The Power of Praise: ADHD Parenting Done Right

Your ADHD child can build confidence and succeed if, as a parent, you emphasize his strong points rather than his weaknesses.

Accentuate the Positive, Part 2

Some experts say that this “finding-out” process should begin even before a child starts to show preferences or special abilities. “The first step is to actually believe that your child has strengths, that success is possible, despite—or because of—ADHD,” says Catherine Corman, of Brookline, Massachusetts, co-author of Positively ADD (Walker), and the mother of teenage triplets with ADHD. She says it's vital for parents to pay attention to the things that interest their children.

“Talk to your kid, and find out what he really likes to do—even if it seems to have nothing to do with your idea of success. If ADHD kids aren’t taught to focus on their strengths, it will be that much harder to feel successful.” Corman’s book chronicles the lives of ADDers who found success in jobs ranging from high school administrator to political consultant. She says that the one thing all these people shared was that they “felt they had permission to follow their strengths.” (Read about Corman's own experiences in Three Times the, um, Fun.)

How strengths steer career path

In some cases, a child's teachers will be the first to recognize his strengths. That was true for Giwerc, whose childhood was marked by hyperactivity so severe that he routinely broke chairs. The same third-grade teacher who had him kicked out of school for his inability to stay seated was also the first to notice that he was a natural athlete.

He exploited this ability, playing basketball in college (where he graduated cum laude) and earning a black belt in karate at age 40. A decade later, regular workouts (typically done to Motown music) help him stay focused so that he can operate his coaching business. He often conducts meetings while running on a treadmill. Robert Tudisco is another ADDer whose strengths took awhile to come to light. Growing up, he knew he was smart, but no one seemed to notice. “There was more going on behind my eyes than I was given credit for,” he says.

Written communication was a particular problem for him. Once, he recalls, a teacher phoned his parents to say that Robert could barely eke out a sentence on paper. When he did manage to get something down, she said, no one could read it. Luckily, Tudisco’s teachers also noticed his talent for public speaking. “‘He can stand up in class, and just go,’” he recalls one telling his parents.

Knowing that he was a good speaker helped convince him to pursue a career in law — which, he says, is “perfect for someone with ADHD.” After law school, he worked in a district attorney’s office. He was pleased, but not surprised, to discover that his speaking ability made him formidable in the courtroom. “During a trial, things can change quickly,” he says. “You have to react quickly. I was good on my feet in court. I was a star.”

His difficulty handling the paperwork related to his cases made little difference because the environment at the D.A.’s office was often chaotic. A few years later, however, when he opened his own practice in White Plains, New York, this weakness became painfully apparent. “Suddenly, I was the one who had to run the office, keep track of time, and be organized,” he says. “It was a nightmare.”

This article comes from the February/March 2007 issue of ADDitude.

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TAGS: Self Esteem, Myths About ADHD

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