𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗲𝗺𝗽𝗼𝘄𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗱 𝗯𝘆 𝗱𝗲𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗺 𝗯𝘆 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗮𝗱𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲𝗱. - ADHD Dude - Ryan Wexelblatt
I had worked at a private school for students with learning differences where I was a Counselor and Director of the school’s summer camp program.
During my time there I got to know the family of one of the students as she entered the school in the summer thus I was one of the first points of contact for the family. "Rachel" came to the school after an incident at her public school that left the school district in a position of liability.
Rachel had sometimes struggled in elementary school as a result of inflexibility. The incident that prompted the school district to pay for Rachel’s tuition at my school (extremely rare for this district who will not stand down to demanding parents) was when Rachel was dragged down the hall of the school by a classroom aide to a "time out" room.
Obviously this was an unfortunate incident that never should have happened. What struck me about Rachel was the fact that she didn’t seem to be phased by it. As I got to know Rachel and her parents I shared with them that I thought it was interesting that Rachel never brought up the incident that occurred in public school.
The response Rachel’s mother gave me was so rare, and so perfect that I clearly remember it, 11 years later:
“𝘐𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘢 𝘩𝘰𝘳𝘳𝘪𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘪𝘯𝘤𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘯𝘵, 𝘐’𝘮 𝘨𝘭𝘢𝘥 𝘴𝘩𝘦’𝘴 𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳e. 𝘐’𝘮 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘨𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘦𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘙𝘢𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘭 𝘣𝘺 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘴𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘰𝘭. 𝘚𝘩𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘥𝘰𝘦𝘴𝘯’𝘵 𝘣𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘵 𝘶𝘱 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘐’𝘮 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘨𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱 𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘰𝘧 𝘪𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘱𝘶𝘳𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘷𝘦? 𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘤𝘦𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘧 𝘢𝘴 𝘢 𝘷𝘪𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘮 𝘰𝘧 𝘤𝘪𝘳𝘤𝘶𝘮𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦, 𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘦𝘦 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘧 𝘢𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘤𝘢𝘱𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘥𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘺.”
This excellent response by Rachel’s mother is the opposite of what I have sometimes heard from parents throughout my career working in this field.
When parents defines their child by the adversity he or she has faced it sends the message that they are fragile, rather than “anti-fragile”. In some cases, I've found that this narrative was creative by a mental health professional and the parents latched onto it. When parents do this it denies their child the opportunity to see himself/herself as resilient because their parents are sending the message that "𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘐 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘥𝘦𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘣𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘢𝘥𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦". I have witnessed families who do this through trying to protect their son/daughter's feelings (often at the expense of learning accountability), avoid placing demands on them, becoming confrontational with teachers who hold them accountable and justify their child's poor behaviors through a narrative that defines their child by adversity.
𝗜𝗳 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝘄𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗿𝗮𝗶𝘀𝗲 𝗮 𝗸𝗶𝗱 𝘄𝗵𝗼 𝘀𝗲𝗲𝘀 𝗵𝗶𝗺𝘀𝗲𝗹𝗳/𝗵𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗲𝗹𝗳 𝗮𝘀 𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗰𝗮𝗽𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲:
⚬Do not define him/her by the adversity he/she has faced. Your son/daughter has the right to define himself/herself and create his/her own story.
⚬Regularly point out when he/she has shown resiliency, capabilities and independent problem solving skills. Kids' confidence does not develop from empty praise such as "great job" or from constant reassurance. It develops through kids recognizing their strengths and capabilities on their own. For kids with executive functioning challenges we often need to point this out and draw parallels between past successes and new/future challenges due to their difficulty with episodic memory. (You can read about episodic memory in older posts, it's also a concept I teach how to build in Executive Function Crash Course for Parents Webinar series)
⚬Teach that he/she is “anti-fragile” not fragile, meaning that challenging life experiences do not define us, rather they are help us to recognize our abilities.
.⚬Be mindful of language you use with your kids. Several months ago I heard a parent say “The trauma of virtual learning”. I corrected her by explaining that sitting in the place you feel safest (your home), amongst the people you feel safest with (your family) is not “trauma”. (𝘐 𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘥 "𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘶𝘮𝘢" 𝘪𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘶𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰𝘰 𝘭𝘪𝘣𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘵𝘰𝘥𝘢𝘺 𝘸𝘩𝘪𝘤𝘩 𝘪𝘴 𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘦𝘮𝘱𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘯 𝘪𝘵𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘧.
⚬Acknowledge that your kids needs to learn from other adults besides you and they need to be held accountable by other adults in order to learn how to deal with having demands placed on them. If you are unwilling to give your kids the space to have relationships with adults in their life who can teach and support them (teachers, school counselors, coaches, etc.) I encourage you to ask yourself if this is based in your own fears, your need to feel needed, or both. Parent-child co-dependency is something I sometimes see in this field.
⚬Picture your son 20 years from now, do you want him to define him/herself by the adversity he faced when younger or do you want to start empowering him now with the message that he is capable, resilient and can successfully get through adversity in life?
👉𝗦𝗶𝗴𝗻 𝘂𝗽 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗔𝗗𝗛𝗗 𝗗𝘂𝗱𝗲 𝗺𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗹𝗶𝘀𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗽𝗿𝗶𝗼𝗿𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗺𝘆 𝘂𝗽𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘄𝗲𝗯𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗿 𝘀𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝘀, 𝙍𝙖𝙞𝙨𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙂𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙩 𝘿𝙪𝙙𝙚𝙨, a parent behavior management program that will empower you to help your son become confident, capable, and resilient: https://www.subscribepage.com/adhddude
(𝘗𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘢𝘥𝘦𝘭𝘱𝘩𝘪𝘢-𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘢 & 𝘚𝘰𝘶𝘵𝘩 𝘑𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘺 𝘮𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘴 𝘢𝘷𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘢𝘵 www.adhddude.com)