Saturday, February 7, 2009

Boys and ADD/ADHD

When we spoke at Wheaton Grammer School we got several questions asked to us about ADD/ADHD. Every time we talk to parents and educators about boys we get asked questions about ADD or ADHD. For sure this can be a frustrating and difficult reality for both boys, parents, and teachers. Here are five tips to keep in mind. For more information on this topic or on boys in general check out our book WIld Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys. We also highly recommend the book Driven to Distraction, a great book on ADD/ADHD

1. Set the right expectations at the right level. Accept the fact that no boy is perfect. Realize that ADD or ADHD is not the end of the world. Boys with this disorder need parents who will see them as they are (limited in some ways and gifted in others). Parents need not hold on to Pollyanna ideals, but neither do they need to carry around resentment and pessimism. Every boy needs to feel accepted and supported for who he is—this is especially true for kids with ADD. He needs to feel that his parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors have confidence in who he his.

2. He needs more than medicine. For sure many boys diagnosed with ADD or ADHD need medication to function well—but medicine is not the only thing that can make big differences.
• Loving Authority. Childs behavior is more impacted by how we nurture their nature than by anything. Boys with ADD need a supportive, loving, and consistent structure from those who have authority in their lives.
• Good Diet. We all need to watch what we eat, and boys with ADD need to steer clear of the types of foods that drive unwanted behavior: caffeine, sugar, and excessive carbohydrates,
• Plenty of Rest. One of the major contributors to ADD-like behavior is lack of sleep. Good sleep is food for the brain and without it; boys with ADD will really struggle.
• Daily Exercise. There are so many benefits to this for boys with ADD we probably don’t need to mention them, but without the chance to move and exhort himself might be too obvious to say.

3. Discipline toward Character. For boys with ADD it is easy to focus on correcting behavior and ignoring their hearts. Let’s face it sometimes you just want a boy to “sit down and shut up.” And while wise a loving discipline alone won’t cure ADD, without it a boy has little hope of succeeding in his childhood. A lot of people interchange the terms “discipline” and “punishment.” But the truth is that they are really different. Punishment relies on mostly fear and shame to force the will of a child into an outcome. Discipline is focused on teaching and has a variety of characteristics,
• Curiosity about the boy and the behavior in question i.e. “John, I noticed that you didn’t put your dinner plate in the dishwasher after dinner.”
• Explanations of how the boy misbehaved. I.e. “It’s really helpful to the whole family when we each take responsibility for our own messes.”
• Suggestions of how the boy could do it differently the next time because their will be a next time) i.e. “How about next time, when you get up to leave the table take your plate with you.”
• Logical consequence that bring a measure of loss into the life of the boy. I. e. “Since you didn’t take your dinner plate to the kitchen, you don’t get to have dessert tonight.”
• Redirection of the energy of the boy toward acceptable behavior. I.e. “Instead of watching TV right now why don’t we go for a walk.”
• Positive feedback when the boys does something well. Especially with ADD boys, by rewarding positive behavior we help foster feelings of success for boys and steer their motivation toward doing the right thing. i.e. “I noticed how you put your shoes away when you came home from school. Great job!”
Punishment does have a place but only when a child show little effort or willingness to change within a framework of discipline. For example, if a boy continues to tease or pick on another child inspire or being repeatedly instructed toward some other behavior. When a boy is being opening defiant, punishment is warranted. Similarly, we need to never punish a child for behavior that he is unable to control. When an ADD child fails to follow the rules of follow a command because he was distracted, he needs reminded not punished. He needs logical consequences (at worst) not reprimands.

4. Keep an Eye on the Horizon. Boys with ADD need the adults in their lives to anticipate potentially difficult situations for them. For example, if you are taking a boy with ADD to church, it’s probably a good idea to bring a bag of comics or a drawing pad, and to sit near the back of the sanctuary. Formulating a plan before you head into problematic environments will save everybody involved a lot of heartache. It also helps to talk with a boy before heading into a situation like this, letting grim know what challenges he may face and some ways to navigate those. Its also good to let him know what will happen if the appropriate behavior is not seen.

5. Be Consistent.
ADD kids must have consistency. A sudden change in the routine or an interruption in the rhythm of things can throw them for a loop. It’s best for boys in this car gory for adults in their life have as much of a routine as possible, and to set rules and consequence for them to follow and stick to them. This means that parents of ADD boys must be on the same page. When mom and dad present a united front, a boy knows exactly what to expect.
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