Judgment is a challenging concept. On the one hand, it makes our lives easier. We use judgment to guide us in our lives every day. We reflexively categorize our experiences into good, bad and neutral, and that leads us to certain behaviors and decisions.
But, as Dr. Mark Bertin explains in his book The ADHD Family Solution, because “judgment mindlessly categorizes experience,” it often “leads us to wrestle with what is not in our control.” This is particularly true when parenting children with a neurobiological condition like ADHD.
It’s common for parents of children with ADHD to feel disappointed when they can’t control their children’s behaviors. If a hyperactive 10 year old is bouncing off the walls, or jumping on the furniture, frustrated parents may come to the judgment that this kid is disrespectful and won’t listen to them, or worse, that he will never live up to his potential. But those assessments can actually get in the way of helping the child succeed.
Standing in judgment does not serve our children with ADHD. By attaching a stigma to our children, it makes them feel badly about being themselves. A parent’s judgment can be demoralizing and cause long-lasting scars, leaving our kids feeling beaten down and “bad.”
But our judgment of our children can be painful and disheartening for us as parents, as well. We lose hope and confidence in their future, and are disappointed in ourselves because we fear we didn’t do something “right.”
So what’s a parent to do? How do you redirect your child’s behaviors and foster resilience and self-confidence at the same time?
Dr. Bertin encourages parents to replace judgment with discernment. “Discernment is recognizing what we can and should change, and what we cannot, much like the traditional serenity prayer: To accept what we cannot change, to change what we must, and to find the wisdom to tell the difference.”
As parents, that means fully understanding our child’s challenges, accepting them for what they are, and helping our children learn self-management, slowly but surely, as appropriate to their age and development.
While there is no magic wand for stepping out of judgment, it helps to pay attention to your tone, and to any underlying messages you may be giving unintentionally. When you stop your hyperactive child from trying to see if he can fit in the laundry chute, examine your thoughts and feelings at that time. Are you aggravated or annoyed? Or are you laughing at your child’s insatiable curiosity and incredible energy? Your attitude communicates volumes.