Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What Less Anxiety and More Optimism Can Do For Kids

Kids with ADHD often suffer from a very de-bilitating lack of self-esteem. They recognize in themselves that something is different and the heat they get from inability to stay focused, complete tasks, follow-through and generally finding themselves in trouble more-often than not really drives home that there is 'something wrong with them.' ADHD is truly a vicious cycle that feeds itself and feeds the environment around these kids in a threatening and very sad way.

Preston's increase in cognitive awareness, compliance and pleasant demeanor have been absolutely exciting beyond measure for me. That is not to say the battle is over. He still has meltdowns - one just the other day over having to finish a chicken taco for lunch that he quite enjoyed the night before. He fell to absolute pieces over this! I gently escorted him to his room where he was welcome to have his cry, where he stayed for a good ten minutes, sobbing. It was little mind-boggling to me (as it usually is) to have so much emotion wrapped-up in a perfectly good and tasty chicken and cheese taco. Sigh. I'm sure you can relate on some level. At any rate, after ten minutes, he emerged from his room over the tears and slightly more open to some 'taco completion options.' Right there - huge PROGRESS! He didn't destroy his room in his fit or drag anyone else in to it and when he was done he was open to suggestion.

For  me, I simply didn't want a perfectly good taco to go to waste. In the end, older bro ate the taco and Preston had a sandwich. Easy. And that is what I am really working on with him right now - options and solutions; there is more than one way to skin a chicken taco. The big point I want to drive home today is this:

Less negativity and anxiety and increased positives and optimism give kids the chance to function at their best because they feel that they are essentially good kids doing good things. Greater negativity and fighting more battles puts the child in the position of they are always in trouble, therefore they must be a 'bad kid.'
 
 
This is a major factor in Preston's latest success, which is in large part due to me as the parent. I have done and recommend doing the following:

1) Lower your expectations. This is key. It is so easy to make the 'little adult assumption' or like Mr. Livingston said in my last post, 'measuring them by the yardstick of my own ears.' I also love that his mantra became: " He is nothing but a boy - a little boy!" All of us are imperfet and essentially irrational (thanks Spock) and quite frankly make really stupid decisions often. Our kids haven't had the experience we have and are going to make more, really stupid decisions. Lower your expectation.

2) Let it go. Choose to let alot of things go that you fight with your child about. There is a line here and you know what it is - when it is a battle you need to fight and when it isn't. If you see a battle ensuing, ask yourself, "Is this a big deal?" A note on battles, if it is a win or lose, the relationship will ALWAYS suffer.

3) Laugh. The last time I went into Preston's room and it was a disaster, literally, I laughed and asked him if a bomb went off. He laughed a little and then I got down and helped him pick up the pieces and we did it together.

4) It's okay to re-direct, cue and praise. Alot of kids are easily distracted, but it's a for-sure-thing with kids with ADHD. Even when they are looking you in the eye and you think they are hearing what you are saying, they are on another planet in the solar system and your signal is pretty weak. You will have to ask more than once and re-direct when they get off task. When they get going, praise them. There is always the 'precision request technique' and counting to get a rapid response (both techniques are mentioned on the 'Parenting' tab).

 5) Re-phrase requests or find another way of getting things done. With Preston, I have found 'I' statements incredibly useful. I constantly tell him what 'I' am doing rather than putting direct pressure on him. "My car is leaving for Super Sports in 5 minutes and who ever is ready is coming with me." Another great example is how I have lately been getting Preston to clean his room at night. I am very organized and my house reflects that. Preston did not get an ounce of my organization gene - in fact, he got the complete opposite and his room reflects that. I told him one night that my 'neat bug' goes crazy over super big messes and I just can't handle coming into his room at bedtime to tuck him in if it is a complete disaster. Well, he loves it when I tuck him in at night (which of course I love as well), so every night when he asks me to tuck him in I ask him how the state of his room is. He will almost always quickly pick up his room and shout out the 'all clear' so that I can come down and tuck him in. How awesome is it that I don't have to nag and he does it on his own? It's totally awesome!

6) Get your hands dirty. Well, not really. I just mean that once in awhile help them out with their chores, cleaning their room, whatever. It's nice to see the boss willing to work alongside the help and kids like to know you aren't just the boss but also a team player and you want them to succeed.
 
Actively using all of these techniques has increased the positive vibes in our home and most excitingly (is that a word?) it has tremendously increased our relationship. He is so lovey with me right now - something else that is so amazing! He gives me random hugs, tells me he loves me, gives me air hugs from across the room and wants to play. This kids self esteem is at a place I haven't seen it before; really for carefully choosing my battles and joking about the smaller issues to be dealt with rather than coming from a place of frustration and anxiety. This does take time, so don't give up in whatever is that you try.  
 
What is something you are doing that is working to improve your relationship with your children and amidst your family?
 
 
 


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