Over in my Facebook group ADHD Warrior Squad, I am reading too often about confrontation within the family.
This is so sad.
Parents are exhausted, children are unhappy, siblings are furious, relationships have broken down and nobody wins.
So what are the confrontations about?
Usually screens, homework, chores, hygiene, trouble at school and going out. Sounds familiar?
A bit of science stuff….
First, a reminder why your child with ADHD may be struggling.
ADHD is real. It is not an excuse or a made up reason to explain laziness or rudeness. We know this from MRI scans which show an ADHD brains looks and behaves differently.
The neurons in their ADHD brains are not firing consistently, so the messages to the parts of the brain which control impulses, emotions, focus and movement are just not getting through. The chemical neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline are in short supply.
So the clever little ADHD brain tries to creates it’s own neurotransmitter chemicals through constantly moving, finding motivating and exciting things to do. If an ADHD brain is bored, it will naturally seek out this excitement, be distracted or turn off the activity.
What does this mean?
If your child finds something boring, dull or repetitive, they will not do it, they will be distracted and they will go looking for excitement instead. They are not deliberately trying to wind everyone up – they are trying to stimulate the neurotransmitter chemicals in their brain.
Your child may be lagging behind their peers emotionally and so may be immature. They may not have the language or be able to control their emotions which get very big, very quickly.
They also notice everything that is going on and will have a strong sense of justice and what is fair.
So much of their young lives have been met with blame, shame, telling off, feeling left out, excluded – it really is no wonder that this may lead to anger and confrontation.
I think the most important thing to consider is your relationship with your child. Everything else comes second. Screens, chores and homework too often get in the way and you end up rowing over stuff that really isn’t important.
As parents of children with ADHD, you must chuck the traditional parenting rule book in the bin. You have to do it in a different way. Punishments, strict rules and boundaries make your child angry and will damage your relationship and lead to many confrontations.
Let things go that are just not important.
Compromise. Find a win-win. Talk to your child. Collaborate. Decide together what will work and what doesn’t work. Find out how they like to do things and what motivates them to do the boring stuff. What rewards you can use to motivate them to do the stuff that is dull.
Spend time together having fun and really listen to what they have to say. Because usually, your child will have amazing, imaginative, creative ways to solve a problem. They just need an opportunity to be heard.
Use planners, timers, lists, calendars, sensory equipment, post-its, colourful storage, hooks, folders to help them with executive function difficulties they may have.
Getting the boring stuff done
Decide together how long they’ll spend on a screen and what motivating thing they can do after.
Make sure homework is achievable and relevant and set up an area where there are fewest distractions. They do not need to sit in a chair. They may prefer to stand up, lie down, go under the table. Wherever. It doesn’t matter.
Chores can be ‘gamified’ and made into a mini competition to make them more exciting and rewarding.
Find a compromise about how long they go out. Have an agreement and a plan.
Hygiene may be a problem as this is a repetitive, boring task. So get your child involved with choosing new toiletries, playing theme tunes whilst brushing teeth or washing and generally making the task more exciting, new and motivating.
Being a brother or sister of a child with ADHD can be hard. Life is anything but straight forward. So be open and honest about ADHD. Explain the difficulties but also the positives. Share my book ‘ADHD Is Our Superpower’
Make dates in the diary for each child in the family to spend time with a parent. Everyone to get special time, every day if possible. It may be that for now, you do not do things as a whole family.
Reward with smiles, high fives or something else that you have agreed.
Notice positive and kind things they do. Write them out on a little note and share it with them.
Set up a WhatsApp group with the family and share the lovely things they do.
Change your expectation what they can manage and let them know you think they are amazing.
Then perhaps, just perhaps, there will be less confrontation and more smiles.
I hope that helps.