I told him he was handsome and he told me he wasn’t sure. I told him he was special and he shook his head. His eyes downcast, he thought about my words. I saw the way his eyes rushed around the room, moving like sparks of lightening but seeing nothing. He was deep inside his mind, with my words and his own. Inside his mind our words danced face to face. He said nothing. His eyes returned to me, seeing my face and he shrugged. In his mind the words I gave him were still roaming, in search of a place to sit. When I told him he was very smart, he gave me a list of things he had yet to learn. My words again went into the warehouse of his mind, and found no place to rest. Inside his mind, a game of musical chairs played out. Imagine there are 5 chairs in a small circle within the mind of my seven year old son. Each chair has been claimed. Then, I add a new player. My new player is an expression of positive affirmation. The new player enters the game, and has no seat. The game begins. The music starts and the others get up and circle the seats. The other players are not like the new player. The other players are doubt, fear, worry, disappointment and sadness. When the music stops, my son has to decide who gets a seat, and who does not fit. Time and time again, my words of affirmation are left without a seat, and the game is over. This is what happens in the mind of my child with ADHD. Meanwhile within my chest, my heart breaks again and again for him. They called him defiant, disruptive, unruly, stubborn, and bad and those words each found a seat within him. Ask him what he thinks of himself and those words will parade out of his mouth in a declaration of self-destruction and shame. He did not do this to himself. His mind is a wide open field of discovery, endlessly in search of something new. He is amazing. Facts and numbers enter the stream of his thoughts and return in perfect order. Questions pour out of him and answers absorb back in. He is happy when he is learning, and he is perfect. One day the game of musical chairs will begin to change. One day when the world opens up to allow him the freedom to be himself, he will let go of those hopeless words and mine will sit in their place. He is good, he is smart, he is handsome and he is loved. ADHD is a diagnosis, not a curse. ADHD is a condition not a limitation. Encourage your children, help them to replace the negativity in their minds, with the love and affirmation they truly deserve. Be the voice that speaks louder than the doubt. Be the smile that covers them. The music is playing, change the game.
DO you find this title offensive? Good! It is.
How many of us with ADD/ADHD kids have left a conversation soaked in the vomit of horrible parenting advice?
“What he REALLY needs is a few welts with a leather belt, that’ll straighten him up”
“I would NEVER let my child act that way”
“He OBVIOUSLY needs more discipline”
This foul upchuck has decorated my perfectly lovely attire on more occasions that I can count, leaving its putrid scent on every part of my conscious. Well-meaning advice- as it is commonly called- is nothing more than an offensive barrage of insults aimed like a sniper rifle, at the parent; me.
In its simplest form, I call it ignorance. Webster defines Ignorance as “a lack of knowledge, understanding, or education: the state of being ignorant”
Ask yourself the following questions:
- If you are a janitor, do you give your surgeon lessons before undergoing an operation?
- If you are a dentist, do you tell the mechanic how to repair your car when it breaks down?
- If you are a stay home mom, would you show up on a construction site and make suggestions on the proper wood to use or how to lay a slab?
Chances are the answer is no. When you are not experienced in something, you are ignorant. I am not an Oncologist, I cannot treat a cancer patient. I am ignorant.
So why is it, that it seems perfectly acceptable for ignorant people, with otherwise decent intentions, to do exactly that; to storm parents with destructive criticism in the form of advice? The short answer: IT IS NOT!
As a parent we are perfectly within our rights to deny, revoke and rebuke these kids of destructive, forcible suggestions! It has taken me 7 years to get to this realization, and I owe my son an apology for every time I blindly followed this kind of horrid advice, and he paid the price for it.
I’ve swallowed the rotten words of people who aggressively tried to coerce me into believing that my son needed more extreme discipline, harsher punishments and stronger limits. These types of advice act like an ice pick, gouging out chunks of the parent’s spirit, self-esteem, confidence and hope. How dare they!? Now of course I am not speaking out against discipline, structure, routine or punishments, these things are crucial for children. What I am speaking against is the overuse of harsh discipline as a “fix” for children with disabilities. In the same way you would never expect a spanking to cure someone with autism, it is no more effective in “fixing” a child with ADD/ADHD. These children need our HELP not our RATH! They are struggling just as we are, to understand themselves, to hold onto their self image in a world tearing it apart day after day, and they WANT to be good. ADD/ADHD minds work fast, and are wired uniquely, they need unique techniques to thrive. The discipline tactics used in history may not have all been flawed, but in today’s society I see an enormous increase in alarming adult behaviors that may have stemmed from the parenting choices they were subjected to. Consider the number of adults who habitually resort to anger, bullying, hostility and fighting as a response to stressful situations? My guess is these adults came from homes where the main sources of discipline were fear and intimidation. I dont want that passed down to my children. I want their moral compass to come from within themselves not forced upon them by outside forces of fear and anger masquerading as “respect.” I want better! Dont you?
The expression “stay in your lane” never seemed more appropriate than in this context. If you are heavy under the weight of advice that does NOT come from someone experienced in raising a child with ADD/ADHD, or a place of positive encouragement, YOU DO NOT have to accept the offered advice.
It takes some time to build up the defenses we need, the heart of advocacy for our children, and the confidence to use the voice we have, but we must not relent!
If you are bombarded with advice that your gut tells you is wrong for your child, it is OK to stand against it!
You are a capable and wise parent! You are amazing! Did you forget? You have been equipped to raise the children gifted to you! It may not feel that way often, but the truth and the moment are not the same. The moment says “I can’t do this, I have failed, fallen short and feel incapable” but the truth says “I will find a way, I will keep pushing and I will succeed”.
“Reach up high for the warmth of the sun, and pull it down. Put it right into your belly anytime you need it, you are amazing and very smart”.
T hears this first thing in the morning as he follows along with his Yoga Kids DVD.
Yes, my hyper-active, wildly imaginative, creative, talkative, loud and silly child does yoga! I won’t lie to you and say he does it with 100% accuracy and enthusiasm every day, or tell you that I don’t sometimes have to prod him like cattle to get him to even try. What I will tell you, is that it changed things for us!
I was always a bit turned off by yoga as a concept. Normally, when my mind is made up about something, there is little to no hope of that changing, but luckily for us, yoga was an exception to that rule. It seemed so pretentious to me, with its own clothing style and sweaty, headband wearing, bandwagon followers stretching and contorting themselves into pretzel knots. I’m fairly certain I have wrinkles from the face I made anytime I saw someone who was clearly a “YOGI”. A sneer and an exaggerated eye roll was standard procedure…. And then there was T.
T needed change. T needed hope. Hell, I needed hope!
When a co-worker and nurse suggested Yoga as an ADD/ADHD treatment, I politely scoffed, gave my list of reasons why that would never work for him, and thanked her for her suggestion. Later that week I had a change of heart. I realized I was denying T the opportunity to experiment because of my own illogical, unreasonable dislike of something I, myself, had never tried. I conceded and made a trip to Barnes & Noble where I bought a 2-disc DVD set. YOGA KIDS with Marsha Wenig. I had taken the first leap into the world of YOGA.
If I was going to do this, I was going to go all in! We would do it together.
The first DVD titled ABC’s claimed to be aimed at kids 3-6 years old. Surely it would be a breeze for me. I enlisted the support of my older two children, who agreed to participate in support of their brother. This was turning into a family affair, how wonderful!
5 minutes later there is an 8 year old panting, lying defeated on the mat, a 10 year old with gritted teeth and one leg shaking in the air, a 6 year old with both feet and hands on the mat and bottom in the air, and me. I was near death. I couldn’t breathe, my arms felt 200 lbs each, and my legs just did not bend the way they were supposed to. Ages 3-6.
Thankfully in our bloodline, quitting is not an option. DVD 2 Silly to Calm began. We started by Shaking the sillies out, dancing and pausing to the beat of the music, and “untying the knots” of our joints from head to toe. By the end of this DVD, T was doing something remarkable! As I laid in silence listening to my breathing, watching calm deep breaths rise and fall in my chest I noticed something; silence. How long ago had he left the room? Did I really just do 30 minutes of yoga for babies alone? Was I that easily amused? I looked to my left, where he was supposed to be, and in his place was this calm, almost motionless, silent child who was breathing and watching his chest rise and fall with his breath. My T had gone from silly to calm. I couldn’t believe it.
That was the moment I gave in. Yoga was welcome in our home, in fact if Yoga tried to leave I would have grasped desperately at its pant-leg, planted my heels in the ground and begged it to stay!
I have to admit, I have grown to love and respect this strange, and surprisingly difficult exercise. T still does yoga as often as I can fit it into our routine. Some days he participates better than others, but I’ve come to realize that even partial participation counts.
After 1 week with yoga twice a day T’s behavior in school skyrocketed! He was earning A’s and B’s in conduct and he was proud of himself!
So let them laugh at me. Let them snicker and sneer in my direction when I’m walking out of the sporting goods store with a new Yoga mat, Yoga shorts and a big inflated yellow ball. Let them laugh at me when I fall from my not so graceful warrior pose, or knock the wind out of myself attempting a head-stand that turns into a surprise front flip. Let them laugh at me. Because I’m laughing too! I laugh when I see that amazing boy of mine concentrating on his balance, or his breathing. I laugh when I walk into the room and the peaceful silence washes over me. I laugh when he quotes the DVDs word for word because he’s done them so many times. I laugh because I’m thrilled. T has gained something immeasurable that truly helps him, and I get to feel proud of myself as his mom. That is amazing!
Making changes to your ADD/ADHD child’s diet can significantly improve symptoms and MOODS!
Red 40. This means war! Remember in school during a fire drill when you were taught to STOP, DROP, and ROLL? Little did you know that those drills were preparing your for the Battle of Red 40! It’s a grueling war so be prepared for losses and casualties! Red 40 is a vicious little devil hiding in many of the foods we eat. When you first start checking labels, taking this monumental step for your ADD/ADHD loved one, you’ll notice a feeling of utter panic! Stop! Drop the box of Lasagna, and Roll away from the danger! Whew! You were almost hit! After a few near misses you’ll find yourself amazed at the number of familiar foods harboring this dangerous criminal! Oh red 40 you are a pushy little bastard aren’t you?
Don’t give up! You can win this! Take a breath. Think. Here we go!
The FDA considers Red 40 a safe artificial food additive. It adds coloring to many of the foods we eat often. No, it’s not secretly made of toxic waste. No, you won’t turn into a mutant turtle and gain ninja skills. Sorry. It’s just color.
Now, we all know that our children with ADD/ADHD have differently wired brains right? So it’s not very hard to imagine that while Red 40 may make absolutely no difference in our lives, it could very well be harmful for them.
If you are one of those lucky humans who has that elusive thing called “Free-time”, please take a trip to your nearest grocery store and read a few labels, just for fun. For the rest of us, let’s just start with our usual hectic, expensive, exhausting grocery trips. In between correcting the kids for touching everything, and refusing to buy the 4,367 items they ask for, read a label or two. RED 40! RED 40! Oh my! That was a close call! It’s a battle field out there! Get your armor on, and get back in there!
A little creativity goes a long way. Boxed meals are often harboring the enemy. There are usually simple, healthy and dye-free alternatives to boxed food items. Hamburger helper for example, can be easily replicated (my kids couldn’t tell the difference) with egg noodles, cheese sauces that don’t contain Red 40, and a dash of salt and pepper. Just because your tongue’s spoiled pallet needs the flavor level to be set to HIGH, doesn’t mean kids do. Give it a try!
Fruit juices are a minefield! If the grocery store didn’t scare you before, it should by now! But now is not the time for panicking. Save that for when your mother-in-law is coming for a visit!
Water. I’m not sure when we were taught that our kids needed juice. Juice is not necessary. Its tasty, it’s refreshing and most of us believe that it has vitamins and minerals and makes us healthier, BUT, in most cases, that isn’t the reality. While fruit juices DO have some of the nutrients we need, the truth is most juices are packed with sugar, dyes, artificial flavors and preservatives that can do more harm than good with ADD/ADHD kids. You want the benefits of apple juice? Get apples! Then check the label and get water!
I can’t promise you that your child with have a life changing transformation after removing Red 40 from his/her diet. What I can tell you is that it CAN help. It IS worth the trouble, and it DOES get easier.
You are a great parent! I know that because you are taking the time to learn and change for your child, just by reading this. So take a moment and be proud of yourself! You came this far, keep going!
Remember the enemy is everywhere, so be alert! Beg, steal or borrow some creativity in food replacement options and see what happens. There is no failure here! There is only trial and error and improvement, and YOU ARE AN AMAZING PARENT!
He counts everything. He listens to conversations he shouldn’t hear. He debates most of what is said to him.
T was noticeably different from my other 2 children from the day he was born. I just didn’t know it then. His need for affection was apparent by day 3 of his life. He needed to feel my touch, constantly. He held my hair when skin was not available to him. I was not prepared for him.
By age 2, he was a storm. He rattled the windows of my life. Ever craving, he grew to aggressive levels of affection. Little arms tried to strangle with every intense hug. Little mouth pressed powerfully against my cheeks. Little legs ran as soon as they could walk and wrapped themselves around mine, as I tried to walk past him. Little Storm T was a whirlwind. A beautiful, happy, loving wind that whipped around my face and danced at my legs day after day. I was not prepared for him.
I was not prepared for the sleepless nights that came with him. The first 9 months of nursing him meant being up every 2-3 hours, without fail. I was not prepared for the day he chose table food over breast milk. I was not prepared for the health issues he would have when he was 4, and his tonsils began to grow and block his airways. I was not prepared to sleep with my hand on his chest, shaking him when his breathing stopped, 10 or more times a night for 2 months. I was not prepared to kiss him goodbye when the doctors said it was time, and they wheeled him away for surgery.
I was not prepared for the ADHD diagnosis in Kindergarten.
I was not prepared for his level of intelligence.
I was not prepared to change everything for him and then change everything again
This is my life with my son T. I am not prepared, and that’s ok. I have never been prepared for this child, and it has taken me 7 years to realize the benefits of not being prepared.
T brought me back to life the day he was born and has kept me alive every day since. T is incredible. He has been the reason behind my doubts, my fears, my triumphs and my feelings of failure for 7 years, 2 months and 20 days. He is no more or less than any other child is to their parents, he is his own kind of perfect.
Not being prepared for him protected me from being afraid of him. Not being prepared kept me from over analyzing each step on this journey. Not being prepared for him makes life interesting, fast-paced and exciting.
Were you prepared for your children? Did they seem to fit effortlessly into the space you laid out for them? I had this feeling of fitting with my first 2 children. Round hole-round peg. Square hole-square peg. Then came T.
Round hole- unicorn.
Being a parent is not a job! Parenting cannot be experienced via books or research. It is an ongoing learning lifestyle that needs room to bend, structure itself and re-structure itself. If you find yourself today a manic mom, a doubting dad, or calling yourself a failure, be glad! Your failures are where the learning begins. You are capable, strong and in control. Accept your children for who God created them to be, love them despite all of their needs and lacking and fight for them as a raging army against the destruction of their precious and enormous little hearts! You are not prepared. That’s something to celebrate!
Our little T has a grasp on the world we live in, as much as can be expected of a 7-year-old with ADHD. He is still learning all of the social and governmental rules we abide by, but even in his most grounded moments he keeps at least a few toes outside the box playing with the air.
We live in a world of conformists. Afraid to clap when the room is silent, afraid to stand when others are seated. We are hard-wired to conform, we don’t push the limits.
T goes out hunting for the limits, and not only does he push them but he questions them, he analyzes them. He spends most of his mental time living outside the box.
If you’re like most parents, you spend your life leading these tiny, helpless, blank-slate humans into adulthood, believing you are doing your best, and always doing what’s best for them. In our confidence as adults, we make the decision (sometimes without realizing it) that the best thing for our children is to teach them to conform. To live inside the box. Be quiet when others are quiet, speak when you are spoken to, follow directions, walk the line. Because I said so.
Inside the box there are rules, standards, expectations and one set of facts to live by. But what do you do when your child refuses to live within the borders of that box? If you’re like me, you panic. You question your abilities as a parent, you doubt your strengths and magnify your failures. As a parent we become frantic with the thought that our child may be ostracized, cast out, labeled, discarded, or fail. They stumble, they fall, and we carry the weight of it.
We have all come to know that no two people are alike, however, we do expect most people to be similar. Why? Because we are comfortable with what is familiar. Though we may all have differences, we share many similarities that help us live in society together. When someone stands out from the norm, typically they are regarded with at least some hesitation and cautious curiosity.
Many ADD/ADHD kids are outside the box thinkers. Their reasoning, logical, creative and analytical minds stray from conventional thinking almost as soon as they have a thought. I have come to realize that this is an incredible strength for them!
Imagine being in a room with 100 people with like-minded thinking abilities. A problem is presented and despite following the tried and true methods of calculation, no solution can be found. Conformity would have trained us to stop at that point. After the angles we know have been covered, all options have been exhausted. Now, try that with a group of Outside-the-box thinkers, and instead of a room of stumped brains, you’d end up with several creative (though maybe not probable) hypothesis. The worst that can happen at this point is failure, and THAT is where the learning takes place!
We need outside the box thinkers. If you have been lucky enough to be gifted with this kind of amazing minded child take a deep breath! Your child is not flawed, not disabled, and not difficult. Your child is capable of more than you may realize, and you now have the honor of pulling out his/her gifts, abilities, and strengths and learning to work with them!
Be proud of your family, in all of its differences. The difficulty we face as parents of a child with ADD/ADHD are meaningful difficulty! It means something that we are fighting for our children. It means something that we life in a state of trial and error. It means something that we try so hard to make room for them in this crowded world of conformity. It means that no matter the hardship, we do not give up. So be proud of yourself parents! You are amazing!