The ADHD Homestead

Building a good life with ADHD.

Tag: self-medication

Firm and kind: A challenge for ADHD families.

I think I speak for most ADHD-affected households when I say, sometimes we don’t bring out the best in each other. In his book Healing ADD From the Inside Out, Dr. Daniel Amen makes a list of games people with ADHD love to play. One of them is, “I bet I can get you to hit me or yell at me.” Sound familiar?

Most of the time, this isn’t even conscious. People with poorly managed ADHD — or those whose medication has worn off for the day — have trouble regulating emotional responses. They also use conflict to balance out their brain chemistry. Yelling, fighting, or needling someone until they explode provides a boost of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in short supply for ADHD’ers.

Without proper treatment and education, these become lifelong behavior patterns.

firm-and-kind-and-adhd

My goal when responding to these behaviors — and I falter often — is to be both firm and kind. Too many people still believe stricter parenting (like we had in the “good old days”) is the answer for kids with ADHD. When we see unacceptable behavior, we read a lack of visible, tangible punishment as permissive parenting. To some, firm and kind feel mutually exclusive.

This attitude isn’t limited to children: I hear the same about spouses and other adult family members. We don’t like to see someone “get away” with bad behavior.

I’m firm, I’m kind, but I don’t consider myself permissive with my family. I’m certainly not a doormat. In fact, people often tell me I’m the only person so-and-so will listen to, or they ask why a certain family member behaves better around me. It goes to show: Firm and kind can be strong, too.

Respect for myself

I first discovered “firm and kind” in parenting expert Vicki Hoefle’s lovely books and this post on her blog. Her words have changed my life. I feel like I have permission to look out for myself while I care for my family. Returning to Dr. Amen’s game of “I bet I can get you to hit me or yell at me,” I wonder how much respect I can have for myself when I’m falling right into that trap. In parenting, as in all social interactions, if someone can goad me into a fight, they can control me. If my child can make me late every time we leave the house, he’s in control. An out-of-control person doesn’t command respect from herself, let alone others.

When I draw a boundary, I show everyone I mean it. It doesn’t matter whether the boundary is big or small. I’m firm about reducing the number of days our family spends traveling around Christmas. I’m also firm about leaving for school at 8:45 a.m., regardless of who’s still in bare feet.

Giving kindness and respect to my family

At the same time, I try to practice kindness without letting others step all over my boundaries. I don’t say, “fine, you spent so long playing around, see how you like freezing your toes on the way to the car!” I say, “okay, time to leave. I’ll bring your shoes to the car so you can put them on while we drive.”

Simple. Matter of fact. Kind.

Hoefle claims that all children modify behavior based on what earns a reaction. We can deduce that children with ADHD do this to the extreme. When we engage in power struggles, allow ourselves to be goaded into flying off the handle, or allow our child’s behavior to control a situation, we set ourselves — and our children — up for more of the same tomorrow. This feels more unkind than letting him get cold toes on the way to the car.

Modeling how I want to be treated

After reading Hoefle’s books, my ears became attuned to how parents all around me spoke to their children. Try this next time you’re in a public place: Imagine the children as adults. What would you think if you heard someone speaking to an adult that way?

“Firm but kind” reconciles my two minds when it comes to parenting. We can be firm. We can refuse to engage in a power struggle. We can also be kind without letting kids ‘get away’ with bad behavior.

In other words, we can be respectful without being permissive. We can be kind without becoming a doormat. I apply these principles to everyone in my family, from ages 3-85. I’ve discovered that the harder it is to get a rise out of me, the more respect and accommodation I get from others. Especially those with ADHD.

Have you struggled to maintain peace and respect in your family? What keeps you grounded?

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The zen of ADHD gardening

Yesterday marked the official start of gardening season here in Baltimore. While some may gripe about the return of weeding and mowing, it comes not a moment too soon for me.

zen of ADHD gardening FB

Remember what I said about exercising through play?

If that doesn’t float your boat, or if you lack age-appropriate playmates, try gardening. Whenever I need an extra dose of focus, calm, and positive energy, I start with the backyard.

It’s no surprise that ADHD adults benefit from getting their hands dirty. In addition to brownie points with your spouse, you get:

  1. A free, productive workout.
    Unlike a jog or a trip to the gym, mowing the lawn or digging up the garden creates immediate, visible results. A freshly weeded flower bed or an appreciative spouse will help reinforce the behavior and motivate you to get out there more frequently. So will the sense that you’re actually doing something — a feeling you won’t get from 30 minutes of treadmill running. For a bonus, consider using manual lawn tools whenever possible. We have a relatively small yard, and I can’t get enough of my manual reel mower. If you don’t want to give up the power push mower, try turning off the self-propelling feature.
    green therapy for your ADHD
  2. All-natural relief from your ADHD symptoms.
    Though most research has focused on children, there are strong indications that acute physical activity improves executive function enough to serve as a complementary treatment for ADHD. Outdoor physical activity provides a double win because exposure to “green” or natural settings may further reduce ADHD symptoms.If you rely on stimulant medication to do the heavy lifting, you may be amazed at the impact increased physical activity and outdoor time can have on your life. Every little bit helps!
  3. A channel for your fidgeting impulses.
    Are you the dinner host who gets up from the table every two minutes to refill water, clear plates almost before your guests finish eating, or look for a missing pickle fork? I feel this way when my kid plays outside. I avoid sitting still by pulling stray weeds, filling planters, pruning bushes, and raking leaves.
  4. Instant gratifcation…
    There’s nothing like surveying the fruits of your labor. The finish line is always in sight, and once you get there, you get a nice dopamine rush when you look at all the work you’ve just done.
  5. …and a project that teaches you to wait.
    That said, you can’t rush a garden. Once you plant your seeds, you have to wait for them to sprout. No amount of impatience, all-nighters, or meddling will speed them up. Just don’t forget to mist them with water while you’re obsessively checking them every afternoon. And gardening doesn’t just require patience while the plants grow. Gardening teaches you to slow down and be gentle with those little seedlings. You may not succeed at first, but you’ll get it eventually.
  6. A natural high
    Getting your blood flowing on a sunny day won’t just ease your ADHD symptoms, it’ll brighten your spirits. With a boost in mood-enhancing serotonin from the sun and, if you really exert yourself, endorphins from working your heart and muscles, you’re bound to feel pretty good when you’re done.

So what are you waiting for? Get out and start digging in that dirt!

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Don’t forget to play

It’s no secret that physical exercise provides acute relief from ADHD symptoms. While it probably won’t replace stimulant medication for most people, it provides many similar effects.

So why aren’t we all in great shape?

Well, exercise can be boring. It’s another habit to maintain, task to complete, and commitment to fulfill. It requires motivation to do something that’s good for you, but not necessarily fun or easy.

That is, unless you’re a kid.

adult playground photo

Get in touch with your inner child (in a good way)

For all our foibles, many ADHD folks are described by friends and family as fun-loving and spontaneous. It’s time to (for once) use those qualities to your advantage.

It’s time to go out and play.

Yesterday morning, I exhibited some childish and embarrassing behavior that, much like bad behavior in actual children, was remedied by a trip to the playground. And coffee and breakfast, but that’s another post.

If you’re having a rough day — or if you just want to be at your best — find fun, spontaneous, playful ways to get some exercise. This is especially important if you also have active kids in your life. Follow their lead once in a while! Some of my favorites have included:

  • Climbing walls or practicing pull-ups/bar hangs at the playground with my kid
  • Throwing a tennis ball against the house and catching it until my heart rate is elevated
  • Running up and down the stairs when I feel restless (this is a variation on my toddler’s habit of running laps around an area rug, something that makes most adults too dizzy)
  • Playing Just Dance or Dance Dance Revolution on the Wii/Playstation
  • Going to the rock gym with my husband

You don’t need to join a gym to increase your overall health and mental well-being. You don’t even need to put on your running shoes. Start by remembering what it’s like to be a kid. Go out in the sun, run around, and get your blood flowing, even if you’re just jumping over obstacles in the yard.

Oh, and be sure to ignore any funny looks from neighbors. They’re the ones missing out!

How do you trick yourself into being more active? Please share in the comments!

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