Video Transcript & Notes:
Researchers have estimated that, by the age of 10, kids with ADHD receive 20,000 more negative messages and critiques than their peers without ADHD. 20,000 more negative comments. Over the course of 10 years, that’s more than 5 negative comments PER DAY MORE than their peers. And if you think about the fact that ADHD symptoms generally get more noticeable when kids begin school, and shorten that time frame to 5 or 6 years that they’re in school before age 10, we’re talking about at least 9 more negative comments PER DAY. That’s huge! Now, on top of that, thinking about the fact that kids with ADHD have a harder time with emotion regulation, these comments will hit them even harder than their peers. So, besides trying to educate society and everyone who interacts with kids with ADHD, what can we do to change this? There is one powerful idea that we can use to help a child with ADHD at home, and I’m going to tell you about it in this video.
By the way, if you haven’t seen my previous video, where I talk about 2 other big ideas to set you up to be more successful with parenting a child with ADHD, go check that out, and then come back here and finish this one.
So this powerful idea of how to help kids with ADHD at home is to focus on the positive. The stuff that’s going well, and the child’s specific strengths and interests.
But first I want to go back to something I’ve talked about before, because it highlights the importance of focusing on the positive – this idea from Dr. Edward Hallowell – how having ADHD is like having a racecar brain that was built with bicycle brakes. An ADHD brain is one that has a harder time with self-control and self-regulation – the brakes are mis-matched for the brain. It’s not that kids (or people) with ADHD aren’t trying hard enough or that they’re doing these things on purpose or that they don’t WANT to be able to do things differently. They need to slow down, or change directions, or avoid obstacles just like someone without ADHD, but no matter how hard they try, the brakes are just not matched for their car and so they get off course or crash often. These ADHD brains need good mechanics to strengthen the brakes. And parents can learn to be great mechanics when they have the right tools. A parent is the supporter, the coach, the one who is meant to help make things stronger and better.
Remember that the ADHD racecar is lined up with all the other racecars. And on the outside, it doesn’t look any different than any of the other cars. There’s nothing that outwardly lets other people know something is different about how it works. It’s the same with ADHD in kids, and unfortunately this can cause a lot of problems. Like 20,000 more negative comments by the time you’re 10 kinds of problems. Society and schools are generally not set up in a way that actively recognizes those differences. And that can lead to misunderstandings, and inaccurate expectations, and not-so-great environments or moments with other people. Kids with ADHD end up getting a lot of correction compared to their peers, and can receive labels like too hyper, or lazy, or sensitive, or dramatic. These are not only inaccurate, but also just super unhelpful. And because kids with ADHD have more trouble regulating, including with emotions, punishments and names and negative comments or feedback can hurt even more and be internalized more.
So what can parents do – to change the kind of feedback a child with ADHD gets? Use this one powerful idea – Focus more of your attention on the positive stuff, the stuff that’s going well, and the child’s specific strengths and interests. Build them up at home, so they have the confidence and tools to better manage the environments or people who don’t do that for them. Now, I don’t mean build them up with positive stuff in a fluffy, unicorns and rainbows kind of way. I mean instead of focusing on all the times that they left the toothpaste cap off, or lost their mittens, or interrupted for the 100th time, or cried over something seemingly small, focus on the times, even if they are way fewer, that they remembered to do something they sometimes forget, or when they asked for help when they were frustrated, or when they put their toys or backpack or gloves back in the right spot. Comment on those positive things out loud to them. Try hard to keep the majority (note that I’m not saying all) of your moments with them positive. Put your relationship with them ahead of the correction in the moment, or the frustration it causes you. Focus on the long-term. Focus on keeping your relationship warm and strong. You are the ones they will be most vulnerable with, especially in the early years. Lay a positive and supportive foundation that has long-term benefits for your relationship.
Also, if you’re finding this video helpful so far, don’t forget to tap the like button and let me know.
The other piece of focusing on the positive, is really paying attention to your child’s strengths and interests and giving lots of opportunities to build those up. Not only can this be a positive outlet for your child to combat the stress that they feel at other times, but it also serves to grow their confidence in their own abilities and in themselves. So, it could be art or dance or theater or science or tennis or legos. Whatever topics or activities are interesting or fun or that they excel at, find ways to do more of that.
You can even help them get more interested in things that are boring or more motivated to stick with something that’s hard for them, by incorporating more of their interests. If they love dance, build their working memory and focus with games where they have to repeat a series of dance steps. Or for kids where reading is a struggle, get them to practice reading more with books that are interesting to them, like if they’re into animals or geography or a certain TV show.
Focusing on the positive can seem a bit broad and might still leave you wondering, HOW exactly can I do that? To learn specific things to say and do to give your child more of the positive attention they need and deserve, check out this video below next. And if you found this video helpful or you just want to say thanks, be sure to tap the like button and subscribe. It motivates me to make more videos for families who need it. See you in the next video.