It was a joyous afternoon, filled with promise and expectation. Who knew it would be overshadowed by years of misery and disappointment?
Adorable in her little uniform shirt at 6 years old, she was home from her first day of 1st Grade. She had changed into jean shorts and was sitting tall and proud at my grandmother’s antique desk. Pony-tail bobbing, she was ready to tackle her homework, proud in that “I’m-a-big-girl-now” kind of a way.
That afternoon I had visions of my daughter’s future, confidently tackling school with curiosity, years of formal education and achievement ahead for her. I saw a world of possibilities.
In retrospect, that day was miraculous in its uniqueness. Never again was homework to be a source of blissful pride.
Years of frustration followed that joyful afternoon. Eventually – 10 learning institutions later – my brilliant daughter graduated from High School. It was an immense accomplishment – for all of us! But Tolkein captured the essence of her formal education: “It is precious to me, though I buy it with great pain.”
When smart kids struggle with “doing” school, it starts a cycle of helplessness and self-loathing that builds on itself. It’s a vicious cycle that robs kids of their future.
Focus on the Needs of the Child
Even if traditional schooling is not “their thing,” complex kids can learn to become successful as adults. Some can do it on their own, miraculously outplaying the odds. But most rely on the support of parents and educators who figure out how to step outside of the box in order to focus on the child’s individual needs.
Behind every successful adult who struggled with school as a child, you’ll find a parent, a mentor or a friend whose support and understanding empowered that child to keep going.
Focusing on the individual needs of a child is no easy task. Students and their parents are inundated with expectations from other parents and educators, from school systems, communities, families, cultures, personal histories, etc. Shifting those expectations in a way that meets the needs of that one child can be a monumental job. But it can make all of the difference in the world to the life of that one child.
In my work with parents of kids with ADHD, I see it all the time.
- Curious kids who fail to achieve at the one “job” where they are expected to excel – school.
- Creative kids who don’t learn well in a structured school environment.
- Bored kids whose intellect is far ahead of the class, dulled senseless by “busy-work” while their minds long for real learning.
- Experiential kids who are virtually paralyzed when stuck in a chair behind a desk, unable to move or explore in order to learn.
We can put a stop to this vicious cycle. Children can learn to master themselves and find meaning and purpose in their lives. It starts with a paradigm shift. And that paradigm shift starts with conscious parents.
It is difficult for parents to support their kids effectively when they feel isolated and alone, when they feel judged, or lost. It’s hard enough to parent complex kids, it’s even harder to empower them to reach their potential. But when parents learn HOW to help their kids – when they feel supported, get positive feedback, and learn to change their approach — it’s unbelievably rewarding, for the whole family!
My precious daughter – that adorable little 6 year old – has completed her formal education, at least for now. She is not going to graduate magna cum laude from Princeton or Yale, or Michigan or Duke. And I’m really okay with that.
But she IS a lifelong learner, albeit a non-traditional one. She’s leading a fulfilling life, and making a contribution to her chosen profession. She is gaining confidence, and finding success, despite the years of learned helplessness and self-loathing that tried to rob her of her future.
As for me, I continue to find my peace with the knowledge that, if I had known then what I know now, I could have saved us all a great deal of pain and isolation. I can’t change that. And, at the end of the day, that’s part of her story, and mine.
But I CAN coach other parents to understand this complex process. I can create training programs like Homework Headaches that will offer a path for parents, the path I wish someone had shared with me earlier. The path that I’ve been able to use to change the story for her little brother.
I can help other parents re-write the story for their families, to lead their children to find their path with less misery, and more joy.
It all starts with a paradigm shift. It starts with conscious parents. It starts with you.
Elaine Taylor-Klaus is the co-founder of ImpactADHD along with Diane Dempster. They created Homework Headaches [LINK} as a result of the struggles she went through to find a solution for her daughter. To find out more about Homework Headaches and other Impact ADHD courses, click here.
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