Consider this parenting scenario: Frank, a 10 year old fourth grader with ADHD, comes home from school. When asked about his homework, he reports that he has one page of math to complete. However, in his smooth manner, he negotiates to do so later that evening and play outside for the time being. His mother agrees as it has been a long day and this seems like a reasonable request. However, later that night, when Frank has not mentioned or made any attempt to locate or complete his homework, his mother asks him to complete it. He looks in his backpack and states nonchalantly that he forgot to bring it home. Upon double checking, he is telling the truth. This launches his mother into a lecture about what will happen to him when he is older if he is not responsible. She further tells him that he will be doing some type of undesirable job when he is older if he is not responsible. She orders Frank to go up to his room, find his library book, and read before bed. She is also upset because Frank did not report to her that he had not brought his homework home when he negotiated going outside instead of doing his homework.
Frank does go to his room, but quickly begins to cry. He continues to cry and is in no condition to read. His father then intercedes, goes upstairs, and tries to talk to Frank. Frank eventually admits that he is upset because he was not able to finish the television program that he was watching and he had been ‘waiting a long time to see it’. Gone or possibly not registered in his mind was the mini-lecture from his mother about his future and responsibility. The most salient and upsetting thing to him in that moment was being pulled away from a program that was most absorbing and enjoyable to him.
How many times, as parents, do we brilliantly deliver a life lesson only to be lost to issues associated with ADHD?
- Working memory issues or orienting attention to the most salient thing in the moment are classic behaviors and symptoms of ADHD (I forgot to pack my homework when everyone else was doing so; it is a daily routine task and would likely be remembered since it is completed everyday)
- Negotiating or avoiding that which is not preferred for something that is preferred
- Coping and transitioning slowly from something preferred to something non-preferred
Consider this response to the scenario:
- Review with Frank that he should report, as soon as he is aware, that he forgot his homework so that there is time to problem solve the situation.
- Maintain a standard check in time to review homework and complete homework for the evening and the week
- Accept negotiation tactics minimally
- Coach Frank on how to rectify the situation such as talking with his teacher and determining when he can make up the work. Then, hold him accountable to do so.