourself in their constantly-moving shoes. “It’s easy to be frustrated with kids when the ADHD is not well-managed,” she says. Your goal isn’t to be exasperated or reactionary, it’s to be understanding. “Instead of wondering, ‘Why can’t you just…?’ wonder what’s going on neurologically. Did he forget? Is he frustrated and can’t calm himself down? Then you can help him with that.” Just remember, learning to be patient takes patience.
Set Realistic Expectations
When you start working with them on behavior, positivity and setting realistic expectations are essential. (Somehow negativity and inflated expectations never pan out.) “Think to yourself, ‘Am I asking him to do something that’s in his wheelhouse or am I asking him to grow taller?,’” says Taylor-Klaus. Focus on one behavior at a time, and help them work on it. The results will be better in the long-term.
Girls Vs. Boys
It’s said that girls with ADHD tend to be more rough and tumble. Let your daughter know you aren’t holding her to any gender stereotypes, and she’ll know that she has a dad that supports her. “That helps girls to self-manage,” says Taylor-Klaus. “If her dad thinks bouncing off the walls is not lady-like, it’s hard for her to self-regulate.” You can point to the fact that women like Ronda Rousey made a career out of bouncing people off walls.
Focus On The Short-Term
She also says that many fathers worry about their sons’ ability to support families when they grow up. But, the key is to not think that far ahead in the first place. “Focus on where they are in the next 6 months to a year.” And remember what it was like when you were a kid. “We want kids to behave like the adults we want them to be, but learning to grow up takes time, especially when you add ADHD.”