“My Sister says I Am Not Strict Enough With Our Son”

We can’t remember a parent who has not shared an experience about hearing someone say, “All you need to do is be stricter and he will not do those things.” We’re not saying that children don’t benefit from structure and consistent parenting – children with ADHD definitely do – but to blame all the behaviors on poor parenting is unfair to the parent. If all it took to change your child’s behavior were “being stricter,” the families we have worked with would have found success long ago.

It’s disturbing that friends, family, or teachers will not hesitate to go to the CPA for tax advice or take their car to a mechanic rather than trust their own limited knowledge, but when giving advice to a parent about the raising of their child, they do not hesitate to give their opinions with little forethought or caution, as though they had great expertise. This advice is generally presented in a statement such as “Be stricter,” making the parent feel unsupported and incompetent. The advice-givers must feel that all children, like most tax laws, can be approached in predictable and similar ways. If you have children both with and without ADHD, you know that in comparing their behavior, there is generally a significant difference in their compliance and consistency in performance. Proper parental skills and attitude can improve an ADHD child’s behavior, but a lack of discipline is not the cause of this disorder.

Most parents we counsel understand that their child responds best when there is parental consistency and structure. However, they also know that just being strict or consistent has not solved all his behavioral problems, so they use a myriad of interventions – some of which are more successful than others. Running out of ideas, the parent becomes frustrated, loses patience with the child, and seeks outside help from mental health professionals to give her guidance, as well as her deal with her guilt.

Raising a child with ADHD is not simple or easy, and parents will often feel inadequate. These children can learn to behave better, but developing better behavior requires more effort and energy from the parent than is generally needed in raising an unaffected children. Don’t measure your level of success by comparing your child to his unaffected playmate next door. These children do not learn from their mistakes as easily as others because they are often driven by the moment and do not take time to measure the consequences of their actions. What works for unaffected children will not work as consistently with affected children. Your lack of success with your child is often the result of his disorder, and not something you have or have not done. Your neighbor, relative, or child’s teacher may mean well, but you don’t have to accept their suggestions or blame yourself for not following their recommendations.

Tips that Can Help:
  1. Read as much as you can about your child’s disorder. Attend a local support group or find a professional you trust to share your ideas and concerns.
  2. Remember raising a child with ADHD is not simple or easy.
  3. If you, your child, or your family is having significant difficulties, ask the doctor to refer you to a specialist who works with these families.