5 Ways to Train Your ADHD Child or Teen to Become a Leader

by Yafa Crane Luria


girls-407685_1280We all know that what we say to our kids can have a lasting effect. That goes for the positive things we say and the negative things we say. We know that negative feedback isn’t a good thing, but how “not good” is it?

The Harvard Business Review published a revealing article a few years back entitled, “The Ideal Praise-to-Criticism Ratio.”

If you’re wondering why I would look to a business journal for this information, I’ll tell you: we parents and teachers of ADHD kids spend a lot of time evaluating our children’s productivity levels. We evaluate them pretty consistently, as businesses do with their employees.

“Did you get the assignment done?” “How much more time is this going to take?” “Why haven’t you done X yet?” “How many times do I have to remind you about Y?” “You have a big test/review/evaluation coming up.” “Are you trying to do a bad job?”

Constructive criticism prepares a person for the real world, doesn’t it?

Constructive criticism can have a reality-boosting, and even helpful, effect on kids but how we usually engage with our kids isn’t very constructive. And it’s not “criticism” in the original sense of the word – a joint review or conversation, not about correction but about deeper understanding.

The question, then, is how to train ADHD children as leaders?

Leadership-building favors praise rather than criticism

The article, by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, the CEO and President of a leadership development consultancy, reports that: “The average ratio for the highest-performing teams was… six positive comments for every negative one. The medium-performance teams averaged 1.9 (almost twice as many positive comments than negative ones.) But the average for the low-performing teams, at 0.36 to 1, was almost three negative comments for every positive one.”

What’s notable is that, like you, Zenger and Folkman are in the business of building leaders. That is, in fact, the best perspective when raising an ADHD child or teen. You are raising a leader, a game changer, a creative genius.

Reminders, lectures, warnings, and threats do not fall into the “constructive criticism” category. There’s a better way!

The article continues: “Negative feedback is important when we’re heading over a cliff to warn us that we’d really better stop doing something horrible or start doing something we’re not doing right away. But even the most well-intentioned criticism can rupture relationships and undermine self-confidence and initiative. It can change behavior, certainly, but it doesn’t cause people to put forth their best efforts.

Only positive feedback can motivate people to continue doing what they’re doing well, and do it with more vigor, determination, and creativity.”

Negative feedback, or criticism, or correction diminishes a person’s drive and may, in fact, lead him or her to fear the person doing the correcting. As the leader of your family, you can train your future leaders (your children) by focusing on the following types of interactions:

  1. Look for the good. Write it down if it helps you or your child. Describe the behavior (yours and your child’s) that lead to a successful experience. You want to create as many opportunities for success as possible. You can say, “Hey, when we did X, we had a really good time and we didn’t argue at all. What do you think happened that made it so great?”
  2. Use the “ADHD” label to describe positive behaviors, rather than disruptive behaviors. This will help your child understand that ADHD is not a punishment or a disorder or something to endure. He/she gets enough of that in the outside world. For example, instead of saying, “Your ADHD is driving me NUTS today,” you can notice a great moment and say, “I love how your ADHD makes you so creative with Legos.”
  3. Talk about how to get along with people who might not understand your child. Speaking simply, your child has heard criticism and assumes he/she is bad. He/she isn’t bad – there is just misunderstanding and miscommunication. Let’s say a teacher is telling you that your child is disruptive and doesn’t listen to directions. You can say to your child, “Mr. XYZ is having some trouble with your behavior. We need to talk with him so that we can find a way that you and he can have a good year.” It’s not taking sides, but it’s also not diminishing your child.
  4. Spend time listening to your child rather than talking to him/her. Your child has tons to say and will pleasantly surprise you if he/she knows that you will listen patiently, not interrupt, and not try to prove him/her wrong. One thing many people do is to try to have a conversation when they’re ready to talk but the other person may not be! Also, we often come to a conversation with an agenda, which means you won’t be having a conversation. You’ll be trying to convince the other person that you’re right about something! So, first, you can say, “I want to discuss your English grade. Can you please let me know when we can do that today? I want to hear your take on it.” And then, when it’s time to talk, you can say, “Here’s the situation the way I see it but I could be wrong and I want your point of view. I’ll listen until you tell me you’re done and that I can comment.”
  5. Give your child regular opportunities to “take charge.” The amount of responsibility you give will depend on your child. The idea isn’t to give too much freedom so that they fall flat on their faces, but merely to test the waters. Where is your child right now, in terms of development? Come up with a fun “take charge” task, anything from choosing what’s for dinner to making dinner, or from celebrating a fun non-holiday (like Family Pajama Day, No-Talking Day) to choosing where you spend the day. An ADHD child that isn’t heard or that doesn’t get to spread his/her wings every now and then will definitely either shut you out or act out and out and OUT!

The great thing, too, is that you are building your child’s executive functions as well. Notice the amount of analysis, deep thinking, decision-making, and follow-through that’s involved here!

Don’t be a TV family!

Most TV families are dysfunctional to varying degrees; therein lies the drama and the laughs. Writers balance it out with the lovey-dovey parts.

Your child is probably very familiar with these dynamics and would appreciate being surprised by the respect that you show him or her. Kids always want respect, especially teens. They also want your appreciation. In fact, spending more time with parents is the #2 thing that kids and teens would change about their families (#1 is no more yelling and nagging and lecturing).

Your ADHD children have so much going for them. With your help, they can really soar!

How will you start to train your ADHD children as leaders and game changers?

Share with us below in the comments section. I love hearing from you!
xo, Yafa

Copyright 2017 Yafa Luria/Margit Crane All Rights Reserved


What troubles you about parenting an ADHD child or teen?

Let’s talk! No cost, no judgment, no salesy come-on. However you WILL receive a good deal of TLC and expertise. You can say anything. You can cry. You can swear. Your confidentiality is guaranteed, and I promise to listen and give you hope and relief.

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