Popular magazines are quick to identify the “best” parenting theories and techniques. In reality, the best parents are the ones who meet the unique needs of their children and set them up for success, now and later in life.
We parents often feel that we don’t measure up. This comes from watching others’ parenting styles and hearing their versions of what is and isn’t the correct way to parent. We feel judged when our children are not quiet, well-behaved, good listeners. When we compare our reality to others’ standards, it often leaves us feeling that we are failing at our most important job, raising our children.
Your parenting style should be defined by what your family needs, not by what the magazines dictate. It is not important whether an outsider thinks that you let your child “get away” with certain behaviors, or whether your house looks like a tornado just blew through it. A good parent supports his/her children to be successful, regardless of their strengths and weaknesses.
If you are a parent of a child with ADHD, chances are that either you or your spouse also has ADHD. Even if that is not so, there is no way that the same rules that work for other families will work for you. Our families run differently, and expecting “normal” sets us up for stress. What might look “lazy” from the outside, is actually working with the attention span and energy available at any given moment. What someone else labels as indulgent, is actually working with your child’s strengths and supporting his/her weaknesses.
Your family works best when it is set up for success. If getting out of the house in the morning is a struggle, you may have to give up having the perfect house by leaving things where you trip over them so you don’t forget them. If your child has meltdowns when s/he is tired or hungry, you may have to “spoil her appetite” or cancel an activity that could put everyone over the edge.
Success in an ADHD house is re-defined based on the needs of each unique and wonderful child. The solution to finding what your kids need could be simple if they could actually tell you. Unfortunately, the response to, “Why did you do that?” is usually, genuinely, “I don’t know.”
So you need to become a detective. Use your keen powers of observation, and watch what happens before a meltdown. Listen to their responses when you ask them how they feel when they sit down to a pile of homework. Stay with them when you ask them to do a task, and see where they may have problems. Give feedback (not criticism) as soon as possible. Always acknowledge successes, no matter how small.
How do you measure how well you’ve done? In the course of the day, some things go well and you put on the cape of super-mom. Then, there are those moments when you lose your cool and feel like a failure. A sink full of dishes, or a mess of a bedroom, can cause us to feel like nothing is going right. We can enhance our sense of well-being by remembering the good things that happen each and every day.
How exactly can we do this? Just ask yourself, how do you want each member of your family to feel at the end of every day?
We know that in families affected by ADHD, there will be frustrations, aggravations, procrastination, missed deadlines, and meltdowns– along with the usual chaos of family life. So pay attention to the things that make you feel great or make you laugh. At the end of each day, talk about those things. Start a new bedtime ritual where you recount the good things that happen each day. Focus on pleasant memories as heads hit the pillow.
Maybe every day is not a feature length good time, but if you looked back at the “highlights reel” of the week or month, are you satisfied? The measure of a good parent is that our children feel loved and supported, to be successful now and in the rest of their lives.
Maya Angelou said it best.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”