Archive for the ‘Parenting tips’ Category

High energy or AD/HD?

March 2, 2009

Many parents struggle with trying to figure out if their child has AD/HD or if he is just “high energy.”  This is an important distinction and it is sometimes hard for the non-professional to tell the difference.  Let me turn the spotlight on myself to help answer this question.  I am someone who is clearly “high energy.”  I talk fast, I talk loud, I walk fast, I tap my toe and shake my leg when I am sitting down, I can multi-task with the best, and I have been known to chase my kids/jump on the trampoline/dance with my kids until they run out of energy.  But….

this great energy doesn’t interfere with my functioning in any way.  I sat through LONG lectures in college and grad school just fine, read hundreds and thousands of pages of articles and text books in school just fine, I can sit in church or through a therapy session or through a testing session just fine.  In other words, I function just fine.  AD/HD by it’s very nature is a chronic disorder which interferes with someone’s academic, occupational, or home functioning.  When we are talking about children with AD/HD, we are looking for a child who is

  • having significant difficulty focusing or paying attention in school
  • who cannot sit still in class long enough to get through a lesson
  • who cannot sit still at the dinner table because he keeps getting up and down
  • who talks excessively and often interrupts
  • who is “on the go” or acts like he is “driven by a motor”
  • is easily distracted and has trouble waiting his turn
  • fidgets or squirms frequently

If a child is energetic, silly, and likes to run and play, but he can sit in class when the teacher is talking, he probably doesn’t have AD/HD.  If a child is loud and loves to talk, but she can stop talking when she needs to at home and school, she probably doesn’t have AD/HD.  And of course, if we are talking about a two or three year old, it’s developmentally appropriate for a child that age to be hyper and have trouble sitting still, so we wouldn’t diagnose a little one with AD/HD either.  If you have more questions about diagnosing AD/HD, there are some great websites and books out there.  I’d start with the following:

  •  and
  • Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete Authoritative Guide for Parents by Russell A. Barkley, Ph.D.
  • Power Parenting for Children With ADD/ADHD : A Practical Parent’s Guide for Managing Difficult Behaviors by Grad L. Flick, Ph.D., Harvey C. Parker, Ph.D.
  • Parenting Children with ADHD: 10 Lessons That Medicine Cannot Teach by Vincent J. Monastra
  • Teenagers with ADD and ADHD: A Guide for Parents and Professionals by Chris Dendy
  • ADHD and Teens by Colleen Alexander-Roberts


Now the “try not to do’s” list

February 9, 2009

There is a reason I call this list, the “try not to do” list instead of the “don’t” list.  It’s because even the most qualified, rested, well-meaning parents make mistakes and no one gets this stuff right all of the time.  But this list will remind us what we should try NOT to do.

1) Don’t tickle and joke with your child while you are telling him or her not to do something.  I see this a lot actually.  I was once in the waiting room with my daughter, and I saw a mom with a young toddler who kept misbehaving.  He would run away from her and try to leave the room.  She’d grab him and tell him no and then tickle him.  He would laugh and then disobey her again.  Kids get very mixed messages when you do this: They are hearing you say “don’t do this” and then being tickled and hugged on for disobeying.  Huh?  Just be firm and matter of fact when disciplining.

2) Try to avoid talking to your friends or spouse or family about your child’s weaknesses in front of your child.  Sometimes we convince ourselves that our child isn’t paying attention, but my experience is most kids don’t miss a thing being discussed, especially if they hear their name.  It’s best to save the discussions about your child’s problems or weaknesses when they are out of earshot.

3) If you are divorced or separated (or married in a high-conflict marriage), please don’t disparage your ex-spouse (or current spouse).  Kids know they are 1/2 mom and 1/2 dad.  If you are trashing their other parent, that puts a ding in your child’s self-confidence.  He experiences it as criticism of himself.  And it also creates a loyalty conflict where the poor kid feels like he has to choose sides.  Save the trash talking for when you are with your loyal friends, your cat, or for your journal.

4) Try to avoid “empty threats.”  “Do you want to leave the party?” (knowing full well there’s no way you’re leaving).  “Do you want a spanking?”  “Stop that or no dessert.” (knowing you’re not going to mess with her dessert).  It’s okay to give warnings, warnings are good.  But don’t threaten something you have no intention of following through with.  This teaches your child you don’t always mean what you say.

5) Try to avoid physical punishment.  All of the research shows spanking results in short-term compliance but not in long term behavioral change.  It also has the potential to be used much too frequently when the parent is angry, which results in a frightened child.  Finally, research shows children who are spanked are likely to be more aggressive themselves.

6) Try not to compare your children to each other, even in subtle ways.  “Wow, look Janey got an A on her science paper.  You can tell she really studied for it.”  (Hint, hint, “if you studied maybe you could do as well as your sister.”)

7) Don’t yell and scream at your kids.  We all know it feels good in the moment and it somehow makes you feel like you are really showing your kid how mad you are.  But it really damages your kid’s self-esteem and makes them more likely to be a “yeller” themselves.  We could all benefit from the “take a deep breath, count to ten, and remove ourselves from the situation if we have to” philosophy.

8) Don’t drop your kid off to school or tuck them in at night with an unresolved fight or after yelling at them.  That’s like sending them off with a black cloud over their head and they are not going to be their best at school or have a good night’s sleep.  Even if you say, “You know we are disappointed in your behavior but we love you no matter what.  We will discuss this more in the morning, but we know everybody makes mistakes and we will help you figure this out” that’s okay.

9) Don’t do everything for your kids.  Many parents baby their kids out of habit.  They make their food, pour them drinks, pick up their dirty clothes, etc.  This leads to self-entitled teenagers who come across as lazy.

10) Don’t beat yourself up for not doing everything right as a parent.  Don’t feel like a failure and feel guilty for all of the mistakes you made that day with your kids.  Just vow to try harder the next day and learn from your mistakes.  Hey, your kids won’t remember most of the specific incidents from their childhoods anyway.  What they will remember is if you were there for them, if you loved them, if your home was a happy and safe place to be, and if you took care of them.