Almost all parents can expect some disorganized, frenzied and downright frustrating behavior from their child from time to time. For parents of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), however, these behaviors take on a different level of intensity.
Thus begins a helpful article entitled "How is parenting children with ADHD different?" which surfaced during my recent internet search on the subject. Twelve years into parenting, we have navigated a number of different scenarios with our children - from a heart condition to cerebral palsy to prematurity to seizures - and we have spent hours in doctor's offices resolving mostly physical issues. But I will admit, last year's diagnosis of one of our youngest children in the realm of mental health has me feeling like a brand-new parent all over again.
"Children with ADHD often have lots of energy and trouble focusing, so parents must be patient with them on a daily basis."
My first response when I read this line was a bit sarcastic, something along the lines of "Uh ... ya think??" Patience has been a tremendous challenge. When a misbehavior occurs which seems to have absolutely no logical explanation; when our child (again) places himself in harm's way unthinkingly; when the four other siblings are happily entertained while he cannot seem to find anything to do to stay content; when loud and embarrassing words are spoken in public; when his pre-school teacher has to pull me aside yet another time. It is hard to not to react negatively in the moment.
Which is why I appreciated two more articles unearthed in my online sleuthing. ADD/ADHD and School has excellent suggestions for parents and teachers to work together in helping a child or student succeed. But my favorite statement was found in ADD/ADHD Parenting Tips, which encourages parents to
Believe in your child. Think about or make a written list of everything that is positive, valuable, and unique about your child. Trust that your child can learn, change, mature, and succeed. Make thinking about this trust a daily task as you brush your teeth or make your coffee.
So often I allow the frustrations to limit my focus on the negative when there is so much positive about my son. Ultimately, it is my own selfishness - the annoyance created by interruptions to my plans or my sense of order - that leads me to do so. And that is not Biblical, Christ-honoring or God-emulating parenting. It in no way reflects the tremendous forbearance my Heavenly Father has had with me. And it sells my son short, not recognizing all that he has to offer us.
You know what's so great about my son? His joy. His eagerness to please. His friendliness and tender heart. Too often I forget these excellent qualities. Too often I overlook the opportunity to bless him with praise. This week, he brought home a warm, freshly-made cookie from his pre-school cooking class. He was so anxious to have me try it. I oohed and aahed and said how wonderful it was. The next day he said to me, "Mommy, remember you liked that cookie so much?" He was so happy that I was so happy with what he had made. It's not hard to make his day. Why do I not take the time to bring that kind of smile to his face more often?
When I am frustrated and wondering why God thought I could handle this twist in our family life, I want to remember that my son's diagnosis does not determine his destiny - nor should it determine my own attitude or response to him. I want to love him as God loves me - patiently, tenderly. I want to believe in the fabulous future God has for him - and trust in the strength God promises to nurture him to it.