The Teacher is Talking
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The Teacher is Talking: Teaching Compassion for Kids with ADHD

By Leslie Lindsay


It’s hot.  I am tired.  (Exasperated is more like it).  And I have a child with ADHD.  I don’t want your sympathy, not really.  But I do want to be a better parent.

You see, lately I have been cringing at my own words as I hear myself speak to my daughter.  For example, today at Culver’s, she was blowing bubbles into her milk jug, “Look, mom!  Look!” 

I glanced over, unimpressed.  “You really need to focus on food,” I told her. 

“I am,” she retorted.  (Silent eye roll from me).  She continues to loll about on the booth, squirming, chewing her corn dog as she dangled upside down. 

And then I started mimicking her behavior.   Really.  I put on a little show right there at Culvers, shoving my garden burger into my mouth with total lack of manners. I chewed with my mouth open and squirmed about in my seat.  “Is this how we eat?!” I asked her, smiling a bit behind my serious mom-look. 

She giggled.  My youngest daughter stifled a laugh. 

“No!  It’s not.  That is not the way we eat, especially in a restaurant.  Now pull it together.”  (I was getting annoyed at this point….and gosh, it really was hard to eat that way.  No wonder she stays so skinny…it was a work-out). 

And then she started blowing on her straw again, bubbles erupting from her milk, pouring down the sides of the plastic milk jug.  I slanted her one of my looks.  But it was too late.  The milk poured out over the edge, puddling on the table.  A nice sticky pond of chocolate milk.  I screwed my lips into a look of defeat, “Now look what you’ve done!  I thought I told you to focus on food.  Go get some napkins and clean this up.”  I didn’t even say “please.” 

She did as she was told, but I felt guilty.  I probably could have handled that better.  Typically, when I have a bad “ADHD moment/day,” I will read a little something from my ADDitude magazine or their on-line version.  Call it the ADHD Mom’s Daily Devotional if you will.  My 5-7 minutes cruising through some words of wisdom from someone who is an expert in ADHD behavior almost always soothes my wary soul. 

The ADDitude article was all about teaching compassion as a to change or correct problem behavior. The example cited really resonated with me:  “Instead of ‘I told you to stop – now look what happened,’ you might say, ‘You made a mistake. What can you learn from it? Together, I’m sure we can come up with a plan.’ 

Yes, of course that sounds so much better than my reaction. 

The article continues, “the key is to use a firm yet caring tone of voice and choice of words, rather than yelling or issuing threats or insults. Often, I urge parents to reframe their disapproval in terms of puzzlement or curiosity: ‘Oh no, not again. I’m confused by your behavior because this is not how I see you’ or ‘What do you imagine caused this situation?’ ”  

I like these responses so much better.  If only I can remember them the next time I am in the heat of the moment with ADHD. 

That’s all for today…class dismissed! 

To see the on-line version of this 2006 ADDitude article, click here

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