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 3

Over time, he found ways to “dance around his weaknesses” and build a successful practice. Stimulant medication helps him keep up with desk work (although he typically forgoes meds during trials, because he feels sharper without them). Portable keyboards let him capture his thoughts without pencil and paper. Like Giwerc, Tudisco realized that he is a kinesthetic processor. As he puts it, “I need to move in order to think.” Now 42, Tudisco runs 20 miles a week — and up to 60 when training for a marathon, which he does at least once a year.

Redefining differences

Ray Reinertsen, a college professor living near Duluth, Minnesota, spent years in a futile attempt to correct his ADD-related weaknesses: chronic disorganization and inability to follow through. He made unending lists (which often got misplaced) and set up reward systems. (“If I complete this, then I’ll reward myself with that.”)

Nothing worked. He worried constantly about his messy office. A couple of years ago, a lecturer on ADHD encouraged him to stop ruing his weak points and, instead, to focus on his high energy levels and his empathy. He stopped worrying about the office. It was messy, he realized, because he was energetic enough to have several projects going at once. And by “allowing himself” to consider the needs of his students, he became a more dynamic and innovative lecturer.

“I’m cognizant of the fact that my students have different ways of learning,” he says. “So I teach using a variety of methods — visually, aurally, with practice written tests, and so on.” Without this empathy, he says, he wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

Like Steve M., Reinertsen thinks carefully about how he can help his ADHD son recognize and make the most of his abilities. “Here is a kid who has been told he is lazy and stupid,” he says. “But he has some real skills,” including a natural athletic ability and a rare knack for math and computer science.

Unconventional thinking

For many ADDers, including David Neeleman, founder and chief executive officer of JetBlue Airways, the key to success is simply being unconventional. Neeleman says his ability to “look at things differently” led him to develop the electronic ticketing system that is now standard throughout commercial aviation (and for which he is famous). “No one had ever thought of going ticketless,” he says. “But to me, it was a very obvious thing.”

Success came late to Neeleman, in part because his ADD wasn’t diagnosed until he was in his early thirties. “I struggled in school,” he says. “I couldn’t study or spell, which had a huge impact on my self-esteem.” But the realization that he is a visual thinker “helped me understand how I could best learn and, ultimately, succeed.”

Ultimately, it’s up to parents to help their kids make the most of their abilities — to “strengthen their strengths,” as Giwerc puts it. Says Tudisco, “Don’t be afraid to try lots of things. Analyze what works and what doesn’t, and realize that strengths can change with time.”

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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