Surprising Strategy for ADHD Management: Celebration


Have you ever noticed that what you most need to focus on tends to appear in your life repeatedly? It’s sort of like a corollary to the idea that “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Personally, my teachers are very often my coaching clients and my kids (of course!).

The first time that our Coaching Tip for the week was Celebration, and it was my greatest teacher of the week. The value of and importance of celebration seemed to surface everywhere I turned – with my kids, my clients, and myself. I learned 2 valuable lessons from a week of focusing on Celebration:

1. There is no success too small to celebrate, especially for people with ADHD.
2. Solutions are in the successes.

No Success too Small to Celebrate

First, it bears repeating: There is no success too small to celebrate with an ADHD kid. Despite our best intentions, we are constantly finding fault in our kids. First of all, they’re ADHD, and that means by their very nature (or, at least, their brain-wiring), they frequently mess things up. More than that, they internalize it. Sometimes, our kids are so aware of disappointing us that every time we suggest they do anything, they feel like we’re pointing out a mistake. No wonder they push back so much, and get defensive. We don’t even know we’re doing it, but they sure feel it!

So, searching for little successes to celebrate can go a long way to balance their constant sense of feeling “wrong.”

The two easiest ways to celebrate are to “catch them being good,” and literally have mini-celebrations. Here are some examples:

  • Clearly trying on homework but not being productive?
    • Say something positive about the effort.
  • Cleared the plate to the sink but not into the dishwasher?
    • Thank them for clearing the plate.
Not only will they benefit, but also you’ll be amazed what it can do for you and your relationship with your child. It’s hard not to smile when you’re praising someone you love. It just feels good for everyone.

Also, let loose and have some fun. Get silly, dance around the kitchen. Yes, of course it’s embarrassing for them. It’s also rewarding, and though they will not admit it to you, later on they’ll catch themselves smiling at the memory of their “nagging” mother or “disapproving” father singing R-E-S-P-E-C-T into a kitchen spoon!

Solutions are in the Successes

Perhaps the most exciting revelation from Celebration week is that “the solutions are in the successes.” When we take the time to celebrate the small victories, we begin to see the patterns in what we are doing well. That way, when we are looking for a solution to a challenge, we have some positive experience to draw from, no matter how small.

For example, my daughter’s obsession with solitaire was driving me crazy for months. Finally, I allowed myself to look at it from a different perspective. I realized that she has chosen a good technique to soothe her nerves when feeling stressed (she was a HS Junior at the time, which = stress!). Then I realized she likes to order simple things logically, which was actually a bit of a surprise considering her significant challenges with Executive Function. But solitaire shows that maybe there is a way to externalize and visually organize her homework planning. The small victory in her solitaire opened a window to see a new possibility. Turning that negative into a success allowed for a new idea, and that is worth the price of admission.

It’s amazing how a simple concept like Celebration can turn the tide in a child’s development. Celebration is a fundamental component to positive self-esteem, and that is what our kids need in spades – even if it comes from a simple game of solitaire!

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