Learning to have patience with my ADHD child

No one ever said parenting was easy. It helps to have a fair amount of patience with kids. But patience is not my strong suit.

Luckily for me, our first born, Jase, was a good baby and toddler. He was eager to help out, thrived on praise and generally a good boy. He lulled us into believing this is what our next child would be like.

Now while Jase is our rule follower, I like to call Lexie our rule tester. If you give her a rule, she will see how far she can go.
Originally, I attributed it to just her personality. While Jase was quiet and reserved, she was loud and crazy. Then in April of last year, Lexie was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. People with ADHD can have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors or be overly active. Their brains simply work in a different way.

To manage Lexie’s ADHD, we put her on some medication. It still amazes me to see the difference in her behavior on and off the medicine.  And while that calms her down and allows her to focus while at school, the medication has worn off by the time she comes home.

Lexie’s diagnosis of ADHD makes perfect sense now. It also explains a lot of her behaviors that try my patience. Often I would have to remind her dozens of times to finish a task such as cleaning her room or continually prompt her to stay focused on the book she was reading aloud. Now I understand that she wasn’t doing these things to annoy me. She simply can’t control herself.

Now I don’t want to excuse every behavior she has by blaming it on ADHD, but as I read up on it, I realize that many of the things that other parents, grandparents and well-meaning friends may think can be conquered with the proper parenting or discipline, just can’t. Her brain simply works in a different way than Jase’s or mine.

I am not saying that she can’t learn what is acceptable. Of course, she can. But her internal regulation is more prone to impulsive behavior.  Her mind goes a hundred different ways at one time. This made sitting in school nearly impossible. But with medication she can focus on her learning.

patienceLately, I have been losing my patience with her. Maybe it is because she was on winter break and home for two weeks. But suddenly, I feel like I am always annoyed with her, and I am sure it shows.

I need to learn to breathe deeply when she interrupts. I should be gently reminding her not to do that rather than being exasperated that she has done it again and snapping at her or using that tone which clearly shows my annoyance with her.

I need to learn to let go of my frustrations with her. I need to base my expectation on her attention deficit-influenced behavior. I should expect that I will need to remind her often to do something. And that likely she will stray from her task if not reminded.

Just the other day, my husband asked her to pick up her toys in the hall. She made two trips to her room with toys before she got distracted by some other toy in her room. Time for a deep breath and a reminder to finish the job. But often we end up raising our voice and wondering why she didn’t do as we asked.

One tip I have seen often – whether your kid has ADHD or not – is to pick your battles carefully. Children with ADHD often have messy rooms. While I am not going to allow her room to become overrun with toys and laundry, I am not going to waste my time trying to get her to have everything in its place. I have decided it is enough that you can walk to her bed without stepping on a Lego or some other small item. I would rather concentrate on her academics rather than stress over her leaving her shoes in the middle of the floor (again).

I am hoping that realizing Lexie IS different and cannot control these behaviors will allow me to regain some of my patience with her. Re-framing my thinking to what she can and cannot do should lessen my frustration. So from now on, I will take time to breathe, relax and collect my thoughts before responding to Lexie’s behavior.

Personality trait or attention disorder?

Lexie has always been full of energy. Because of her horrible eczema when she was little we often indulged her – allowing her to be a little more rambunctious than her brother. She was so uncomfortable all the time but always a happy girl. But getting her to listen and follow directions has always been somewhat of a chore.

Even her kindergarten teacher mentioned it last year. She was often always moving around and not seeming to pay attention, but she did well when tested.

Now she is in the first grade. We had her spring parent-teacher conference in February. In addition to keeping up with her reading tutoring, her teacher, Mrs. D, mentioned Lexie’s trouble focusing. She said compared to the other kids, Lexie stands out. By this time in the year, her teacher expects her to follow the rules and to work hard. But Lexie continues to get up during work time to come talk to Mrs. D.

We easily read between the lines that her teacher thought she might have an attention disorder such as ADD or ADHD. Of course, Mrs. D is not a doctor, but she has been teaching for 29 years – 20 of those at the first-grade level.

Her teacher did talk about how research has shown this is a medical disorder and through either therapy or medication, Lexie might be able to concentrate better – if she is actually diagnosed as having a problem.

Mrs. D stressed that she didn’t want to alter Lexie’s bubbly personality, but she was worried about her decline in grades and how she would do in second grade when the work becomes harder.

I have mentioned this conference to a few friends, and they have wondered what we wonder – is this really an attention problem or is it just part of Lexie’s personality that she bubbles with energy. She never sits still out dinner. One of my friends mentioned her eight-year-old son is the same way and he doesn’t have any attention problems.

Can Lexie pay attention? Well, yes if she wants to. She can spend hours playing video games or with play-doh or fake snow. And as with many kids, she would rather be playing than doing homework. Ugh – homework is always a chore with getting her to stay on task and finish the assignment rather than go off on one of the hundreds of tangents that she seems to want to go down.

Of course mention of Lexie possibly being ADD brought out instant denial by both sets of grandparents. We heard everything from the teacher is to blame (can’t control the kids) to she isn’t being stimulated enough (as in the work could be too easy) to she is just behaving like all kids do. This is coming from people who raised kids in the 80’s and have memory of parents being told to drug their “unruly” children. In other words, they don’t see this as a real medical disorder. Or at least not one their granddaughter has.

I don’t know what to believe. My husband and I have commented in the past that if either of our kids had ADD it would be Lexie. She appears to draw the short straw when it comes to medical problems. From amblyopia to eczema, she just seems prone to more medical issues than Jase.

I don’t know if she has an attention problem in the medical sense but I do know that I want her to do well in school. In her current state, she may need help doing that. So what we have decided to do is speak to her pediatrician about it at her well-check appointment, which will be next month. Once we know more, we will know which way to go with helping Lexie do her best in school.