One way you can effectively communicate to an impulsive ADHD child

not listeningTypical scenario raising two boys with ADHD: impulsive behaviour going from zero to sixty and only looking to get worse.  Mom enters the scene, tells her boys to stop.  The word “stop” reaches their ears but doesn’t seem to register.  Mom gets closer, gets down to their level and says it again, “stop”.  The boys look at her, stop for a moment, then proceed like they didn’t hear her at all.  Hyperactivity shows no signs of simmering down.  Mom’s “STOP” starts to get louder and more intense but it doesn’t phase the boys at all.  They are on a rollercoaster ride and can’t get off.  Problem is, so is Mom, but she’s on a rollercoaster of frustration and it’s about to get LIVE up in here.  Scene ends with Mom losing it.  The boys stop, then look at their Mom then at each other like, “What’s her problem?”

Press repeat.

Does this situation sound familiar?  If you have a child with ADHD then you have probably experienced the same scenario.  ADHD is defined by poor attention skills, unable to control impulses, and hyperactivity. They may experience frequent memory lapses, lack social skills, and make jokes when it’s not appropriate.  Their emotional states go through up and down swings of emotion.  It is literally a deficit of attention, a disorder in life skills. Their attention is situational on whether their interest is peaked or not.  Here’s the thing, they are not purposefully inattentive or disobedient.  Neurologically, there are forces that inhibit them from control.  “I want to control myself but my mind won’t let me” (from Scattered Minds, Gabor Mate). “ADD is not a problem of knowing what to do, it’s a problem of doing what you know.” (Improved Delay Responding, Russell Barkley).

That’s all great to know, but how do we teach our children how to function in a world that requires them to get a grip on their impulsiveness?

The other day I was beside myself trying to communicate with my boys about how their careless behaviour was driving my frustration through the roof.  I was asking for their cooperation and didn’t know how to communicate in a way they could understand.

That’s when I grabbed a glass of water. waterfilling

I said to my boys, “Let’s pretend this glass is me and the water is my frustration level”.  When I see behaviour is getting out of control and I tell you to stop. When my words aren’t being heard my frustration starts to build.”

I poured more water in the glass wateralmostfull

“If my words continue to not be heard, my frustration only grows until finally it’s reached the top and overflows.  This is where I’ve had enough”. (you may see crazy-mom at this point)

They looked at the overflowing glass of water, seeming to understand. wateroverflow

“I don’t want to have the kind of relationship with my boys where I am always overflowing with frustration.  It’s important we listen to one another’s words and cooperate so we can enjoy one another as a family”.  I reminded them of this so they would remember that I’m not trying to “fix their behaviour” as much as I am seeking to save the connection of our family.  Frustration only separates the divide between child and parent, which then only increases bad behaviour.  It’s a vicious cycle and I was tired of being in it.

Now when my boys are out of control and my words aren’t reaching them, I grab a glass of water and show them where my frustration level is.  This visual has been effective.

What helps a child with ADHD more than anything?  Dope.  That neuro loving Dopamine we derive from loving connections.  This is what they need.  Frustration only blocks it.  Once we can communicate past frustration, connection can happen once again.  The good news is that our children want this desperately.  They want to do good, we just need to keep being creative to help them see that through.

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