A powerful metaphor…

by jackiejmo on August 4, 2014

A powerful metaphor for parents, spouses, and those supporting a person with ADHD

A young boy’s mother yelled at her ADHD son no matter what he did, and she demeaned him at every turn. Understanding that this mother had fallen into a terrible pattern of verbal abuse — even though she knew it wasn’t working, she didn’t know any other way — I explained, “You are dropping a wrecking ball onto your son’s foundation with every word you yell at him. You want your son to do well, but you are obliterating his confidence and self esteem. What sort of life do you expect him to build on such a damaged foundation?”

Does this scenario hit too close to home? We have all said things that actually hurt when we truly wanted to help or be supportive. We often react in the moment or — like the mother in this story — just keep doing and saying what we have always said because it’s become a habit. Sometimes, we raise our voices because we feel so frantic about the behavior that has upset us and what we think it represents. We have awful stories going on in our heads and, sometimes, we’re saying those awful things out loud.

Next time you open your mouth to spew something negative, pause a moment if you can. Think about the person in front of you. Is he or she really an ogre? Okay, they did something that upset you and that’s not right, but what do you want out of this situation? If it’s vengeance, retribution, or payback, then spew away.

But if you want different behavior next time (and a good relationship long-term), consider a different approach:

    1. Appreciate the person for who he/she is (“You want to do well” or “You are usually thoughtful”)
    2. Acknowledge effort or ability (“You did write a note, trying to remember” or “You are so good at your work that you get lost in it”)
    3. Recognize true limitations (“Hmm, ADHD made this hard for him/her somehow”)
    4. Speak to strengths, past success, values, and interests (“I know you value your family and didn’t intend to hurt our feelings . . . “)
    5. Ask what could have helped to get the outcome you both wanted (” . . so what do you need next time to be sure you can make the kids’ school events?”)

Taking this different approach will keep a person’s foundation and self esteem intact. So, you have a choice: drop that wrecking ball and crumble your loved one’s self esteem (and your future relationship) or breathe and remember that this is a good person you care about who slipped up or who was tripped up by their ADHD. When we recognize and accept that ADHD is in the mix, it’s not a tragedy, but it does mean that it’s often hard for the person with ADHD to be the person they want to be. That does impact you, of course, but your loved one is so much more than their ADHD, and working together with compassion, love, and a willingness to understand and offer support, you can build a beautiful life.

Those with ADHD, sadly, have had a lot of wrecking balls dropped on their foundations, and too many have learned to drop the wrecking balls themselves as they repeat the harsh judgments they’ve heard over and over again. As an ADHD coach, my job is to help ADHD clients lay a strong foundation built on strengths, successes, and an understanding of their ADHD brain wiring and processing styles so that they can build a glorious life of satisfying accomplishments and contribution. It’s never too late to build a strong foundation, so get started today building rather than wrecking.

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