Oppositional Behavior

Water Play: A Reminder of How My Child’s Brain Works

A soaked yard gives this mom a flood of insight into her son’s ADHD brain.

ADHD Parents: Water Play
ADHD Parents: Water Play

On the first warm day of the year, my son asked if he could play with the hose. “Sure,” I said. “Just don’t spray water at the house.”

“OK, sure,” he said.

Relieved that he’d found a way to entertain himself, I went inside to accomplish a few overdue tasks. Twenty minutes later, I looked outside. Our front walk and the lawn near the driveway were drowning in water.

“No!” I yelled. “Turn it off!” Startled, he looked up from his play. “Turn. It. Off.”


“You’re flooding the yard!”

My son didn’t move, so I walked down the steps and turned off the spigot. “I hate you!” he screamed. “You ruin everything. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“You took off the nozzle!” We kept the nozzle attached to the hose. When I’d said yes to water play, I thought the nozzle would limit how much water could come out.

“But you didn’t say not to do that!”

“But,” I said, and stopped. He was right. Because my son has ADHD, and he is a literal thinker, I knew he hadn’t caused the flood on purpose or on impulse. I had said he could play with the hose. I hadn’t said he shouldn’t remove the nozzle. In his mind, my anger over his flood-making made no sense.

Luckily, the day was warm and the water was soon gone, leaving behind a damp spot on the walkway and a more permanent artifact: a reminder of how my child’s brain works.