We've all confronted those dreaded candy displays oh-so-conveniently located at the checkout counters in grocery stores. How often must parents exert control and say "NO" when "Oh, why not" is much easier than facing a potential temper tantrum in front of everyone waiting in line. Any parenting magazine at the same checkout counter will taunt us with "10 Easy Ways to Set Limits with Kids." Not so EASY for me.
You may be asking yourself: "Why not be flexible? Why not give in?" While the occasional flexibility may be in order, the gift we can all give our children is to teach them that life has boundaries. Setting clear limits are of great comfort in the long run, especially to children who have no perspective on how impulsive decisions will affect them.
It's Not Fair!
As adults, we have the responsibility to teach children that (as your mother and mine often said) life is often "not fair." Children benefit from learning to wait for rewards and letting go of desires that are not reasonable or healthy. Through occasional frustration, they gain the ability to tolerate situations that do not go their way. If we indulge every whim, they cannot learn to manage frustration in a healthy, mature way. Life becomes more demanding as they grow. Helping them "earn" special treats and wait for rewards is the beginning of helping them to deal with their own sense of competence.
A child with AD/HD, however, is a special case in which a present "want" is intensely compelling. While each child is unique in their capacity, waiting for anything is more difficult for these children (and adults) who must exert greater effort to control feelings of all sorts. When things don't go their way, the AD/HD child may go from calm to frantic in a flash.
Many AD/HD children are also obsessive and unable to "let go" of a particular thought. If they have swimming in mind, for example, but can't be taken due to an unexpected thunderstorm - prepare for a meltdown. They will not forget any promise made, or even any expectation that exists only in their imagination. Memory can play tricks on us if the desire for an outcome is very, very strong.
What's a Parent To Do?
No magic answer exists. It is a skill to be developed over time through trial and error, and by reading books, seeking professional advice and asking other parents or relatives. Armed with information you can then try different approaches to discover which methods work best for you in your family.