Scaffolding for Higher ADHD Conduct
Q: “How is it that my child is only defiant at home but behaves well in school and with other people outside of our family?”
I speak to hundreds of families of children with ADHD every year and I have found a common theme when the child’s behavior is okay at school but very difficult at home, sometimes to the point that it is towards the parents becomes verbally or physically aggressive. At first I was astonished, until I recognized this common thread.
To be clear, I’m not talking about children struggling with emotional dysregulation after leaving school. This is pretty common in children with ADHD, especially when the stimulant medication wears off.
In some cases, the children who show the worst behavior at home have no problems in school, have a peer group there, and like school in general, which made this even more confusing. I often hear a speculative narrative like, “They stick together all day at school and at home they can be themselves.” But this explanation is simply not applicable and in those cases where children are socially successful in school Nor does it justify being physically aggressive towards family members. I’m talking about a longstanding, consistent pattern that often lasts for years and in some cases gets worse.
The commonality I have found in all of these families is a pattern of “high giving / low expectation”, which means that children are given coveted items like smartphones and gaming systems, but little asked of them in return (aside from possibly academic Services). ). The other common variable that is often associated with “high giving / low expectation” is a permissive / indulgent approach to parenting. A permissive / indulgent approach to parenting is usually carried out from a place of love, not neglect. Because children with ADHD tend to be “black and white” thinkers and do best with “scaffolding”, the passive / indulgent parenting often does not work well for them; it’s too abstract. Children (with or without ADHD) feel emotionally safe knowing that adults are in control. If they don’t feel like adults are in control, or they realize they can control adults with their behavior, it doesn’t feel emotionally safe. Several children have told me that they feel uncomfortable when they realize how easily they can control their parents’ emotions.
I understand that many parents don’t take it for granted to be authoritarian. Others may not have the emotional energy to use an authoritarian approach to parenting. Others may have authoritarian parents themselves and want to counteract it, so do it against them. Parenting styles have been studied for decades, and the consistent research shows that an authoritative parenting approach is the most effective parenting approach for raising well-adjusted adults.
I encourage all parents to view the authoritarian parenting style as a scaffold. The scaffolding around a building supports the structure during construction. A framework around behavior helps a child understand how far they can take things; What behavior is tolerated and what is not. This gives children a sense of emotional security knowing that their parents are in control. It also teaches them in general what is tolerated and what is wrong in life.
If you don’t take it for granted to be authoritarian, think it’s “bad,” or have received conflicting messages, here are some things you need to know: In order for your son or daughter with ADHD to be successful with their behavior, they must be feeling emotionally constrained. If you think authority hurts their self-esteem, you need to know that the opposite is true – not being authoritative can damage their self-esteem because if a child doesn’t understand their parameters and limits, they will do things they regret and repent. Some parents of children with ADHD take a permissive approach to parenting that tolerates all negative behaviors based on their child’s diagnosis. I believe there is nothing more discouraging for a child than sending the message, “Your negative behavior will be tolerated because I perceive ADHD as a disability, so I perceive you as disabled.” work, realize that ADHD is not a disability; It’s a description of how your brain works.
If you have a child who is pushing the limits and being very uncomfortable, they need a behavioral framework. You are not going to hurt their self-esteem by being authoritarian, and you are doing them a disservice by being an indulgent parent.
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Authoritative Education and Scaffolding: The Next Steps
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Ryan Wexelblatt, LCSW is the moderator of the ADHD Dude Facebook Group and the YouTube channel.
Updated May 26, 2021
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