WHAT KIND OF TOPIC IS THIS?
WHEN IS IT OK TO LET ADHD KIDS MISBEHAVE???
Is that even a thing?
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Yes, I’m going there, but stay with me here. With ADHD, nothing is as it might seem on the surface. So yes. Sometimes it’s okay to let ADHD kids misbehave.
Parenting ADHD kids is hard, mostly because your bag of tricks has to be SO GIGANTIC in order to accommodate all the differences in types and styles of ADHD, as well as the inconsistencies. Those of you with multiple ADHD children know that each one can behave differently. There is simply no “one size fits all” approach to parenting ADHD children.
- 16 year old Paul (not his real name) tells me he’s not going to do the work for this health unit on STDs. He tells me, “This is just the teacher trying to make us panic. STDs don’t happen that often and it’s not a concern for me.”
- Camille (13 years old) didn’t do her homework, but she lied and said she did it at school. She says she’s tired. She wants to know if she can take a couple days off from school.
- Ty (11) has been put in charge of the kitchen counters, sink and dishwasher. This means that he cleans, throws out, and puts away stuff that doesn’t belong on the counters, and he takes care of the dishes in the sink and in the dishwasher. His mother reminds him every day and he doesn’t do it. And every day she ends up cleaning because she can’t stand it being dirty.
- Ellie (8) doesn’t like her little sister (4) bugging her all the time. In fact, little sister, Nell, is trying to spend more time with Ellie. It’s Ellie that perceives it as “bugging.” One day, Ellie pushes Nell away and Nell falls and hits her chin on the floor.
These are just a few examples of situations I’ve encountered with my clients.
What would you do?
Is it a matter of choosing your battles?
Yes and no.
YES: AND it’s key to know your values so you know which battles to pick. Not just know them inside yourself but to speak of them often so that your kids know them too. Notice I didn’t say LECTURE or NAG. This isn’t “Okay let’s all sit down so you can listen to me talk about my values.” Your values should be a part of every day life. And speaking of them doesn’t have to be a conversation; it can just be a comment with no response from anyone, while watching TV or driving a car, or going grocery shopping. Your values should be as familiar to your kids as is your face. Your child should be able to pick your values out of a value line-up!
The tricky thing about values and about ADHD kids is that you need to be consistent about 92% of the time. 75% won’t cut it. ADHD kids really need to have clarity.
I remember one day in my class of 16 boys with ADHD, one of them used a nasty word starting with F to describe a homosexual male. The whole room gasped and then looked right at me and my bugging-out eyes. They knew that that’s not okay in my classroom. Your kids should know you so well that they know when they’re out-of-line.
On the other hand…
NO: The NO argument for the “pick your battles” question is that thinking of your family as a battleground or thinking of behavior as control is not going to work in the long run. In fact, if you’re consistent 92% of the time, there won’t be a battle unless you create one. Remember, there are two people here – you and your child. Regardless of what your child does, you don’t have to “return fire,” so to speak.
We think our job is to push or push back (think of how we try to get our kids ready for school or an appointment). What we end up doing is pushing our kids away. Try to problem solve with them – depending on their age, you can be the sounding board (for older kids) or the catalyst for sparking their brains (for younger kids).
Misbehaving is not a black or white issue
Let’s look back at the examples above. Here’s what I would do:
- 16 year old Paul (not his real name) tells me he’s not going to do the work for this health unit on STDs. He tells me, “This is just the teacher trying to make us panic. STDs don’t happen that often and it’s not a concern for me.” Education is high up in my values. It’s a strong family value that goes back thousands of years. So, Ds and Fs are unacceptable. As, Bs, or Cs are fine. If you’re getting a D or an F, we’ll get you a tutor. I also believe that an ADHD kid has the ability to turn boring things into interesting things. I would want to model those values and beliefs often. And I do. I firmly believe that people with ADHD can choose to be passionate about subjects or ideas, given some guidance. And, finally, having been a teacher myself, I believe that you respect your teacher unless he/she is being abusive in some way. So, I’m likely to ask the child: “Given that you have to do the work, what would make it more fun or interesting? If my child is on an educational plan, I would have it stipulate that an alternate way of completing the assignment is acceptable with permission of the teacher.
- Camille (13 years old) didn’t do her homework, but she lied and said she did it at school. She says she’s tired. She wants to know if she can take a couple days off from school. The issue, as I see it is: should we care more that she lied or that she’s tired and not coping well? Is there a way to address the lying AND the fact that she’s tired? I’m likely to let her have one day off every once in a while. The activities of that day, however, will vary depending on her previous behavior. Because she lied, I’d expect her to catch up with all her work. But I’d let her sleep in too. I value health over telling the truth, mostly because I know that telling the truth is a function of feeling good about yourself and feeling confident. At the same time, I would never encourage lying and I would model truth-telling on my own 100% of the time.
- Ty (11) has been put in charge of the kitchen counters, sink and dishwasher. This means that he cleans, throws out, and puts away stuff that doesn’t belong on the counters, and he takes care of the dishes in the sink and in the dishwasher. His mother reminds him every day and he doesn’t do it. And every day she ends up cleaning because she can’t stand it being dirty. If you’re the mom here, and you don’t like messes, it doesn’t make sense to give that job to the child that doesn’t care. On the other hand, you could ask, “What would make this easier?” I hate doing chores but if there’s a competition or a game with a prize, I’m much more likely to do it. And that prize can be positive attention or just more one-on-one time with you. Some people believe it’s not right to reward kids for doing chores that are just part of family life. If that works for you, great. If you end up doing the chores for you kids though, you’re sending the message that they’re pretty useless around the house. That makes me (the kid) less likely to do chores. Seeing your child as competent and helping him or her become competent is a great life lesson!
- Ellie (8) doesn’t like her little sister (4) bugging her all the time. In fact, little sister, Nell, is trying to spend more time with Ellie. It’s Ellie that perceives it as “bugging.” One day, Ellie pushes Nell away and Nell falls and hits her chin on the floor. I am against physical violence except as a defense when you’re being physically threatened. Pushing, hitting, kicking, and other unwanted physical touching is not okay. If someone says “Stop” or “Don’t” and you are not being physically threatened by them, it’s just never okay to keep going, even if it’s tickling, even if that person is laughing. PS – I know that some families are okay with rough-housing. If that’s okay with you then you need to be really clear about what’s not okay, because you can’t blame someone for hurting another person while rough-housing if rough-housing is okay. Tricky but true.
Still, sometimes letting your kids off the hook is alright.
You can give them a break from chores. You can do homework with them or give them a night off to play. Create special occasions: Today is Nell Day and Nell gets to tell Mommy what to do (less thinking for you). Or, Today is Pajama Day. No getting dressed, no showering, no cleaning. Just pajamas and the TV. Or, it’s No Thinking, Just Play Day. (Can you tell that PLAY and FUN are big values of mine?)
Sometimes it’s exhausting having to keep track of everything. When you know your values AND when you stop pushing and start encouraging, you get more traction, more buy-in, and fewer arguments. And you get to rest up and revive yourself!
What are some of your values? Just scroll down and share your thoughts. I love hearing from you!
Copyright 2017 Yafa Luria/Margit Crane All Rights Reserved
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