The ADHD Homestead

Create the life you want with the mind you have.

Category: Book Reviews (page 1 of 2)

Book Review: The Insider’s Guide to ADHD

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Insider’s Guide to ADHD presents a unique perspective on parenting young ADHD’ers. Through a  survey of 95 ADHD adults, author Penny Williams shares dos and don’ts from those who should know best.

penny williams book review

I expected Insider’s Guide to read like a collective memoir, but it’s more informed by survey responses than driven by them. You won’t find case studies or lengthy anecdotes. Direct quotes from the survey are generally short.

Williams has built a successful brand by writing from her perspective: a dedicated mom without ADHD, learning obsessively through research and real-life experience. She retains that voice in Insider’s Guide, drawing heavily on her own experiences along with survey responses.

Insider’s Guide teaches solid parenting strategies and steers readers away from the old-school parenting style many of us grew up with.

Williams offers these critical messages for parents of kids with ADHD:

  • Even lovely, supportive parents can unwittingly leave their kids feeling doomed to failure.
  • All kids need to learn self-sufficiency, and helicopter parenting sabotages future success.
  • Shame and punishment aren’t effective for creating long-term positive change.
  • Figuring out the right medication and dosage can be a life-changer.

Depending your current parenting and communication skills, Insider’s Guide may or may not help you. It’s a crash course, and Williams covers many of the same points as previous books I’ve reviewed — How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk and Duct Tape Parenting — but in slightly less depth.

These books pack more concrete examples, high-impact testimonials, and quotes from parenting experts, but Insider’s Guide makes an excellent sell to the skeptical or uninitiated. Williams offers testimony from real people who’ve lived through a childhood with ADHD. There’s overwhelming consensus on what works.

I especially appreciated this quote from a mom with ADHD: “I never liked the thought of medication for my child, but it made such a difference in my own life, I could not hold that back from maybe giving my child a chance to feel like days can be easier.” Parents are faced with overwhelming, complex choices. This illustrates beautifully what ADHD adults bring to the table.

One cautionary note: Williams represents survey results with visual aids throughout the book, but don’t extrapolate these to all adults with ADHD. The survey’s sample size is relatively small, at 95, and overwhelmingly female (78.1%). While it’s great to see women with ADHD represented, this doesn’t reflect the overall demographics of ADHD adults.

That’s not to discredit the insights Insider’s Guide has to offer. It’s just important to consider sample size and methods used when applying survey results to the population at large.

Insider’s Guide starts a necessary conversation. Awareness of ADHD is growing, and those of us who attended elementary school in the 1980s and 1990s — when ADHD and stimulant medications really became household names — now have children of our own. It’s time to explore how our childhood experiences can influence our parenting. I’m glad to see a book on this topic, and I hope it opens the door to bigger and more ambitious projects in the future.

Bottom line: if you’re stuck in a negative parenting rut and haven’t enjoyed books targeting neurotypical kids, Insider’s Guide is a great place to start. If you’ve already read How to Talk and Duct Tape Parenting, expect a repackaging of those ideas through the ADHD lens.

How about you? Have you read Insider’s Guide, or do you have another book to recommend? Please share your thoughts!

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Book Review: ADHD: What Everyone Needs to Know

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, but all opinions here are my own.

Part of me is always looking for the perfect ADHD book, even though I know it doesn’t exist. I need a whole shelf full of them to cover every angle.

ADHD: What Everyone Needs to Know may, however, be the perfect ADHD overview book. When the publisher contacted me about doing a review, the title made me skeptical. It’s a bold claim.

ADHD What Everyone Needs to Know coverHowever, once I started reading, I felt so fortunate to have found this book. It’s not all there is to know, but it is, as the title suggests, what everyone needs to know about ADHD. Not only that, it’s easy to read and weighs in at just under 200 pages.

The greatest value of ADHD: What Everyone Needs to Know isn’t even the ADHD crash course the authors so skillfully provide. The FAQ-style format will prepare readers with responses to others’ questions as well as their own. Remain open about your or your child’s ADHD for long enough and you’ll know exactly what I mean. With so much conflicting information and sensationalist reporting out there, a reasonable and comprehensive layman’s overview is long overdue.

I especially appreciated the nuanced perspective on recent surges in ADHD diagnoses among American children. The chapter exploring “who you are and where you live” leaves no room for black-and-white arguments. A close read reveals no single truth: yes, accountability laws that defund failing schools are correlated with increased ADHD diagnoses, not to mention increased use of stimulant medication. Yes, diagnosis rates dropped when the carrots of Race to the Top replaced the sticks of No Child Left Behind. However, that data is open to interpretation, and while overdiagnosis is certainly possible, it doesn’t delegitimize ADHD.

This balanced presentation of facts won’t validate any battle cries, but it may be our best bet for responding to those extreme viewpoints. Like most issues, ADHD — and our knowledge of it — contains many gray areas. I found it impossible to maintain a bias while reading this book. Hinshaw and Ellison offer their own interpretations, but they also explain why certain areas remain gray. For example, sometimes ethical issues prevent the controlled studies that would answer some of the toughest questions.

That said, I struggled with the authors’ treatment of ADHD in women and girls: specifically, the suggestion that boys with ADHD outnumber girls two or two-and-a-half to one, with the gender gap closing by adulthood. But perhaps this is informed by my own experience as a girl who struggled from a very young age, suffering in increasing silence as I reached middle and high school.

I’ve also read conflicting information on some forms of behavior therapy for children. Specifically, my personal experience and research discourages the use of external rewards and punishment, sticker charts, etc. (For an excellent, concise illustration of this point, check out Vicki Hoefle’s Duct Tape Parenting.)

The authors do acknowledge this problem, saying “the difficulty for children is to maintain their progress [outside] the tightly managed environment.” I myself excelled in the structured environments of grade school, college, and family. Shedding these supports in my 20s, I had no capacity to cope with my ADHD as it affected my adult life.

In this behavior therapy chapter, the authors’ well-rounded approach becomes confusing. While it begins by offering behavior therapy as a possible substitute for medication, it ends by saying most of us really need both. This latter point is weakened by ambiguous language earlier on.

Overall, ADHD: What Everyone Needs to Know is an essential read for any educated consumer seeking ADHD diagnosis and treatment. The book focuses more on childhood ADHD than adult ADHD, but there’s enough general information to give both groups an excellent foundation. If you’re struggling with questions about your or a loved one’s ADHD — including your response to others’ unsolicited questions and opinions — this book is for you.

Book review: Taking Charge of Adult ADHD

Taking Charge of Adult ADHD book review

Dr. Russell Barkley’s Taking Charge of Adult ADHD provides a rundown of adult ADHD basics that’s comprehensive, yet easy to read.

That said, I took it at a sluggish pace. It’s informative, conversational, and approachable, but the language often feels overwordy. I’m okay with this because the book’s true value isn’t in a one-time, sequential reading, but in the many times I’ll pull it off the shelf for reference. Taking Charge offers a wealth of facts as well as a handy reference section in the back.

Though Taking Charge is a critical volume in my ADHD library, it’s not the only one. Parents and married couples, especially, may want to investigate books that go deeper into those subjects.

I’ve heard Taking Charge described as an ADHD instruction manual. I agree. An instruction manual tells you how something works and provides basic troubleshooting tips, but you need a qualified professional for complex issues.

This holds true for your brain. Taking Charge won’t give you a step-by-step guide for repairing everything that’s broken in your life, but it will tell you where to start.

My biggest disappointment was the cursory mention — or, in some cases, omission — of alternative treatments and supports. Dr. Barkley is pro-medication, in that he believes medication enables us to create and maintain long-term coping strategies.

My own reading and personal experience back this up 100%.

However, exercise and diet are mentioned only in passing, and I didn’t see mindfulness meditation mentioned at all. It would’ve been nice to see a little more on the brain science behind why these things are so important. Where I felt like Daniel Amen’s Healing ADD went too far, Taking Charge may not go far enough.

Criticisms aside, Taking Charge is a necessary addition to your ADHD library. Dr. Barkley is one of the most respected experts out there, and he’s distilled his vast knowledge into language everyone can understand.

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

life changing magic book reviewEver since I made the uncluttered space – uncluttered mind connection in my home, I’ve loved tidying up and paring down.

It’s still the most overwhelming project ever.

If you feel the same way and you’re looking for a different angle, try Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpFor those who find typical minimalism or organizing self-help books off-putting, prepare for a breath of fresh air. Kondo helps readers deal with the guilt, emotional attachment, and indecision that prevents so many of us from cleaning up our homes.

That said, even though the author insists you not do this, I’m giving you permission to take this book with a small grain of salt. More on that later.

First, the good: Kondo anthropomorphizes pretty much everything, which — to our American sensibilities — can feel almost silly. This may strike a pleasant chord with quirky, abstract-thinking ADHD readers. It got me out of my rut and out of my head just enough to make some tough decisions about my stuff. It’s easy to think circles around your complicated relationship with an object, but what if you just asked the object? What if it had feelings? How does that affect your decision to keep it in your home out of a sense of guilt or obligation? You get the idea.

life changing magic review pull quote

Likewise, Kondo’s central question — does it spark joy? — provides a refreshingly simple barometer, especially for sentimental items. Kondo gives the reader permission to let go. Those old love letters will live on inside us forever, and we don’t need to cling to them in the present.

The book’s prescriptive nature may put off some readers. Many of Kondo’s instructions sound like a tall order for larger families and/or people with small children. Including more of these families in the anecdotes may have made the book more approachable. From Kondo’s descriptions, most of her clients seemed like single people living on their own.

I wouldn’t write off the possibility of adapting the strategies to larger families, but Kondo insists on making no modifications to her program. I understand why  — she wants to promise her KonMari method will work for you — but I ended up feeling inadequate for the task. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, as they say, and people with ADHD must be especially creative with their solutions. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up promises to change your life, but only if you do things exactly as the author says. I’m not 100% sold on that.

For whatever reason — family, financial, or just because you have ADHD — you may not feel like you can achieve a flawless implementation of Kondo’s method. I think that’s okay. This book makes an excellent companion to other organizing books, including the more nitty-gritty, but also somewhat drier, ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has, indeed, changed my life. It cleared some major roadblocks in my journey to a tidier home, and for that I’m quite grateful. It’s a fast and easy read, and well worth it for ADHD adults seeking a more tidy and tranquil home.

Book Review: ADHD According to Zoë

ADHD Zoe book review
Zoë Kessler’s ADHD According to Zoë is a fun, accessible read for women with ADHD. While those in Zoë’s demographic — single women grappling with a midlife ADHD diagnosis — will appreciate this book the most, any post-college woman with ADHD will relate. For those with new diagnoses seeking additional information, Zoë offers plenty of references to outside sources.

Disclaimer: I don’t love or agree with every expert she quotes. However, a discerning reader will benefit from Zoë’s reading list. ADHD According to Zoë is a great first book about ADHD, but it’s certainly not the last one you’ll need.

The author’s background in stand-up comedy shines through on almost every page, making heavy subject matter feel light. This will help the reader who feels overwhelmed, down on herself, and at the end of her rope. Zoë is the kind of writer readers warm up to quickly. ADHD According to Zoë shouldn’t be taken as an in-depth strategy guide, but an inspiration for any woman who’s lost hope in ever getting her life together.

ADHD According to Zoe cover artZoë’s anecdotes will give readers plenty of opportunities to smile, nod, and say (sometimes ruefully), “me, too.” Her friendly writing style and unwillingness to give up on herself is contagious. Her words will breed self-acceptance in spite of our many flaws — something every ADHD woman needs, especially those regretting a late diagnosis.

That said, I would have enjoyed a little more memoir and a little less self-help. Zoë is at her best as a storyteller, and we learn what it’s like to be a woman with ADHD through her stories. Since her strategy suggestions are merely a jumping-off point, some of that word count may have been better spent elsewhere.

I don’t agree with every one of the author’s book/expert recommendations, but use your own best judgement. She seems to idolize Dr. Ned Hallowell as a leading ADHD expert, while I — recent indecent assault allegations aside — don’t buy into his marketing of ADHD as a potential “huge asset in one’s life.” Some may find this perspective therapeutic or helpful. I find it misguided at best, a barrier to effective treatment at worst.

However, Zoë also quotes extensively from Russell Barkley’s Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, which is an excellent resource. Like any reference material, the key is to pick and choose your sources, evaluating and comparing them carefully, until you develop a nuanced understanding of the subject.

The bottom line: if you’re a woman over 30 with ADHD, and especially if you’re single, this book is for you. Zoë’s voice and perspective are strong, and she’ll help  you down the path to self-acceptance, which includes letting go of those heavy regrets about your delayed diagnosis.

Book Review: Mini Habits

 

audiobook-copyI understand if you read my book reviews every month and think, “yeah, okay lady, but here’s the problem: I don’t really read.”

But you need to read Stephen Guise’s Mini Habits. Not just to read more — though that might happen, too — but to change your life, and fast. The audio version will take you less than four hours, and the print version checks in at under 150 pages. You have no excuse not to give it a try.

Mini Habits was such an inspiring read, I talked about it to everyone and anyone who would listen. I bought a copy for a friend just because.

Mini Habits will be revolutionary for many ADHD readers because it removes motivation from our habit-forming equation. If you’re still relying on feeling motivated to go to the gym, Guise insists, it’s only a matter of time before you fail.

If you have ADHD, you don’t need a book to tell you that. You may need a book to tell you success is within (even) your reach.

What’s a mini habit?

Guise’s simple trick is to reduce your habit to the tiniest possible steps — and keep it there. His inspiration for Mini Habits came from his own success with the one push-up challenge. When one push-up per day morphed into the workout routine he’d previously failed to establish, he knew he was onto something.

Once you remove barriers to entry, you often find yourself willing and able to do far more than the minimum. Now that I’m on the floor for one push-up, for example, why not just do 10?

For someone who often can’t find motivation even for enjoyable activities, a mini habit (or two or three) may alter the course of your life.

How to create a mini habit

Guise recommends attempting only a small handful of habits at a time. I’m notoriously overzealous, so I chose three right off the bat. They are:

  • Open my novel manuscript once daily
    (I couldn’t set a word count goal because I’m editing a years-old draft)
  • Open my blog dashboards once daily
  • Get into downward-facing dog once daily

The most challenging aspect of creating my mini habits was, and continues to be, keeping them small. I struggle not to feel like a cheater when I open my manuscript and close it again without changing a word. I wanted to commit to more than one measly yoga pose.

On this point, Guise (and my husband, who I’ve enlisted as my in-house reminder) is firm: keep mini habits small. If it feels stupid — aka “stupid small” — you’re doing it right. Go bigger and you might feel good today, but mini habits must be attainable even when you’re sick, tired, demoralized, or otherwise having the worst day ever. No matter what, you must be able to experience success every day.

Smaller habits, it turns out, do net bigger results: I’ve been more productive with my writing and even finished my edits ahead of schedule for my monthly critique group. I can now hold crow pose for a whole three seconds, and I’m working up to a headstand in yoga.

Most importantly, I’m experiencing a brand-new feeling: sticking with something. This, Guise claims, is “training to believe in yourself.” It’s something we ADHD’ers desperately need.

The bottom line

Mini Habits is short, conversational, and simple. Nothing Guise suggests feels overwhelming or out of reach, as is so often the case in self-help literature. Not once did I dismiss advice by saying, “yeah, but I have ADHD.”

In fact, the biggest threat from ADHD is my tendency to bite off more than I can chew. Mini habits aren’t glamorous or exciting. It doesn’t feel good to tell your friends, “I’m committed to opening my manuscript and looking at it every day.” Mini habits are as much an exercise in keeping myself in check as anything else.

So what are you waiting for? Pick up a copy right now and share your mini habits in the comments.

Book Review: Better Than Before

betterthanbefore_gretchenrubinI read a lot of books in the self-help realm. My favorites are concise, informative, practical, and well-researched.

Gretchen Rubin‘s Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Liveswhile well-researched, didn’t pack the punch I was hoping for. I’ve heard it described as a “self-help memoir,” and that sounds about right.  Readers really get to know the author in the context of her social and family relationships.

Some may find this makes a book about forming good habits — an intimidating topic for us ADHD’ers — more approachable. For my part, the personal references and stories felt cumbersome and distracting. While a book like Kelly McGonigal’s The Willpower Instinct inspires the reader with non-stop, super-useful facts about the science of willpower, Better Than Before takes a meandering route. We read transcripts of personal conversations between the author and her associates, follow Rubin’s own personal habit journey, and learn about her research process.

This left me less inspired to take specific action, but more mindful of how I think about — and talk myself out of — my habits.

Most useful to ADHD’ers will be the chapters on self-knowledge. It helps to learn how to use your natural tendencies to your advantage when forming new habits. I also appreciated the attitude reflected in the title. We’re not striving for perfection, and we can be guaranteed we’ll never find it, but we can learn to define success (for today) as “better than before.”

Accepting the idea of small steps and working with, not against, your brain will make habit formation feel less intimidating for ADHD adults.

At the same time, I struggled to keep track of Rubin’s Tendencies and Strategies. Actionable information tended to get lost in the ruminations and personal anecdotes. ADHD readers may have trouble pulling out the key points. Rubin offers plenty of tips for the easiest-to-handle Tendencies, including her own rare Upholder nature, but doesn’t offer much advice for those with habit-averse natures. Her take on Rebels seems to be this: either you’ll form the habit or you won’t. Likewise, she often points out potential pitfalls for a given Tendency, but comes up short on workarounds.

Better Than Before isn’t exactly dense, though, and I was able to read it quickly. Even if it doesn’t give you a magic bullet for habit-forming success, it may help get you in the right frame of mind.

For those ADHD’ers who don’t love to read, I wouldn’t pad your reading list with this one. You’ll be better off choosing a book that’s more to the point and better-organized to get the most bang for your buck.

Book Review: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen coverHow to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk has been called “the ultimate parenting bible,” and rightly so. Nearly everything you need to know about communicating with children — and people in general — lies within its pages.

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish preach a style of parenting that feels so different, you may just turn over to a blank page in your parenting journey. It requires a complete paradigm shift from “how do I get my kids to do what I want them to do?” to “how do I engage my kids’ cooperation?”

My parenting world also turned upside down when I read Vicki Hoefle’s Duct Tape Parenting, and both books are indispensable. Where one leaves off, the other begins. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen gives more specific examples and techniques, especially for situations when ignoring problem behavior feels like the wrong idea. Parents will come out of this book with a great toolbox not only for shaping desirable behavior, but for developing strong, lasting relationships with their kids.

In a way, this book feels like Difficult Conversations applied to parenting. It’s far more than that, but How to Talk So Kids Will Listen will teach similar skills: listening, empathizing, problem-solving, and viewing situations from your child’s perspective. As I’ve begun using Faber and Mazlish’s techniques, it’s been easier to apply the core concepts to my social interactions with everyone.

After all, children give us opportunities to practice (and start over) every single day. With each success, my son and I both gain confidence in our ability to communicate and solve problems effectively. We can apply everything we learn in our home to interactions with the world at large.

Let’s face it: ADHD adults struggle with patience, empathy, and communication. This makes parenting a particularly tough challenge. The techniques in How to Talk So Kids Will Listen haven’t just made me a better parent, they’ve made me a better person. As my toddler and I practice on each other, I feel a glimmer of hope that I’ll get better at handling tough situations with grown-ups, too.

Not only that, ADHD households aren’t peaceful by nature. We have to work at it. It’s so easy for both parents and kids to fly off the handle, and once a situation escalates, calming down is incredibly difficult — if not impossible. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen will help you prevent meltdowns (yours or theirs) from happening in the first place.

If you doubt a general parenting book can be applied to ADHD households, simply turn to the testimonials toward the end of the book. You’ll find several parents sharing the tremendous benefit Faber and Mazlish’s methods have had for their ADHD kids.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen‘s biggest weakness is its age. Where Hoefle’s Duct Tape Parenting provides an indictment of the too soft, too involved, ‘helicoptering’ parent of today, Faber and Mazlish criticize an authoritarian style that is far less prevalent now than it was when the book was published in 1980. However, if you keep in mind the pitfalls of both approaches and commit to the principles in this book, you’ll be just fine.

If you’re sick of nagging, yelling, punishing, or just plain feeling drained and frustrated at the end of every day, it’s time for a fresh approach. The road to a more peaceful, cooperative, interdependent family isn’t an easy one, but this time-tested book will show you the way.

Book Review: Healing ADD from the Inside Out

Daniel Amen's Healing ADD from the Inside OutPsychiatrist Daniel Amen’s work is controversial, to say the least. While Healing ADD from the Inside Out has some good information, readers should also be aware of criticisms from the scientific community.

That said, Dr. Amen provides a valuable perspective on ADHD, coming from a brain science angle that many will find appealing. As his patient anecdotes illustrate, people often open up to treatment after seeing their behavior’s biological roots.

That may be the book’s most important takeawayADHD isn’t a personal failure, it’s a measurable neurological condition.

Common-sense advice for managing ADHD

Readers will also find plenty of common-sense advice. For example: avoid hitting your head and damaging your brain, stay hydrated, eat a healthy diet, and limit TV and video games.

What Amen has to say about head injuries — even minor, forgettable ones — may shock you. Amen Clinics’ doctors ask new patients five times about previous head injuries, even minor ones where the patient never lost consciousness. The degree to which your behavior and personality can change as a result of a bump on the head is startling, and certainly makes me glad I wear a helmet when I ski.

My biggest criticism of Dr. Amen’s lifestyle advice is its severity. He recommends some pretty radical diet changes — for example, eliminating sugar and bread. Don’t get me wrong, I agree refined sugar is terrible for you, but strict elimination diets feel out of reach for a lot of people. I’ve benefited from drastically reducing refined sugar and switching in whole grains whenever possible. Dr. Amen overlooks the benefits of eating brown rice and whole grain breads and pastas for those who aren’t willing to give them up entirely.

Though Dr. Amen’s five ADHD subtypes haven’t been adopted by the scientific community, I found them useful to illustrate the point that every ADHD case — and every treatment plan — is different. Managing ADHD symptoms takes some finesse, not just a quick evaluation and a prescription for stimulants.

SPECT imaging and supplements: buyer beware

Beware, though: Healing ADD focuses heavily on the Amen Clinics’ treatment and diagnostic methods, which cannot be replicated at home or at your local doctor’s office. After reading Healing ADD, it’s easy to convince yourself you’re at the mercy of your brain until you get one of these SPECT imaging scans — especially if you’ve been frustrated by past treatment failures.

However, the Amen Clinics are alone in their use of SPECT imaging in routine diagnosis, and most of the scientific community feels there’s a good reason for that. Bottom line: you don’t need to travel to one of these clinics and pay over $3000 to get better.

Parts of the book also felt more like an advertisement for the Amen Clinics’ products and services than a standalone self-help text. The techniques and advice seem broad and cursory, like Healing ADD is only an introduction to the whole system: DVDs, supplements, an online brain gym, and consultation at a brick-and-mortar Amen Clinic.

Comprehensive but not warm and fuzzy

Healing ADD may pack a lot of advice and brain science, but it won’t feel warm and personable. If you want that, read Wes Crenshaw’s I Always Want to be Where I’m Not. Dr. Amen kicks off Part One by trying to build rapport with readers and prove he truly understands ADHD on a personal level, but he does it by talking about how guilty and embarrassed his ADHD family members make him feel. Maybe this rings true for some readers, but I didn’t need any reminders.

Overall, Healing ADD is worth a read for many people, especially those who doubt ADHD’s biological roots or have complex cases not aided by typical treatment approaches. The book inspired me to try a daily GABA supplement, and I do think it has helped tone down my migraines and mood issues. Certainly it’s a great starter resource for those interested in alternative or complementary therapies.

If you’re looking for in-depth techniques and help for any single facet of ADHD, though, Dr. Amen covers way too much ground for that. For example, the chapter on stopping “automatic negative thoughts” offers a gold mine of easier-said-than-done advice. If you’re truly struggling with these harmful thought patterns, you’ll need to seek professional help.

And that’s okay. Healing ADD provides, at the very least, a comprehensive guide to what you should expect to hear from a therapist or coach (minus the need for SPECT imaging). There’s plenty of bad information out there, and Dr. Amen goes a long way to cultivate educated consumers in his readers.

Book Review: Duct Tape Parenting

Cover image: Duct Tape Parenting by Vicki Hoefle Do you yearn for less chaos, more connectedness, and a more fulfilling life with your children?

Duct Tape Parenting: A Less Is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible, and Resilient Kids might turn your current parenting philosophy on its head. Or it could reaffirm what you’ve always believed but never translated to reality.

Reading a parenting book may feel like a chore, but it can be a game-changer for ADHD families. Agreeing on a consistent strategy with buy-in from both parents will generate immediate rewards. You’ll also gain a common language to discuss those inevitable parenting challenges. As a bonus, parent educator Vicki Hoefle‘s suggestions for family meetings, road maps, and sharing appreciations will benefit everyone — not just kids.

Duct Tape Parenting‘s central conceit is that kids need autonomy and responsibility. Also, attention of any kind — negative or positive — reinforces their behavior. Our job is not to nag and con children into doing the right thing, it’s to guide them toward self-actualization.

Hoefle’s hands-off approach requires a paradigm shift and a willingness to endure messes and imperfection. It also helps kids develop resiliency and executive function that will set them up for a lifetime of success. Perhaps most important, it takes the pressure off of us to keep the whole family organized.

Duct Tape Parenting will be difficult for ADHD adults. That duct tape in the title? It’s for you. In other words, success with Hoefle’s method relies on impulse control at just the moment when restraint feels most difficult.

Don’t give up, though — it’s worth the effort. Parents with ADHD will love the end result: a family where everyone contributes according to their ability and takes responsibility for their own needs.

Once you step back and let your kids show you what they can do, you’ll be amazed at how capable even young toddlers can be. Divvying up responsibilities and letting your kids take ownership of daily activities saves you a lot of grief trying to keep track of everything on your own.

Teaching kids to be resourceful and independent will also give them a boost in executive functioning skills — a gift that will benefit ADHD kids for the rest of their lives. A parent who coaches, nags, reminds, and bails out an ADHD child robs him of a safe, supportive environment to learn coping and organizing skills. He’ll need to succeed without you eventually — now is the time to let him practice, make mistakes, and build his confidence.

While Hoefle lays out a solid, sensible, high-impact plan for family effectiveness, I found a few key points missing. For one, Hoefle doesn’t thoroughly address behavior management in a  social group. Children are often part of a regular social group with its own expectations and norms. What if my two-year-old spars with a friend’s toddler over a toy and we have differing ideas on how (and when) to intervene?

My weekly playgroup might be open to discussing these issues. One-time events like trips to the playground or birthday parties present a different challenge. At some point I’m willing to let my child lose a friend over poor behavior, but preschool seems too young. I would’ve appreciated advice on how to guide my child’s behavior in a group setting without being overly directorial.

Speaking of age, too many of Hoefle’s anecdotes omit the child’s age. How to implement Hoefle’s ideas at each stage of childhood is largely left up to the reader.

Overall, Duct Tape Parenting is worth a read for exhausted ADHD parents everywhere. Fair warning: Hoefle’s tone can be off-putting. She begins the book by pointing out far more problems than solutions and has a habit of quoting herself at the beginning of chapters. Parents already feeling downtrodden may find themselves feeling more so, and attachment parenting devotees may not make it past Chapter One.

I hope these issues of tone and structure won’t discourage too many parents from finishing the book. It will change the way you view your job as a parent and lead you to a more fulfilling life with your family.

Any other duct tape ADHD parents out there? Please share your experiences in the comments!

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