Saturday, December 18, 2010

What Being an ADHD Parent is Really Like

Being the parent of an ADHD kid is different than parenting a child who focuses quicker and doesn't latch onto things or hyperfocus. We are also judged as being bad parents already by a lot of the general public and the prejudice makes us supersensitive so when our kid melts down in public it makes us want to resolve it quickly and easily as possible so we develope stratigies for handling things that do not make us look like jerks, idiots or bad parents for that matter. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.

L. is adorable MOST of the time. When she gets in a tantrum and hyperfocuses on whatever wrong has been done her she can be impossible to shake from it. There are good days and bad days and when a bad day hits - it hits hard.

A few strategies that USUALLY work with her and fit with her personality are:
1) Take out a cell phone or camera and take her picture - she loves modeling or pretending to model and is a total camera ham. Usually she will stop the tears or screaming and put on a huge smile snapping out of the "ugly" behavior to Diva it up and be gorgeous. Plus she loves attention and this fills the need. It is a good quick fix if we are in public.

2) Video tape the tantrum - same reason as number one. She does not like to look less than her best. She hates to be caught acting not nice. Especially if I say I am going to show the video to Grandma or Santa.

3)Whisper. Intead of yelling or getting angry I talk to her but I whisper what I am saying so that she can't hear me. I make my voice very soft. I say things like "I think it is just awful you are having such a bad day." or something nice I know she would want to hear and just loud enough I know she CAN hear it and would want to hear more but she would have to quiet down to be able to hear more.

4)Ignore it - the tantrum is happening because she wants attention if you ignore it she is not getting what she wants and it will usually die off within a short period of time. If not we isolate her to her bedroom for a short period of time until the inappropriate behavior settles down.

5) Some other form of redirection - use humor, do something bizarre or funny like make a face or be silly or tickle her to give her a small amount of attention to make her laugh and temporarily divert her attention.

TODAY at her doctor's office NONE of these strategies worked at all. She did not want to go out in the cold to go see Dr. G. (He is one of her ADHD doctors.) She also did not want to even get out of bed this morning. She was just having a grumpy day.

When people see parents carrying a two year old over their should like a sack of potatoes it is kind of cute - they nod their heads in sympathy thinking oh that poor baby is tired - I have been there, done that. But what do they think when they see them doing it to a nine year old? I think I want to cry. Hide my face in shame and embarrassment. BUT I keep on my happy face encouraging her to put on her listening ears and behave better so Daddy doesn't have to do that to her anymore!

When we finally get in the building and people are staring and wondering what is wrong with us she decides that in this room full of crowded people she is going to jump up and down on the chairs bouncing them into one another. NOT ACCEPTABLE. Both of us asked her to stop she did not listen. We said "STOP or we will MAKE YOU STOP." She did not. Hubby gently grabbed her shoulders pulled her off the chair and sat her down. She started screaming that he hurt her. I saw what he did. Everyone in the room saw what he did. HE DID NOT HURT HER. She howled the and cried unconsolably. Never mind that she had been sending the plastic chairs flying all over the crowded room into other people sitting there waiting with us. He did not hurt her. He simply made her sit down. There was no spanking, no slapping, no violence, no yelling, no temper, no forcefulness. HE simply sat her down.

Yet she sat in the psychiatrists waiting room screaming "Daddy hurt me, Daddy hurt me." and sobbed uncontrollably. A few people snickered. A few stared. Others shook their heads. Some whispered amongst themselves. I wanted to shout at them "SHE IS NOT A BAD KID AND WE ARE NOT BAD PARENTS - she gets straight A's at school - she is creative and beautiful and has limits. We are only treating her as her behavioral counselor instructed us too."

I shook my head and wanted to cry myself. I got angry at hubby for not handling it better - maybe asking her to use her energy jumping up and down on the floor away from the chairs or something. Choosing the battles better. Then mad at myself for getting mad at him. Then mad at her for embarrassing us so bad. THEN worried Children Services was going to think we abuse her and take her away even though we didn't do anything wrong at but simply because she is still sitting in a public place screaming at the top of her lungs "Daddy hurt me." A tear falls but I wipe it away and put the smile back trying my hardest to stay postive with her and snap her out of it.

Accounting called our name. L. said "I am not going I am going to sit her for an hour." Some people laughed out loud at this proclamation.
I sent hubby back without us. He went back and paid then came out with her slip to take upstairs to the doctor area. I tell him to go on without us that L. is still going to be sitting there for "How many minutes?" I ask her.

"51 minutes" she answers.

He says okay and goes on up to the doctor area.

I sit there quietly a few minutes watching her tantrum. I love her so much I just want to hold her and comfort her but the behavioral counselor says that would be rewarding the tantrum and that is not okay. It kills me not to hug her when she is so upset. So I try another tactic.

"L. you know Dr. G. loves seeing you every month. He is really going to miss you this month."

"I don't care. I am not moving for 53 minutes."

"WHAT?" I say with a giggle "Not fair - you made it go up - five minutes ago it was only 51 you made it go up. Besides I have a magic clock and it says the hour is already past and it is time to go up there now."

"NO YOU DON'T and that is not going to happen."

"Come sit by me."

"I am not going to sit where Daddy sat he hurt me."

"I don't think he hurt you. I think he embarrassed you. I don't like what he did, I think he could have handled it better but I don't like what you did either I am mad at both of you. You were knocking chairs into people and hurting them and that is not okay. Daddy needed to do what he did to stop you. That part was necessary. You don't want to hurt people do you?"


"Then you should come upstairs with me and tell daddy you are sorry."


"Okay. Well - I am still mad at you both. BUT even when I am mad - I still love you. Very much. So much it hurts."

"Can I have a piece of gum?"

"I don't have any with me. You know what. I think you need to get your butt upstairs for your doctor appointment"

"Okay - I love you mommy. I think I should tell daddy I am sorry."

"I think so too."

So she came over took my hand and we went upstairs for the doctor appointment. Just like that - at the exact time when her meds kicked in.

That is what it is like to be the parent of an ADHD kid. Does that make me a bad parent because she behaved that way. How would YOU have handled it? I don't feed her excessive sugar and she does not drink soda or eat a lot of junk food. She loves salads and drinks a ton of water. She would choose fresh fruit over a cookie any day. I had her tested for food allergies and all sorts of things AND we did a year of behavioral counseling before we decided to medicate. We do the minimal medications necessary to give her control over her behaviors and we do not do it because we are lazy parents. There is a lot of prejudice against ADHD parents out there. I know this because before I had L. I didn't even think ADHD was real. I was one of those prejudiced people. Now that I have had first hand experience as well as some college classes on it I know that it is real. I have grown and learned. Don't be judgemental or harsh - do some research into what the disease actually is. I have gone back to college to learn about it and to be able to help other kids like L. and their parents. I have learned patience and better parenting strategies that will work with any kid not just the ones that are different.

Even though it is challenging sometimes it is always rewarding. I love her so much. I feel like it has been a blessing in disguise because I am closer with my kid because of it. We have better communication - she talks to me about how she is feeling and I pay closer attention. I want to know and not only because I am worried about potential side effects from medicines but because I am relieved the meds haven't turned her into a zombie. She is so full of life and energy and such a creative fun little person. I see so much of myself in her. She is independent and intelligent and even though I have always seen that in her it has been wonderful getting her to where she is able to express that to others. I know more about her moods and what is going on with her because of this as well.

Because of her ADHD she also has a counselor she can talk to every two weeks or so about things going on in her life while she is growing up. Adolescence and life is hard enough without one - I am hoping her life will be easier because of having someone she can share the harder things about it with. Hopefully she will grow up to be more well adjusted than a lot of us did. I am grateful she shares everything with me too for now, I hope that will always continue.

So go ahead - be prejudiced - call me a bad parent I dare you. BUT in my heart I know the truth. I may not always be the most patient, I do set limits and stick with them, her tantrums before the meds kick in may annoy you if you happen to see one when we are in public, I do get frustrated sometimes and I don't give in and give her everything she wants but you know what? My kid knows she is loved - even when I am angry - and that I will always be there for her no matter what.


  1. Well said! I am really glad you shared this. It sounds like you and your husband are very loving and supportive parents. :)

  2. I commend you for doing what you need to do! We have so many parents who just want to add drugs upon drugs upon drugs without trying to do the behavioral changes, talking, counseling, setting limits. Working with ADHD students, I know that if you raise your voice, the situation escalates. Quickly. I've learned that it is also best to stay calm, use calming phrases like, "I'm sorry you're having a bad morning but...." and setting the limits. I'm glad your daughter has the two of you as her soft spot.

  3. Thank you Mindy and Jules. :)

    Rubbing her back and hugging her and letting her know she is loved always helps but it is best to be constant with that. When you are full blown tantrum at that point it is best to stay calm and hope it blows over quick! It is so good to have support! I had no idea how many people judge until I got in these shoes you know? The support is nice. The school has been supportive too. Her teachers are amazing and awesome. I love what a good job they are doing. They work with us and we with them to keep things consistent for L. it makes things easier. They also work with her counselors. She is excelling at school because of it. She loves to help other kids and is super smart. She controls her behavior at school because she loves to learn and we encourage that and hold her accountable for her behavior.

  4. This is a great post, and one that more people need to read. It's a shame that there are so many preconceived notions about ADHD and how to treat it. My husband was diagnosed with it as a child, and instead of trying to understand it, his parents and his doctor dosed him with so much ritalin that it literally turned him into a zombie (according to his grandmother). The worst part is that he really didn't even HAVE ADHD to begin with.

    And that's where the confusion and the judgement come in, from the people who don't truly understand what it REALLY is.

    Sorry for the tangent. You and your husband are doing what's best for your daughter, and that is ultimately the only thing that matters!

  5. One of the hardest things is learning to set your own embarrassment and discomfort aside and do what is best for your child. Too many parents (of ALL kids not just ones with ADHD)do just give in to shut the kid up because it is easier but that makes things worse. Her behavioral counselor has been a blessing and most of the time she behaves better than most kids that don't have ADHD and her kindness shows. She wouldn't play with her friends one day because they were being mean to another kid. She just played by herself that day. She loves to help people and is not only able to be in regular classes she is in the accelerated ones.

  6. Reading this will think to myself, nothing is by chance, children hirperatividade.
    Super special parents, giving children common problems live surprising and sometimes kill the tiredness.
    Now parents who have children with this Diagnosis really are special. I will relate a fact in the 80s I had friends who had children hyper and then found in coffee and give it gave a positive result, homeopathic think something through, do not know if this is justified, but the result was to leave them quieter.
    Don't know mucht to say about only my admiration to the parents.

  7. Caffeine does help some but it isn't enough to do the job by itself we tried the homeopathic route it just doesn't do it. It works in a pinch though if we get stuck out somewhere between med doses and need something to help keep her calm till we can get home.

  8. You are a great parent. And I'm SO using #2 on my teen daughters next time they go at it. Thanks!

  9. Kimber, you & Matt remind me so much of two of the strongest people I ever met... my parents! :)
    Your kids couldn't have asked for a better team to have on their side as they go through the growing up process. Your gentle and flexible (but stern when needed) natures and creative, positive outlook create a great environment for them to continually re-shape and design the people they want to be as they progress through life. I am really enjoying watching our kids grow up together! ^_^

  10. Wow, Kimber, you are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing this insightful look in to ADHD. I'm bookmarking this to send to others.

    Thanks so much, that rebel, Olivia

  11. Thanks for sharing that. You and your husband have patience and love that will always be with your daughter. She'll learn a lot from both of you.

  12. Thanks for writing this. My daughter is 3 and I notice a huge difference in her personality after she eats. Mostly sweets but I have noticed with other things too. I would get so embarrased and angry and then I realized that it isn't her fault as much as I wanted to blame her for being bad or me being a bad parent. I am not sure what all this means because I haven't talked to a doc yet but I have a feeling that we are heading the ADD or ADHD direction.
    I need to read more about it, but this gives me some insight.

    I think you and your hubby handled it perfectly.

  13. Kimber, reading this my heart just went out to you, and I applaud you, for so many things--yes, you are a good mom! And you're a better woman than most could ever hope to be. Please, never hold your head in shame; it it those who snicker at you who are the shamed!

  14. So well informed. Good for you. My husband's youngest son from his first marriage was ADHD, and unfortunately, back then, nobody took it seriously or understood the need for diet control. I applaud you.

  15. good luck with everything

    and merry christmas, babe

  16. ADHD can be really tough. I like the video taping idea. I work with some kids who have adhd and this may sound insane, but I have them jump around for a full 5 minutes, shaking every part of their body, no control over anything. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system and helps them relax and focus.

  17. Merry Christmas Blessings & a bit o' sunshine, Kimber!

  18. Oh that must be so hard for all of you. Thinking of you all.

  19. I'm at work right now {on hold so no worries ;)}, so I can give the kind of response that this entry deserves, though I'm not sure that I could even do it justice if I weren't at work.

    What amazing people you and you husband are, Kimber. You blow me away-and I'm not easily blown.~