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Parenting an ADHD child can be challenging.  This video features chapters 1 – 3 of our 11 chapter video Parenting Kids With ADHD (Who You Are Is Awesome!).

Transcript of Parenting Kids With ADHD

Dr. Declan Quinn

So what I do with the kids who come in, I will often say why are you coming to see me? They’ll say I don’t know.

I say did your mom and dad tell you? No.

Do they ever tell you anything? No.

So I’ll often say well is it because of problems at school?

Yeah, and did your mom and dad tell you that you were coming here to learn how to draw Bart Simpson? What?

Yeah we’re going to draw Bart Simpson before you leave, and we end up drawing Bart Simpson.

The principal rule here is that three-year-olds draw circles, four-year-olds draw squares, and five-year-olds draw triangles. So if you can do a triangle you can draw Bart Simpson.   It’s all circles and squares and we start off halfway through it and then suddenly it starts to fall into shape and they’re going oh my God I’ve actually literally drawn Bart Simpson.

I said right, spell Bart, b-a-r-t . So let’s use Bart as a way of trying to figure out why you’re here, are you here because sometimes because your behavior gets you in trouble? Well sometimes, and are you sometimes here because you’ve been blaming other people when things go wrong? Just sometimes, and sometimes do you have a bit of an attitude problem? Well just sometimes, my brother has it worse.

Are you sometimes you know R – refuse to do homework, chores around the house? Not always, not always.

Then and we work our way through, so the T is teasing, tormenting your little brother or sister. What we’re going to do is we’re going to change you, and instead of blaming you’re going to have to believe in things again. Your parents are going to believe in you and you’re going to be bright and enthusiastic and we’re going to change you from having an attitude problem to being assertive, being assertive means you stand up, properly talk for yourself.

The R is going to get respect and you know what the basic building blocks are for respect, it’s please and thank you. It starts when you’re about one and we continue to do it.

This is not really so much for the kid as it is for the parents, because we’re reframing what we want them to do. The most important thing is that they continue to believe in their kid and in the relationship they need to continue to believe in their relationship so they can get it right, and they’ve got to stop blaming.

Suddenly you’re stepping this, and say you need to learn skills to teach your kid these skills so they’re ready when they’re 16 and 17 when they leave home.

Patrick McKenna

Hello I’m Patrick McKenna and this is a story, do you like stories? Well tough. Once upon a time there was a little boy who had ADHD, his name was Patrick McKenna, oh this is a good story because I’m identifying with the lead character already, but nobody realized that Patrick had ADHD so everyone thought he was just mischievous.

Mischievous is a special grown-up word for bad. Patrick was quite handsome and let’s be honest, brilliant, and so without any help at all he grew older.

Then he met a beautiful princess and they fell in love and lived happily ever after. Oh see that’s really nice, isn’t that nice? For the first few years, then Patrick became a parent thanks to some magic beans. Now he was a parent with ADHD and a parent of a child with ADHD.

This is a really long story and it could use pictures, I like books with pictures, you know if it has pictures. You know what the moral of the story is here? There are challenges for families with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and on this program we have some of the world’s best experts exploring the biggest challenges of parenting ADHD and the opportunities of parenting a child with ADHD, some are obvious, some are not.

Dr. Declan Quinn

So it does come back to communication and relationships and when the other person doesn’t understand what it is and does not know how to live with it, it’s a bit like looking for a black cat in a dark room.

They’re never sure what to expect you know, sometimes they’re getting scratched and sometimes they get a major scratch. It’s not a little kitten you’ve got a rip-roaring lion in there.

Elaine Taylor-Klaus

An ADHD parent I think they sort of fall into a few different categories of the challenges that they face. Either they’re struggling with ADD themselves, so they are sort of torn between wanting to have compassion for their kids and really just already being over in over their heads and having really hard time managing it.

Because you know what do they tell us parents we have to do? We have to have structure and we have to be consistent. Which is a really hard thing to do if you’re ADD yourself and that’s what our kids need the most.

So I think we have this one realm of parents that are just overwhelmed and often they’ve got it themselves and then you’ve got this other realm of parents who are more, this is an overstatement, but more type A kinds of parents who are organized and structured and they just don’t get this kid at all. They just can’t really relate and they can’t figure out why the kid can’t just do what they’ve asked him to do.

So their challenges and what they’re struggling with is it’s sort of like one side is overwhelm and one side is frustration, right? So we have to manage it and deal with it differently depending on where they’re coming from.

Patrick McKenna

By the way as you watch this program and every time you review it again you’ll probably hear something new and I know right now as a parent you’re struggling, you’re angry, frustrated, sad maybe, even just burned out.

My request is that you let go of despair for a moment and listen for what’s possible, listen for how to improve their experience of childhood and your experience of parenthood.

I was officially diagnosed with ADHD as part of the making the documentary ADD and Loving It?! The diagnosis brought up a lot of stuff from my own childhood, some painful stuff for myself and for my wife Janice.

When undiagnosed and untreated ADHD can sabotage every area of your life.

Dr. Steven Kurtz

The kids who come through my front door are kids whose ADHD is not a gift for them. Nobody comes here because they have nothing better to do. So by the time you’re coming through my front door it’s getting in the way of your relationship with friends, your relationship with siblings, your relationship with your parents, it’s getting in the way of your completing work.

Kate Kelly

It’s not like Mendelian genetics where you can say you’ve got two blue-eyed parents and that you’re going to get all blue-eyed children and you know two browns, this is what you’re going to get.   It’s not that simple, but we know that it runs in families.

Janis McKenna

And I can remember any time, perhaps I was talking to my mother-in-law on the phone and said oh my goodness you know I was expecting Brendan home right after school today and he didn’t come home on time and I was so worried. She’d laugh, I wish that on you so much, because she was so, she’d been through so much and I think she did hope that someday Patrick would have to deal with the same things that she did you know, and I used to at first I think why is she laughing? I was so upset and then I realized really it was payback for Patrick it was.

Patrick McKenna

In educating ourselves about ADHD my wife and I realized despite what we’ve been told by some very well-meaning people this wasn’t a charming quirk or foible or character flaw.

Dr. Margaret Weiss

So the parent may complain that the child is lazy. Well ADHD is a difficulty with forced effort. The child may complain that he’s bored, the difficulty he’s describing is that the normal level of stimulation, which we would be comfortable with, isn’t sufficient to hold him. A third difficulty that might be described is a brother or a sister might say he’s buggy. In other words he’s always at them, he’s always talking, he’s always fidgeting, he’s always squirming.

So these are descriptions of patterns of behavior that really leave a stamp on an individual success as they go through the life cycle.

Patrick McKenna

In getting a reliable diagnosis I could also appreciate how far I’d come and how well things have turned out for me. I was lucky. What also came up for me and I think comes up for a lot of people who get diagnosed later in life was if I had only known sooner.

Dr. Miglena Grigorova

When I found out that I had ADD the first thing was anger, the first emotion was anger really. I was very angry at everybody else for missing this one, for not being there for me, and then my mom, I was very angry with her.

Sometimes now I’m still very angry with her because she still has a hard time admitting that there was something wrong with me, but not because it was me who was wrong there was a disorder, there was something that could actually have been diagnosed, it could have been diagnosed but it wasn’t.

Patrick McKenna

It’s pretty tough to overcome something you can’t see and you have no idea it exists, whereas knowing your brain style well that can be liberating, miraculous, it was for me.

So our goal here is to give you the knowledge that we wish we had been given when we had young kids, or when we were young kids.

Kate Kelly

I’d say to the children’s parents that you know maybe you had ADD. Maybe you’ve struggled with it and you look at your kid and you say oh God I don’t want them to go through what I went through, and I want to tell you that it’s different deal for the kids.   There’s a lot more awareness. It’s not the same thing as growing up with this weird thing that you don’t know what it is. They’re going to be ahead of the game, they’re going to be okay.

I always tell parents that it’s a chronic condition, you have to think about it as a chronic condition, but also you know let them know that ADD doesn’t define the person you know.

So it’s not Johnny’s ADD it is Johnny has ADD. Johnny’s Johnny and what we want to look at is how does ADD affect Johnny and it may be the same or different from others but we want to know who Johnny is because that’s what’s most important. I think kids actually really appreciate that.

Dr. Allan Donsky

Children go from being outsiders, from being ostracized, from being impulsive, distracted, not having friends, always disrupting in the class to being functional, and more importantly the kids start to feel competent as individuals and I think as human beings that’s really what people want to understand is that they are feeling heard and that they are understood by the world.

Dr. Edward Hallowell

Depending how you manage this trait it’s very interesting in that it can become a tremendous asset in your life or a tremendous liability.

I really think it’s important to embrace a strength-based approach that does not in any way deny there is a downside but that emphasizes the positive as a way of developing the positive because you’re going to do much better at developing your positive qualities if you do it in a context of hope and enthusiasm.

Janis McKenna

I think it’s really important to reassure any child that they can be whatever they want to be, that when you’re a young person you’re going to grow up and it’s going to get better. It’s always going to get better, you have to believe it’s going to get better and want that.

Patrick McKenna

Okay so we all want our kids to be strong, that way they can pursue their dreams and achieve their goals. See building on their strengths is a key factor in the success of ADHD children.

Dr. Mark Bertin

For a child for example who’s really struggling in school make sure they have other outlets in their lives as best we can, whether that comes more naturally and comes more easily, so that school doesn’t just take over things.

So some of it can be ways we focus on praise, some of it can be the sort of activities we seek out. Some of it can be focusing on reward systems over punishment. I mean all these things start to add up so the balance swings back to more success in everyday life and more positive feedback in everyday life

Patrick McKenna

Unfortunately self-esteem is often fragile from all the screw-ups, but fortunately the more they’re able to focus on what they can do well, the more they feel confident to move forward even in the face of problems at school or with friends. Strengths that’s where the money is that’s where the gold is, in their strengths.

Dr. Margaret Weiss

So for example if a child says I’ve never been invited to a birthday party I may ask how they do with animals, because many children with ADHD socialize beautifully with grandparents or with a single adolescent, or with a younger sister or a baby and point out the strengths of what they do well.

Dr. Annick Vincent

You look at what are the strengths of that person, what do they like, what do they want to do in their life and how can you as a clinician or as a mother or as a father help that person go in that direction with all the tools that we have, because now we have a lot of tools to help those children and adults.

Dr. Alice Charach

It’s important to help them see the positive. So our conversation is; you know your son worked really hard on the testing, we can see that he’s really working hard, he’s doing his best and this is what he can do in that context.

We like to look for aspects of the child that we enjoy whether they’re you know charming or easy to get along with or cooperative. We want the family to know that in the right setting this is what their youngster is like.

Patrick McKenna

Once you put that positive spin on ADD you realize the list of positives are far outweigh the potential negatives.

Dr. Steven Kurtz

So we teach parents and teachers how to follow up on that in a positive way, not a negative consequence kind of approach but a positive consequence kind of approach.

ADHD kids seem to benefit from and to need more frequent rewards, more immediate consequences. They seem to need more direct specific, commands if you will, or specific directions on what to do next in a step-by-step manner and not to leave them to go several steps before you intervene.

Dr. Margaret Weiss

That difficulty, that resistance to moving into an activity that’s ADHD unfriendly that requires forced effort is so profound that it creates an intensity of conflict and difficulty that’s very hard to live with, both for the child and for the parent.

Patrick McKenna

Children need to feel unconditional love and acceptance however children also need to learn how the real world works, you teach them about crosswalks, right? and seat belts, you prepare them, you do I know.

We also need to teach them about how to get the things they want by earning them.

Dr. Declan Quinn

So we’re going to have to talk about this like a soccer game and a hockey game. You got a coach, okay, and a good coach will say we’re playing such a team on Saturday, we need to know who they are. I don’t want you guys going out and giving penalties and getting sent off. I cannot win if you’re in the penalty box. You’ve got to be playing for me.

I’m the coach, you may be the best player out there that’s tough. I’m making all the plays, it’s college football and you reinforce this with the parents, but any decision goes if it’s been well planned and well thought out.

So we’re gonna have to stop the sort of impulsive decisions, the impulsive parenting, the impulse of comments to the other person.

Patrick McKenna

Parenting is a bit like mentoring a child into adulthood.

It’s about teaching them the reality of the world without overwhelming them or making them afraid of it, and part of that reality is developing a work ethic.

Dr. Miglena Grigorova

The first thing that I address with the parents is the behavioral help children can get, because we don’t want them growing up with the sense of guilt, of not knowing how to do the thing right, or being told that they’re not good enough, or that they just have to be like everybody else when they’re not.

Patrick McKenna

We’ve also sat down at certain points and acknowledged how we wanted to raise our child and that we were going to be positive reinforcing parents and there was times we had to remind each other that.

Thom Hartmann

Everything is self-esteem with kids. The single biggest predictor of a child’s future success as an adult and there have been a lot of really good studies on this, the single most consistent predictor of future of adult success among children is self-esteem. It’s not intelligence, it’s not any particular type of neurology.

Patrick McKenna

It’s not easy but it’s crucial. Many studies have shown kids with undiagnosed untreated ADHD have lower self-esteem. Why? Well what builds self-esteem? It’s the same for adults as kids.

Dr. Annick Vincent

Success. So when you treat ADHD you have to aim for success.

Thom Hartmann

People who believe that they can accomplish things will accomplish things. People who believe that they can’t accomplish things won’t accomplish things.

Dr. Margaret Weiss

We need to help parents catch their child doing something good. We need to help children catch their parents doing something good, and the first and most important message to any family coming into my office is the courage and creativity that they’ve already shown and that we have to work with as we go forward.

Dr. Declan Quinn

You’re always having to explain things in context. They don’t have the skills to describe it or to know it. I can go to a hockey game, I never grew up playing hockey and you know a good hockey team versus a bad one, but I can’t tell you why it’s good. That’s the coach’s job. So you need to get the right coach to work with these families and if the coach doesn’t understand ADHD well they should go back and coach hockey instead.


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