ADHD in Boys

5 Pieces of ADHD Advice Every Parent Should Hear

The ADHD advice that every parent should hear: Adjust your expectations based on executive functioning age, teach self-directed talk, don’t hover, and don’t accommodate your child’s inflexibility. Learn more here.

1. Set Expectations Based on Your Child’s Executive Functioning Age

If you have an 8-year-old with ADHD, their executive function age is more like 5 or 6 because their prefrontal cortex — that front part of the brain that controls executive functioning — is developing more slowly than the rest of the brain. What we have to do is modify our expectations to meet our kids at their executive function age. Remember that your child’s emotional regulation skills, their executive function skills, and their social cognitive skills are 2 to 3 years behind their chronological age.

It’s important to remember that executive function age has nothing to do with intelligence. If you ever say, “He’s so smart; I don’t understand why he does that,” please know that’s not helpful.

2. You Have to Teach Situational Awareness

Situational awareness means, “How do we figure out what’s happening at a certain time and place, and what we’re supposed to be doing based on the context of the situation?” Kids with ADHD have difficulty with situational awareness because it requires attention, and it requires attention to many different variables going on in the environment, putting them together, and making meaning of them.

To teach your child to “read the field,” talk about expectations ahead of time and discuss possible scenarios. Then, cue your child by telling them to “read the field.” You want your child to develop their self-directed talk. When you say, “Look both ways!” you are prompting, which doesn’t help your child build their internal dialog. Instead, say, “Read the field and figure out what you should be doing.” This teaches situational awareness and self-directed talk simultaneously.

3. Allow Time for Unstructured, Unsupervised Play

The way all kids develop executive functions and social skills is through unstructured, imaginative play (without screens) where adults are not hovering over the situation. When parents are hovering or overscheduling, kids are not able to organically develop these skills.

Some parents push back and say the world is more dangerous today than it was when they were growing up. This is not based in any data; kids are safer today than ever before. Every generation thinks the world is more dangerous now, but that’s just not factual.

4. Don’t Accommodate Your Child’s Inflexibility

One of the biggest problems I see in families of kids with ADHD is that they accommodate their kids’ inflexibility, which causes that inflexibility to grow. The way we cultivate flexibility is giving them purposeful recognition when they do show flexibility. Purposeful praise means you acknowledge the specific thing they did.

5. It’s Critical to Shift from Prompt Dependence to Independence

It’s very common for families of kids with ADHD to do a lot of prompting. When you do that, you’re acting as your child’s executive functioning and cultivating over-dependence. This can lead to serious problems when your child leaves for college or begins working. What you want to do is shift to independence so they can develop their executive functions. The main way we do this is through language and through motivation.


ADHD Advice for Parents: Next Steps

1. Read This: 10 Hard (But Essential) Truths for Dads of Boys with ADHD
2. Watch This: The Top 10 Manifestations of ADHD in Boys
3. Read This: Why Parents Underestimate Boys’ Flexibility and Resiliency

Ask your question about ADHD in boys here!

Ryan Wexelblatt, LCSW is the facilitator of the ADHD Dude Facebook Group and YouTube channel.