(This is an update of an earlier article)
Its easy as an ADHD parent to lose sight of what you’re trying to accomplish with your child.
There’s so much that could be improved.
So many areas that cause problems.
So many things that are irritating and frustrating.
One way to stay on track is to have a good idea of what you would like your child to be like when he or she is 18 or 21. This is not just about grades and school but also about personal characteristics you’d like to see. For most of us that would include things like being responsible, honest and persistent.
Its really important to be clear on what you’re trying to teach your child. It also helps you set priorities. Priorities help you decide how to intervene and whether to intervene. It also helps you decide what to reinforce and what to extinguish.
Say, for instance, responsibility is a strong value for you that you’d like to teach your child. You can recognize when he is being responsible and encourage that. You can set up situations in which your child can be responsible and reinforce appropriate behavior. You can recognize that constant criticism about lack of responsibility is not effective.
You must have an appreciation of the principles of successive approximation when you use this approach. Successive approximation is just a fancy term that summarizes the idea that change happens a little bit at a time. If you are teaching responsibility, it is not different from learning to play a musical instrument or learning an athletic skill. You have to learn a little bit at a time. First make a noise with your clarinet, then learn fingering, how to make the different notes, then scales, then simple songs and so on.
Personal characteristics that we’d like to see our children develop are the same way. You have to learn to recognize and praise small steps in the right direction. If your child does one small thing–like making his bed, but not totally cleaning his room. Praise for doing the bed,not criticism for failing to clean the whole room.
Its important to develop the ability to recognize these small improvements and encourage them. And remember to stay focused on the distant goal you have for your child.