Friday, March 16, 2012

Patience and ADHD: Try, try, and try again.

I admit it, I have gotten a traffic ticket for speeding when I’ve actually been speeding, and yet I feel upset at it. I have missed a train because I got up late, and been upset. I have forgotten to take cash out of the ATM, and go to the cash only vendor, and get upset. I have gotten upset at a fair amount of things that were completely in my power to avoid. So, I get over it.

 (old picture of her from 2008, upset, but still super cute)

This is not the same with ADHD people. How ever you want to paint this picture, it is not completely in their control to avoid most situations that cause them to be upset.

A perfect example happened just this weekend with my little girl. She has the tendency to tear off the foam on the NERF darts my son has for his nerf gun. 

She has done this more than once. She has gotten in trouble for it before. She will get in trouble again. It is like that uncontrollable urge we all have to pop those plastic bubbles on bubble wrap. 

This is an uncontrollable urge for her. Add how easily distracted she can get while watching TV in her room, how readily available the darts are since her brother shares a room with her and plays with them constantly, and how mindlessly she will grab one without even looking at it and start peeling the foam off.

So, her brother saw this, yet again, and yelled at her for destroying one of his toys. Dad came over super upset, yet again, and scolded her for not obeying his instructions to never do it again (for the 20th time).

How is this different from any other kid getting in trouble for doing what they were told not to? The difference is that other kids have an inner monologue that happens in a matter of seconds that goes something like this: 

-This is what I want to do, but it isn’t right. I’ve gotten in trouble before and I didn’t like it. It isn’t worth the trouble to do it again.-

So they refrain from this act. 

Kids with ADHD have a different inner monologue, that happens in even less time from thought to action, and goes something like this: 

-This is what I want to do. Let’s do it. How fun it is to do this. Wait, wasn’t this something I did before that got me in trouble? Oh look, I’m doing something I like to do, let’s keep doing this.-

Yes, I am exaggerating, and sometimes they do get to the part where they remember they indeed aren’t supposed to do it and will stop, but that almost always is after they already started doing whatever it is they weren’t supposed to do. Typical reaction is to hide the evidence because this is not the first time, nor the second, but the 10th, 20th 30th time they have done it, and they are no dummies and know Mom, Dad, teacher will not let it go unpunished. Survival of the fittest/dog-eat-dog mentality.

So, as a parent of an ADHD child, I need to keep my wits about me (challenging when things like this happen several times a day), still punish bad behavior but in a calm fashion, and also attempt to discuss the Cause/Effect of her actions.

Her punishment was for her to take some of the money she had saved and give it to her brother so he can replace the destroyed toy. Fair enough, right? Not to her!! And cue the water works. Yes, she destroyed the toy, yes she understands she needs to replace it, but that does not mean it doesn’t hurt her deeply to let go of her long saved money intended for other things she has been dreaming about. And here again we have another example of how the ADHD comes out and completely bypasses self-control of emotions. Sure, plenty of kids will be upset when they get punished, but an ADHD child is more likely to have what other people may consider and overly emotional reaction to a small thing.

A trying moment for both parent and child, but resilience is a trait most kids have, and most ADHD kids master with the proper guidance. I make sure to re-assure her I understand it wasn’t her intention to hurt her brother with her actions, nor to upset Mom and Dad with disobeying. I also, calmly, re-emphasize that our actions have consequences and that we must accept them with our best foot forward.

And she bounces back rather quickly, with the same upbeat attitude she has always had since a tiny tot. 

(November 2007, and the signs were there. The camera can't catch up to her).

This will be an episode that will run over and over in her life with many different actions causing negative consequences, but since repetition and patterns are what ADHD people need, hopefully we will repeatedly show her to calmly expect those consequences, and hopefully somewhere along the line she will also have that moment of inner monologue saying:  
-This is what I want to do. Let’s do it. Wait, I’ve done this before and it was wrong. Let’s NOT do it.-

Maybe the next 5 times she sees a NERF dart she will still destroy it, but maybe the 6th time she will stop and remember.

I am not ADHD. I do not know what thoughts she may have in her head when she does this, or what feelings she has when she is crying inconsolably over her punishment, and I don’t claim to. I do know I could kick myself for my last traffic ticket. I know that I needed my space after the ticket to get over it, and remembering that is what makes me understand that she needs her own space to get over her things too. And I am here to support her through it if she needs me. When she needs me.

It is not a perfect situation to be living with ADHD, but so far we try and try and try, and we will keep on trying, because that is what we do in this family.

What strategies do you use when facing kids' misbehavior? 

Rossana G-A

FTC Disclaimer: I am not compensated to write this post.

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