Shedding the Shoulds


The moment I stopped ‘should-ing’ all over myself, life changed for the better. I know you’ve been there, so you know how messy, upsetting and embarrassing the ‘shoulds’ can be:

I should have seen that coming
I should be a better mother than this
He shouldn’t need this much support at his age
I should’ve taken that other job
I should have ordered the salad …

STOP! It’s exhausting, right?

When our son was diagnosed with ADHD, now 7 years ago, the ‘shoulds’ held us hostage. My husband and I were filled with fear, confusion, and – surprising to us at the time – shame. We struggled to figure out what we ‘should’ be doing.

As if our internal fears weren’t enough, there seemed to be an endless parade of well-meaning family members, friends, acquaintances, magazine articles, and random people in the grocery store who were more than happy to tell us what we ‘should’ be doing.

      "You should try this doctor, this school, this therapist, developmental pediatrician, this color, this vitamin, this supplement,      this drink, this feedback, this meditation, this medication, this program, this diet, this lifestyle, this city, this mattress, this oil,      this fidget, this shirt….you should!"

We felt like we were trapped in a twisted Dr. Seuss story. Just what should we do?!

For This, We Would Move Mountains

Funny thing was, we would’ve tried all of those ‘shoulds’ and more if …

• If it meant that our son could be the ‘good’ kid at school instead of the ‘bad’ kid
• If the ‘shoulds’ could teach us to be the patient & thoughtful parents all 5 of our kids needed, instead of the screaming terrors we’d become
• If we could learn to create and provide different tools for our son who learns differently.

For those things we would indeed have moved mountains…

A Doctor’s Sage Advice

During one particularly frenetic office visit, our pediatrician looked at me and said, “You know, ADHD is one of the most heritable genetic traits. If a child is diagnosed with ADHD, odds are that at least one of the parents has ADHD, as well.”

Now, I really should’ve seen that one coming, but I must admit it took me by surprise. So I looked into it, and of course, I did. I mean, I do. I have ADHD, too! (Thank you, Dr. Seuss)

It’s funny how the universe works in children’s books, isn’t it? You find the people you need, when you’re supposed to, and there’s usually a happy ending.

What Makes You Think?

That same pediatrician put me in touch with a local ADHD coach who asked me, “What makes you think you should have all the answers when you’re still exploring the questions?”

Well that ‘should’ have stopped me in my tracks. What the heck?! And then she tossed me this zinger: “Give yourself permission to search & experiment. The ‘shoulds’ are for people who aren’t living their own lives. She was challenging me to find my own path in this fascinating new world I had discovered about myself and my family.

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the ‘should-ing’ in our house stopped … that day. Now don’t get me wrong – I got a lot of help from my coach to keep those shoulds at bay, but my relationship with other people’s “shoulds” has never been the same.

Ross W. Greene, PhD often says (and I’m paraphrasing here), ‘Kids will do better when they can do better, not when they should do better.’ He is so on target.

The moment we stopped holding our ADHD child (and ourselves!) to somebody else’s standard of what he ‘should’ be doing, we were able to meet him where he was. Which is exactly where we all needed to be.

So, when you feel an attack of the ‘shoulds’ coming on, here is my simple prescription: increase your fiber intake (that’s always good, right?), and remember that this is the only chance you get. One of your key jobs as a parent is to enjoy the ride of family life! That’s incredibly hard to do with a bunch of “shoulds” hanging over your head! So shed the shoulds, and let the party begin!

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