“I try to help him, but he just won’t listen.”
“We are fighting more than ever.”
“She is a wonderful person, but somehow I can’t get through to her.”
Without a safe, trusting relationship, children do not invite parents into their world. Sometimes, it is valuable to take a step back and acknowledge that there has been deterioration in the relationship. Parents must take the steps necessary to spend quality time on a more consistent basis. Sometimes it can start with a loving statement: “I love you very much and I realize that we are spending too much of our time arguing or stressed out with one another. I miss spending carefree time just one-on-one. Let’s make a plan to spend time together doing something that you want to do.” The goal here is to just enjoy—not to teach or make changes in your child. It is through building this connection that important conversations can happen more easily.
Shift your parenting perspective from "manager" to "coach"
The goal in raising children is that by the time they reach adulthood, they are ready to live and function independently. A lot of growing and skill development must occur before young adults can successfully manage their time, materials, finances, and relationships independent of regular parental input and support.
Children, especially teens, often have an inaccurate sense of what is involved in truly accomplishing what they are expected or desiring to complete. Parents often describe that their children act as if they can pull it all off at the last moment, and then in the end find that they can’t. This is sometimes referred to as “magical thinking”—believing that somehow everything will get done and all will work out. Parents often recognize that their child is not yet ready for certain freedoms and responsibilities, fearing that if they leave too much room for their child’s decisions, their child might fail. Some, in their love and parental anxiety, jump in to rescue their children from experiencing the harsh reality of their actions (or lack of actions). Others resort to enticing incentives and harsh consequences, only to find neither sufficient to change their child’s behavior (except for limited time and activities). Both of these approaches often leave the child feeling frustrated or resentful, as they feel not respected, trusted, or worse, controlled.
To learn what they need to do to manage independently, children need to be taught the skills but also have ample opportunity to experiment and learn from their own experiences. For parents to be accepted as supportive and welcomed in their child’s growth process, they need to have a deeply trusting, connected relationship with their child. Constant parent-child conflict can be exasperating and detrimental to a child’s growth and well-being, not to mention stressful on the entire family unit. Parents do a tremendous service if they collaborate with their children about the role each of them plays in making sure the child carries out certain roles and responsibilities. Discussing in advance how much help and under what conditions a parent will assist—whether with homework, maintaining an orderly room, or exploring new activities—the more the child will learn to develop important life skills.
A parent coach can effectively facilitate conversations between parents and children, opening the door to communication and allowing each to feel empowered and truly heard by one another. As an outside observer, a parent coach help a parent explore how to gradually shift the responsibility of managing all aspects of a child’s life from the parent to the child, at reasonable and appropriate times. The parent can then take on the role of coach and will be able to provide the child with encouragement, recommendations, feedback, and practical techniques—without creating resentment and resistance.
PARENT-COACH TIP: One-on-One Time
Plan to spend one-on-one time with each of your children on a regular basis. Depending on the age of the child, the total number of children you have, and other family obligations, aim to set aside half an hour a few days a week for each child. This time can be spent in a variety of ways; however, there are three basic guidelines:
• Plan time with your child in advance. This is a great way to say, “You are important to me.”
• Make sure it is child-centered time. Focus it on an activity of their choosing.
• Make sure it is nonproductive time. They can teach you, but you are not in teacher mode.
An earlier version appears in the June 2014 issue of Attention magazine. Join CHADD and receive every issue!
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Cindy Goldrich, EdM, ACAC, a mental health counselor and a certified ADHD coach, specializes in coaching parents of children who have ADHD. She is the cofounder of the Long Island Professional ADHD Consortium.