ADHD Myths & Facts

What I Wish the World Knew About My Child’s ADHD

ADHD in kids is tough to manage and even tougher to explain. Here, we asked ADDitude readers to share with us the (sometimes exhausting, sometimes inspiring) truths about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that they most wish the neurotypical world would understand and respect. Nearly 450 readers responded; here are some of the most poignant from parents of children with ADHD.

Kids Playing

1. ADHD Is Invisible, Not Make-Believe

“I, like many other parents, would like attention deficit disorder to be accepted as a genuine diagnosis, instead of an excuse to be lazy or to ask for special accommodations. When my child turns in an assignment with questions unanswered, it’s not because they were skipped deliberately, but because those questions went unseen (much like ADHD itself).”

“I wish people would acknowledge ADHD as legitimate — no questions asked! Because my son looks ‘normal’ and is gifted, many doubt his struggles are real. I’m hopeful we can begin to educate and empower people, paving the pathway for both my son and other kids like him.”

2. My Child Can’t Just “Try Harder”

“I wish the world knew that ADHD is neurological. It isn’t behavioral. And it isn’t just a matter of trying harder. You would never tell a blind person to just squint harder. Stop thinking my child just needs to try harder. He is trying hard — much harder than most children!”

“ADHD is not a choice. If my son could ‘try harder,’ he would!”

3. The Effort Required to ‘Fit In’ Is Monumental

“I wish people could understand the strength of children with ADHD. Not only do they have a constant party in their minds, but they have to try to ignore that party and behave like others so they aren’t seen as ‘bad kids.’ I watch my daughter struggle every day to make the right choices despite the fact that her mind is leading her down a different path.”

“Kids with ADHD can be very well behaved when boundaries and reasonable expectations are put into place. My daughter has a system for what to do when she starts to ‘wonder’ and that helps bring her back without disturbing the class itself. She is so aware of her feelings and what it takes to succeed… and she’s only 10!”

[Free Resource for Kid-Friendly Mindful Meditation Exercises]

4. Change Happens When You Focus on Strengths

“It’s easy sometimes, especially when we are overwhelmed, to focus on all of our kids’ weaknesses. Learning to focus on our children’s strengths — the things they do well and the things they are really good at — can help us be more understanding when they need extra help with other things. It also makes our children feel awesome, valued, and accomplished!”

“I have tried to teach my son that having a brain that is wired differently is a gift and something to be proud of.  So many of the most brilliant minds throughout history had characteristics associated with ADHD, and it was because those people were able to think differently that they changed the way the world worked.”

5. No Child Wants the “Bad Kid” Label

“I wish parents of neurotypical kids knew that kids with ADHD are doing their best. While they may not have perfect behavior, they are not ‘bad kids.’ If your child tells you that my child did something offensive, please address it with me, with the school, or with someone else who can do something about it. Please don’t just tell your kids to not be friends with the kid with ADHD.”

“People are quick to blame parents for being bad parents, instead of taking the time to learn about the condition. Our kids just want to fit in. Maybe that would be easier if other parents weren’t so quick to label them as ‘bad kids,’ and instead helped their own kids to better understand ADHD.”

[Free Guide: Help Your Child’s Peers ‘Get’ ADHD]

6. The Process of Considering Medication Is a Grueling, Guilt-Ridden One

“I wish the world knew that, for many parents, it wasn’t easy deciding whether to medicate. There is overwhelming guilt attached to that decision, regardless of your choice. You can’t understand unless you have a child with ADHD yourself.”

“As a formerly anti-medication person, I would like people to know that medication is not always a parent’s first choice. You can talk about the things you would ‘never do,’ but until you are faced with that situation yourself, you don’t know what you’ll do. When your child is miserable and medication — coupled with therapy and supplements — can help him, you can no longer discount medication as an option.”

7. Harsh Discipline Is Counter-Productive

“I want the world to know that spanking and screaming will not cure ADHD in kids. Parenting a child with ADHD is already very challenging; we don’t need to add these regrettable actions to our daily lives. Stop suggesting that ADHD is a result of bad parenting.”

“I wish people understood that disciplining a child with ADHD is not necessarily going to stop the undesirable behaviors or change the response they may have to a situation.”

“My 7-year-old boy is a beautiful human being who just needs some TLC, kindness, and patience — things that many people are not able to offer. His ADHD is not something that a good spanking will fix (as we were recently told at his elementary school, as well as by a deputy sheriff at presentations).”

8. Poor Self-Esteem Is a Side Effect of ADHD

“I wish the world knew that kids with ADHD want to be good. When they fail, it bothers and upsets them. They feel they cannot do things because of their previous disappointments, and that further decreases their self-esteem. We all have to remind them that they can do it!”

“I wish more people understood that my kids are sweet and funny and want to fit in. I wish more people could see that the ADHD superpowers they possess are dampened by the reminders of their failures, and that they can lose confidence from constant put-downs. They want their lives to be as easy as their friends’ lives, but they see themselves falling short constantly even though they work harder than everyone around them. People need to be more reassuring with these kids so they don’t give up.”

9. ADHD Isolates the Whole Family

“ADHD is not a moral failing by the child or the parents. We work so hard to help our kids… but still they get distracted, don’t pay attention, and struggle. None of that is for lack of trying. So many people love to judge instead of offering a shoulder to lean on. It is sad and lonely at times.”

“You have no idea what the person next to you may be confronting. Parents of ADHD kids are working very hard to help our children thrive. If we seem overwhelmed, it’s because we are! It can be very emotional to constantly advocate for someone you love so much. I may seem aloof, soft, maybe even enabling, but I am a fighter. I am learning how to show my child that she is amazing, instead of mirroring the world’s disappointment in her.”

10. We All Benefit When Kids Learn to Harness Their ADHD Powers

“Too often, a layman’s idea of ADHD is far more damaging than ADHD symptoms can ever be. I wish the world knew that the same traits my child is celebrated for are the flip side of the coin called ADHD. It’s her never-give-up spirit and million-track mind that helps her cope and adapt through difficult times, and her resilience and curiosity that keep her going, so to treat her negatively for one part of her behavior is to insult her as a whole person.”

“I want to know how to make my son feel special and exceptional in a positive way as opposed to the negative labels and judgments that come with ADHD. I want to know how to make better vocabulary choices that empower him to feel good about himself and understand that some things are beyond his control but, with time and tools, they will improve. I want him to love his special brain… not hate it for making his life harder.”

[Webinar Replay: Building Resilience in Students with ADHD]