For families living with ADHD, impulsivity is often at work on an hourly or daily basis. As parents, we are concerned with our children’s success in life, their major and minor failures, and their seeming lack of success. As the adult in charge, we often get exasperated, prejudging events, desiring instant actions to fix situations. This may lead to a short fuse and triggered explosions. If one or both of the adults in charge also have an ADHD brain, the explosions accelerate.
Valentines Day, the day of love, is upon us. As a parent, it is a good time to take a walk, clear your mind, and reflect.
- Are your responses to your child more positive than negative?
- Is your household under stress?
- Do you get stressed about grades, unfinished school projects, shabby hurried work, homework (done, not done, not turned in), your child’s apparent lack of caring, feeling unable to discipline (as nothing works)?
It is an occupational habit that, as parents, we immediately point out what is wrong and give wise advice as to how to fix it. Think. Are you exasperated at the very thing you had trouble with in school? Those with ADHD often are highly sensitive, and we can start to yell before our own filter system jumps into place.
What are your consequences for explosive behavior? ADHD or not, if your behavior is impolite, rude, explosive, or unkind, its up to you to rectify the situation. (Examples: apology letter, speak face to face.)
- Step 1: STOP – You may be a parent on the way to an explosion! Time to remember:
1. Your child’s neurobiological hook-up is different from others.
2. Your child’s learning processes are different. Adaptations must be made so s/he can learn.
3. Your child doesn’t feel any better about his or her failures than you do.
4. You are responsible for supporting your child, but not responsible for his/her mistakes.
- Step 2: STEP into ACTION – Do you want to create a new type of communication with your child, to let love guide your responses? Here are some steps to lead you.
1. Begin to listen, I mean really listen, to what your child has to say. Try to put yourself into his/her place.
2. Reflect back to him/her what you hear. Examples include:
a. “You must have been scared when you found you didn’t know the answer” instead of “You should have studied harder and longer so you would know the material.”
b. “You didn’t feel good when she called you that” instead of “Well just tell her off, call her *&#*$ back.”
4. Make a plan, together, a strategy to improve the situation and be better prepared in the future. Decide whether you should involve someone else.
- Step 3 – STEP OUT!:
Stress impacts the best of us and keeps us from using our best emotional balance. When a stressful situation becomes a verbal battle, criticisms are hurled, accusations and harsh negatives fly. How best to handle it when screaming happens? Leave the scene.
If you must, print the following on an index card.
“We are too emotional to deal with this now. I call a time out so we can discuss this after we both calm down. (Suggest a time).”
If the child follows with more to say, put up you hand and simply say, “Later,” shaking your head. Use non-verbal behavior when verbal goes bad.
- STEP 4 – RETURN AND REFLECT:
Once in control, return to a place of comfort, like the kitchen table. Call your child, set out a peace offering and apologize for losing it. Begin with, “I may not have liked your behavior, but I still love you.” Then what can you say? Try some of these:
1. “Even parents have times when life gets overwhelming.”
2. “You had a day that got overwhelming didn’t you?”
3. “I think we were both disappointed as to how things went.”
4. “Let’s think about what we can do to make the situation come out better.” (Rehashing the events will probably only get you back on the same warpath you were on.)
5. “Tell me how you felt when all of this happened,” (and go to Step 1!)
6. “How do you feel now?”
As a finishing touch, remind your child about the great time you had doing something together. Always end on an upbeat note.
The overall message you want your child to get, in the end, is that while you will have your ups and downs, if you work things out together, you can solve anything — because you love him/her! Those three words – I LOVE YOU – are powerful beyond all measure. When honestly used, they are the greatest tool you have as a parent.