Parenting with ADHD: Why picking battles is so important

From Laura MacNiven, Director of Health Education/Coaching at Springboard Clinic

Let’s face it, children with ADHD hear the word “no” a lot. They hear “sit down”, “listen”, “If only you tried harder”, “stop bouncing”, and not a lot of “yes”.

Let’s try a little experiment:
Take a moment and say “no” outloud. Now say it again “NO”
Now try saying “yes”. And again, “YES”

Do you feel that difference in your body? Do you feel how when you say no, you almost constrict, and your shoulders sort of round. And when you say yes, do you feel how you open up and feel a surge of energy? When children with ADHD are feeling those limitations being set on them over and over again, you can see how they could easily be carrying around extra weight, and find that it can really take away their capacity.

I remember one adult client with ADHD describing for me that throughout his life, (before diagnosis and treatment), he had felt like he was constantly walking Parenting pickYourBattles boy child childhood 6459through tall grass, and with every step he took, he was just trying to dodge getting hit in the face by one of the giant blades. It meant that he ended up feeling powerless, and like he didn’t have agency; he was just kind of trying not to hear or feel another negative reaction. He felt that he was always disappointing someone else or himself.

I think when you hear a lot of the word no, you really physically, emotionally and mentally lose motivation. You don’t feel like you can do the right thing. You’re just kind of trying to avoid disasters.

That’s why picking battles can be so important for working with ADHD children. We can work to notice when they are doing something right (or partially right), try to give freedom when possible to make “low-risk” mistakes, and really work to say the word “yes” whenever we can.

What does it mean to pick battles?
As parents, choosing to pick battles can really be easier than you think. The trick is you have to be mindful about it and work with your partner to make conscious choices before being put in the situation. Sitting down and asking yourselves questions like: “What can we let go of in our home?” or “Where can we find some more ‘yes’ energy”?

Perhaps, it is about deciding that sitting at the dinner table really isn’t possible for your child, or that some free play time in the morning before school would help your child feel good about themselves before starting their day, or deciding to help your child get dressed if they struggle with that. It’s about choosing some of the most challenging parts of your child’s day and trying to turn it those on their head.

Oh, and the best part?
One of the absolutely most amazing parts of “picking battles” in parenting is that it often helps you feel a lot better too. By taking the pressure off your child, you often take it off yourself as well. You are able to stop feeling the negative energy of saying no, and together can find some more moments of connection and fun.

We all live busy lives nowadays and it can be really exhausting parenting a child with ADHD. Take a few moments and try to ask yourself what you might be able to let go of in your household. Even a few tweaks can make a huge difference. And “saying YES” is a truly opening and motivating feeling (for everyone)!

 

 

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