As parents of attention-deficit-disorder (ADD) and/or learning-disabled (LD) children, we are so busy dealing with daily crises that we sometimes lose sight of what weâ€™re trying to accomplish with our offspring. With all the hassles of getting up, getting off to school, getting books and homework assignments home and then getting them done, dealing temper tantrums and meltdowns, it sometimes seems that simple survival is the ultimate goal.
We lose sight of the fact that someday our child will be an adult. Weâ€™re so busy trying to make it through the day that we stop thinking about what kind of person we want them to be, what values we want them to have. Weâ€™re so drained that we donâ€™t have the energy to think about the future. We tend to spend our time dealing with the present hassles, dealing with our children tactically, that is, trying to win each battle and not looking at the long-term goal.
As parents of ADD and LD children, we need to think strategically, to think about what kind of adults we are training on a day-to-day basis.
In my practice, I call this strategic parenting. By this term, I mean never doing anything on a day-to-day basis with your child without considering the ultimate outcome of parenting, the strategic outcome of parentingâ€”namely, what kind of adult your child becomes. There are many theories of child-rearing, but most focus on short term obedience issues. They are, in a word, tactical. This is not a problem with most children. All people have a powerful drive to self-actualize and most children eventually realize that they are better off getting good grades in school and getting along with their parents.
However, this is not always the case with ADD/LD children. As many of us know and have experienced, these children have a highly developed ability to resist at extraordinary volume for extraordinary lengths of time. Therefore, parents have to resist the temptation to respond tactically and try to win the battle. They have to get outside of the emotional battle and think about the strategic goal: what value or personal characteristics are we trying to teach?
Think about what kind of adult you want your child to become. What kind of values do you want him/her to have? What beliefs? What personal characteristics?
Presumably, you want a person who is more than just obedient. Probably, you want a person who is enthusiastic, creative and feels good about her/himself. You want a person who is confident enough to make the most of his/her talents and abilities. There is more to life than just being compliant in school. There is more to life than just a clean room. As parents we have to hold the larger picture and work to teach our children.
At a conference in Washington, D.C. in 2000, one of the presenters (name is lost in the mists of time) reported on the characteristics of ADD and LD adults who were termed successful. These characteristics for successful adjustment to the adult world are a starting point as the goals of strategic parenting. These characteristics had nothing to do with how much education they had, how severe their disabilities were, how high their IQ was or how rich their parents were. The assets of successful ADD and LD adults are all psychological characteristics that have to do with making the most of your abilities.
These characteristics are:
3. Being Proactive
4. Having Emotional Stability
5. Being Able to Set Goals
6. Being able to appropriately use Support Systems
In other words, these successful people acknowledged and understood their disabilities, recognized when they would get in the way, used appropriate compensatory strategies to minimize the impact. Had learned to be good planners and set goals. Were persistent in getting to these goals and didnâ€™t let emotion get in the way.
These characteristics are all learned. They can all be taught.
As parents of ADD/LD children we must think strategically about our children. We must learn to teach the characteristics that lead to successful adulthood. We must remember that psychological strength is the most important goal of parenting. Additionally, one of the side benefits of strategic parenting is that we can enjoy our children more because we have to appreciate and encourage their talents, their abilities and their uniqueness.
Good luck and never give up,