IT’S WELL KNOWN THAT RESILIENCE— adapting to new circumstances and bouncing back from adversity—is
necessary to succeed in life. Psychologists also know that school, work, and
social success rely on tolerance for
discomfort and the ability to delay
gratification in favor of a greater goal.
We call this “tenacity” or “grit,” and for
your child to rise and succeed in the
real world, it is vital.
As to the ADHD crowd in general,
especially those still in school, resilience and tenacity do not play a role in
how they think, feel, and act day-to-day. I’ve seen exceptions, but the
ADHD diagnosis implies dodging
uncomfortable experiences and
missing what might have been learned
by enduring them. ADHD kids give up
too quickly in the face of difficulties.
As a parent of ADHD kids, and as a
psychologist who has worked thousands of hours with other people’s
ADHD kids, I find that we often try to
help our kids cope by making them feel
better, which only makes things worse.
Here are the three parental approaches
that rarely succeed:
> The “self-esteem booster club.”;
Parents study the literature and learn
that ADHD kids generally have lower
self-esteem than their peers. This is a
universal truth of ADHD, but many
parents respond by adopting the “give
every child a trophy” model, rewarding
children more for effort than success.
They let ADHD become an excuse
to justify any shortcoming of a child’s
behavior, instead of a guidepost to
steer them toward growth and
improvement. They give in and placate
their children to soothe their hurt.
These approaches won’t produce
resilience, but they will increase the
likelihood that the child will grow up
feeling insecure or incapable.
> The “cheerleaders.”; These parents
take “self-esteem coaching” even
further. They see ADHD as a “gift” that
grants special insight and creativity,
and invite the child to find ways to
change the world with his gift. In my
book, I Always Want to Be Where
I’m Not, I conclude each chapter by
noting the upsides of ADHD and
explaining how to use and misuse
them. But I’ve never met anyone who
was properly diagnosed with ADHD
who was thankful for having it.
Assuring a child that she is not
impaired, but just talented in other
ways, does not teach her to accept
adversity and do the hard things.
> The “structure gurus.” ; On the other
BY WES CRENSHAW, PH.D., ABBP
end of the spectrum are the strict,
authoritarian parents who have read
that the way to manage ADHD is to
provide a highly structured environ-
ment. And ADHD kids do need help with
organization, prioritization, and time
management. I’ve likened this approach,
in severe cases, to driving kids around
“like little boats” trying to keep them off
the rocky shores or from getting stuck
on a sandbar. Guiding kids to do the
hard stuff needn’t be a choice between
control and shame. It should be a
lesson in courage and self-discipline.
Angela Duckworth, Ph.D., a professor
at the University of Pennsylvania, has
researched “grit,” and she offers five
suggestions for improving tenacity and
resilience. I am modifying them to
reflect my own experience working with
ADHD kids, but I encourage you to read
her book Grit: The Power of Passion and
Perseverance. It’s on point for your child:
E Pursue what interests you.
We don’t stick with things we don’t
care about; grit requires us to pursue
what we don’t love. This presents a
tough problem for kids with ADHD.
By design, they like interesting things
and tolerate little else. Because a lot of
things in life aren’t very interesting,
It’s not easy to inspire kids with ADHD
to hang in there and do what’s hard,
but these strategies will help them.
explain that perseverance is the
of success in the
GROWING UP WITH ADHD: TEEN AND YOUNG ADULT YEARS