As different as we all are, there are certain fundamental things most families have in common about how we communicate. Do you recognize any of these scenarios?
- Your kid is playing video games, and you want her attention to take out the trash or set the table.
- Your kid is upset and angry because you just imposed a limit, and you want to explain why you made that decision.
- You’ve asked your spouse to help with … just about anything … only to later hear, “you never asked me.”
The list could go on, of course. Sound familiar? In ADD land – or any land, for that matter – one big challenge to effective communication is to get and hold someone’s attention at the time that works for him/her.
When does it work best? When they least expect it. Here’s what I mean.
Let’s say you want your child to take out the trash today. Don’t wait until you want it done. Set the expectation well in advance, and set a clear deadline: “by the way, Joel, I’d like you to take out the trash sometime today, before 5:00. Will you do that?” Let them know it’s coming when it’s not time critical. Then, at 4:45, if it hasn’t been done, you can remind helpfully (not critically, because they haven’t actually missed the deadline), and if it has been done, you can praise him all the way to the bank!
Or, you’ve just identified something your teenager did ‘wrong,’ and there are some lessons you really want her to get from the experience. Say nothing. Then, later, maybe at dinner, or playing cards, or during a commercial, you can bring it up again: “Julie, I know you felt bad about that happening. Don’t worry about it – mistakes happen. But can we talk for a few minutes about how to keep it from happening again?” Now, you have a better shot at having a conversation, instead of giving a lecture, and being dismissed.
People with ADHD get hot under the collar for ‘no’ reason, sometimes, because we get tired of being wrong all the time. When you say, “I asked you to …,” you are telling them that they did something wrong. At that point, they are triggered, and they can’t really hear you. So help them by setting them up for success…. When they least expect it!