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Book Review: ‘Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents’

For those who keep up with our blog, you have hopefully noticed that the past few weeks have been dedicated to our version of book reports. We did this partly in solidarity with those of you who have been thrown back to the books this school year. Mostly though, we thought that since we’ve come across so many books related to ADHD over the years, it would be a shame if we didn’t share the knowledge with you.

In the final entry of this particular book review series, we introduce the book ‘Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents,’ by world-renowned ADHD expert Dr. Russell A. Barkley. This book is intended as an empowering guide for parents, and we believe it is just that. It should be noted that the book was last updated in 2000, and a tremendous amount of research has been done since them, but much of Barkley’s insight and guidance rings true today.


Rather than summarize all the information in the book – there is a lot! – we thought it might be more interesting to speak to a section that stood out the most for many of us, called ‘Becoming a Principle-Centered Parent.’ The purpose of this section is to help parents step away from the downward spiral of negative interactions with their children. Rather than a parent reacting on impulse to their child’s behaviour, Dr. Barkley offers guidance on how to react using a plan, or ideals. The section essentially encourages parents to hold themselves to a higher standard of parenting.

What was particularly interesting about this section, however, were the principles Dr. Barkley created for raising a child with ADHD. These principles were adapted from the book ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,’ by Stephen R. Covey, and are particularly helpful in synthesizing some of the bigger themes involved in working with an ADHD child.

So, to ring out the end of our fall reading series, please enjoy Dr. Russell Barkley’s version of the seven principles of raising a child with ADHD:

  1. Be Proactive. When parents react on impulse to their child’s behaviour, the situation rarely leaves parent or child feeling good about the interaction. Dr. Barkley encourages parents to leave behind the unpredictability and guilt of these emotionally charged confrontations, and move towards subordinating your impulses to your values. He emphasizes the freedom of choice we have when we react.
  2. Begin with the end in mind. Imagery is a powerful tool for change. If homework is a source of stress in your household, there is a good chance you step into it with a measure of anxiety, perhaps fear, and most likely images from the previous homework fiasco. This principle involves imagining a more positive outcome: perhaps smiles and a little laughter or praise for your child for a job well done. He also encourages parents to look at bigger goals that require us to look well into the future. How would you like your child to reflect upon the role you played in helping him graduate high school? These images can serve as a compass – they can guide you in your attempts to keep your interactions calm, positive and less stressful.
  3. Put first things first. Determine what is most important in your relationship with your child. Dr. Barkley has spent a great deal of time helping parents distinguish the battles from the wars. What’s more important: having a child make her bed, or having a child leave for school in a peaceful, calm manner? He counsels parents to set aside the trivial matters. Prioritize. Think about what is most important to you and your family and get these things done first.
  4. Think win/win. Daily life requires that you make many demands of your child. Do you often find yourself nagging your child? Does it get you far, or just get you down? The most successful negotiations are the ones that end with both parties getting what they want. Let’s take chores for example, why not try something like this: “If you get your chores done before noon, you can have an extra 15 computer time.” Try to keep in mind what would make the more “challenging” tasks more appealing to your child
  5. Seek first to understand then be understood. Practice good listening! Show your child  that you understand what he is saying by restating his point of view in your own words. Then and only then, should you seek to make yourself understood. This is a way to build mutual trust and respect.
  6. Synergize. Strive to work with your child in ‘creative cooperation’. Use all of the principles to guide your interactions. When using these principles, the parenting journey may not always be predictable, but it will be supported by mutual trust and respect. Dr. Barkley encourages parents to work together with their children to face the challenges that lie ahead.
  7. Renewal. This principle supports all others. In order to be supportive, caring and effective parents, you need rejuvenation. The four dimensions of renewal are physical, mental, social and emotional, and spiritual. Dr. Barkley believes that “the best gift you can give your child is the gift of self-renewal”.

If you’d like to learn more about ‘Taking Charge of ADHD’ or Dr. Russell Barkley, please click here to visit his website.

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