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This week I had a blissful parenting moment. Everything worked out – mom and kid were in agreement. I felt joy and satisfaction that my methods had worked. This didn’t always happen though.
I spent too many years and too much energy nagging my kids to pick up their clothes, pack their backpacks, and do their homework. I was stuck in a repeating cycle of frustrated kids, angry mom, and nothing getting done. I slowly learned to craft reminders for my kids with ADHD, taking into account their personality, the timing of the situation, and their individual challenges (time management for example).
Stop the unproductive cycle of nagging the kids
First I had to work on myself. I need to catch myself thinking or saying the repetitive commands to my kids. “Pick up your clothes!” “Please get your shoes on and get in the car!” Now, it’s not like I never say these things anymore but it happens MUCH less.
I needed to improve my self-awareness. If I felt myself seething at seeing more dirty clothes on the floor or seeing one more teacher email about missed homework I would acknowledge the feeling. I feel angry.
Okay, I am still allowed to be angry but that doesn’t have to come through in the tone of my voice and the words that I choose.
But how do I choose better words? When I am angry and think that the solution is simple I want to blurt out the solution (i.e., just pick up the clothes!).
Rehearsing better phrases to use with my kids when they are ignoring responsibilities
Anyone who wants to get better at something needs to practice, right? Well, I needed to practice saying more diplomatic and motivating words to my kids to get them to focus on the tasks that needed to be done.
I feel like my kid’s ADHD brains are thinking many complex and lovely thoughts but none of them are about boring things like chores, homework, or the time on the clock. The tasks that are important to me, and for their development into self-sufficient adults, rank really low in their minds.
I began practicing sentences in my mind. I would start with what I really wanted to say, for example, “Why is your homework not done?!” Then I would hear how awful that sounded and try thinking another sentence. “When are you going to do your homework?” Better but still not great.
The next version would be something like this.
“I know you have a lot to do after school. When do you plan on doing your homework?”
Finding ways to acknowledge the task and the kid’s reluctance to do it give you perspective on why they are avoiding it. But as a parent I know that most of these responsibilities are mandatory and cannot be avoided forever. I must be the voice of reason that reminds the kid that the work still must get done.
Kids learning to plan their work and manage time
My new communication skills did not develop overnight. Nor did the kid’s motivation to do “boring” tasks. However with persistent effort I was able to change the dialogue and dynamic between us. The kids realize that I am not going to forget about their responsibilities and I realize that their minds have a lot of thoughts, goals, and preferences on HOW the work gets done.
So the magical moment that happened this week involved me and one of my kids who always has about a thousand ideas of things to pursue. These could be reading a novel, painting artwork, building with Legos, beating a new level on a video game, climbing a tree, etc.
I could tell that the shear amount of goals for the week was not going to get accomplished if he did not pick one to start with and then work through his list.
I said, “You have a lot of things you want to accomplish this week. I am worried that you might forget about all of your great ideas. Is it ok if I remind you of your goals?”
“Yes mom. But not too much.”
“How many times is ok? Like twice a week?”
“Yes. That’s sounds fine.”
My moment of bliss. We had an agreement. A pact. No arguing. No nagging. We heard each other and respected the other’s stance. I am holding onto this moment for as long as I can.
Related posts: It’s Not Just About Lack of Effort, How to Encourage Kids to Find and Use Motivation
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