10 Easy Steps to a Tension-Less Home

John Wilson

Would you like your kids to be more responsible and make better choices?

Would you like them to be less oppositional?

Do you want to enjoy parenting again?

 Finding ways to encourage responsibility in children diagnosed with ADHD can be challenging.  This article will outline ten strategies to help you empower your children and teens, leading to more cooperation and less tension.

1.  Self Awareness

Does your child know his/her learning style?  Is s/he a visual or auditory learner?  Perhaps, like many children diagnosed with ADHD, s/he prefers hands on learning through experience? Self-awareness can help your child or teen understand his/her strengths, abilities, and challenges. The CITE learning styles survey is a free resource to get started.

2.  Focus on Strengths

Focusing on strengths is critical to empower youth. Helping young people see themselves as dynamic, strength-based individuals develops a healthy sense of self. Helping them find their hidden strengths can be a powerful tool in developing resiliency, especially when you identify the strength in their challenge areas. For example:

Negative Trait Positive Characteristic

Impulsive    Spontaneous

Disorganized    Flexible

Distractible Multi-task ability

Hyperactive    Action- Oriented

There are many ways to identify strengths. Strengthsquest is a survey available through Gallup and does a wonderful job. Once identified, keep and post victory lists and find ways to remind your children what is amazing about them every day.

3.  Involve Them in Decision Making

Involvement in setting guidelines and determining consequences creates choice.  Choice leads to an increased sense of competence, which promotes healthy decision-making and problem solving.  If your child believes s/he has a say in what is happening to him/her, then s/he’s more likely to be invested in the outcome.

4.  Develop a “Failing Forward” Mindset

Learning to fail forward with confidence allows for, and even expects, performance inconsistency in life. It gives children permission to try with the expectation that failure can and will be a stepping stone to success. After all, Edison once famously said of failure, “I learned 2000 ways to not invent a light bulb.”

5.  Use Responsibilities to Develop Self Reliance

Do you have set family chores that your child or teen is responsible for? Do you encourage volunteer work? Developing self-reliance from responsibilities is another key component in promoting empowerment and fostering a sense of accountability. Consider letting your child plan a family date night, or make a family meal. Look for ways to let your child do more and more independently.

6.  Family Constitution

A family constitution helps get an entire family on the same page. It creates clear expectations, defining responsibilities for all members of the family. To do this, take a few minutes to develop a mission statement for your family. A good family constitution will have duties assigned, rules of the house, a system for running a family meeting, and a process to change / amend any part of the constitution. (You may want to decide what your non-negotiables are before going into the meeting with your children.)

7.  Validation

Validation is key for everyone.  When you provide genuine validation, it develops a mindset and framework of empowerment. Consider using reflective listening and be open to the idea that your child may have a point or reason to be frustrated.  When you come to a conversation from a place of caring and respect, you will get much farther than when you don’t.

8.  Natural and Logical Consequences

Natural and logical consequences can be useful in changing behavior. Consequences are immediate, have some logical connection to the behavior you’re trying to promote or extinguish, and are not overly harsh.

If a child has trouble learning to put his/her bike away, for example, a natural consequence might be a rusted chain from the rain, and a logical consequence might be withholding the privilege of using the bike for a set period of time.

Consequences are far more successful in changing behavior then punishment, which can be arbitrary and sometime overly severe.  Consider letting your child or teen work with you on the development of a consequence (as suggested in #3 above).

9.  Effective Communication Strategies

What communication strategies work for your family?  Create guidelines and structures for communication that include reflective listening and agreed outcomes. Encourage your children to make “I” statements, instead of “you” statements. Use email, notes or other systems to track communication. Call a family meeting if you have an issue you need to discuss.  Be prepared to negotiate a solution, but come with a proposal.

10.  The Proposal System

Finally, we come to the proposal system. This simple tool has been used by many families to significantly change the home environment.  If a child wants something, s/he presents a proposal with the following components (you will have to teach them this process, and occasionally ask for more information if they have not considered a point):

  • What s/he wants (or a change s/he’s asking for, including reason for it)
  • A list of suspected reasons an adult would deny the proposal
  • A solution to overcome each challenge listed
  • Conditions for maintaining the change provided

This system does two things very well.  First, ridiculous expectations will be dropped because the child will see they are indefensible.  Second, if they follow through with the process, it helps parents understand the value and perspective of a request.

These ten steps have made a difference for the parents we work with here at SOAR, and in my own family as well. I hope you get a chance to incorporate them into your life.

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