Patricia Quinn: “I was recently introduced to Karen Bierdeman and her site www.theguiltfreemom.com and immediately wanted to share it with all of you. So I asked Karen to share some tips for parenting a child with ADHD. Here’s her ADDvice on “How to Parent in Style – Your Style.” Dads are also welcome to take a look and use what they’d like.”
If your child has ADHD or you find setting limits with your intense child difficult, here are some guilt-free parenting tips:
1. Remind yourself often that kids come wired differently, and some have more energy or are more intense than others. Accordingly, such kids may, at times, be challenging to parent. If you can remember that you are not the cause of your child’s temperament–that it’s not your “fault” that your child comes wired to oppose you or to procrastinate, you can then begin to focus on what you CAN do to help your child. Experiencing toxic guilt about your child’s behavior can keep you stuck feeling bad about yourself as a mother. Instead, know that your “spirited”, energetic child is both a gift and a challenge, and that your parenting skills didn’t cause that.
2. What we pay attention to grows. Is your house dirty? Did your daughter leave her backpack strewn across the floor? Did you yell at your son again, even though you promised yourself you’d be more patient? Some days, it’s difficult to think of even one thing that went well, especially when it comes to parenting children who are spirited, intense, or just “more.” One thing you can do is to keep a notepad by your bed, and before you go to bed, write 5 things you appreciated about yourself and/or your family. Maybe you read your child that bedtime story even though you were bone tired. Or perhaps your child was about to melt down into a major tantrum after you told her to brush her teeth, and then, in miraculous moment, she didn’t. She made the choice to take a deep breath, sigh, and start brushing her teeth.By consciously bringing these positive moments into your awareness and appreciating them, you will begin to feel renewed energy and hope. Nurture those seeds and watch them grow!
3. Rely on the power of routines. All kids feel safe when they know what to expect on a daily basis. Kids who are spirited or intense especially need routines to help “ground” them in what’s expected when. For kids that have ADHD or who are just easily overwhelmed, list the tasks that are part of the routine, and give positive feedback for following each step. For example, one mom I worked with realized that saying, “Go get ready for bed” didn’t inspire her son to take action. During a family meeting, she asked her son to help her come up with a list of things that he does to get ready for bed. She asked, “First you do _______. What happens next? And after that?” They posted the list in the hallway, near the bedrooms and bathrooms, and she started to say, “Check your ‘Get Ready For Bed” Chart. What’s the first thing on it?” Then she praised him for getting started. Pretty soon, he had internalized the routine and would sometimes remind his mom when she would skip a step (like trying to read two stories instead of three!).
4. Take mini-breaks often. Those of us with kids who push the boundaries and who require much of our energy (hmmm..sounds like all kids) need to replenish our diminishing energy so we can parent well. One of the quickest ways to do this is to practice deep breathing. During one particularly stressful time in my life I actually had a “cue card” posted in my office that said simply, “Breathe.” During stress we often hold our breath without even realizing it. Breathing deeply will help you feel more relaxed and energized. Another way to take a mini-break is to find something that brings you joy or inspiration visually and keep it where you can see it. For me, inspirational quotes work wonders, so I keep them where I can refer to them often. For one of the moms I worked with, she kept music on her i-Pod that lifted her spirits. When she had five minutes to spare, she’d listen and get recharged. Other ideas include drinking a cup of tea or coffee out of a favorite mug, or calling a supportive friend. Make a list of activities that take 3 minutes (or fewer) to do and start by doing 1 or 2 a day. Gradually increase until you are doing as many as you can, and notice your energy increasing as well!
5. Parent in ways that honor your style. As a mom who likes to create art, read, scrapbook, play with pets and have her own business, I thrive on being busy. And guess what? My house reflects that! On my kitchen counter you’ll find acrylic paint (the kids and I just had to paint the other day—the paints were on sale and the colors just said “Spring”). On my tables, you’ll find stacks of books and magazines. My children’s artwork is scattered on my fridge. If I compare my household organizational skills to those of my friend, I’d come up woefully short. Her house is immaculate. She always knows what’s for dinner, and it’s usually not left-overs. Pet hair doesn’t grace her furniture. No paper piles inhabit her tables. One day I said to her. “I wish I could be like you when I grow up. Organized. Structured. Everything in it’s place.” She floored me when she said, “Well, I wish I could give myself permission to paint and be creative. I admire all that you do, but I know my limits. It would stress me out to have all that art stuff everywhere.” That day, she gave me the gift of accepting who I am as a mother and a person. Just as our kids come wired in a certain way, so do we as moms. Each of us has areas we’d like to improve in. Each of us also has our strengths. So go forth and parent with style–your style!