Probably 40% of the families contacting me for counsel to improve the educational experience of their children have children already diagnosed with ADHD.
Parents can tell they are overly critical by being mindful of their own emotions: when a parent feels irritated by a child, that feeling of irritation is an indication that impatience or other feelings are causing a parent to respond in an unhelpful manner to a child with ADHD.
The key I think for such parents is to distinguish between the child and the disability. You can love the child and be impatient with the disability. But loving the child is the first priority whenever evaluating the parental action to take.
And only then focus on the aspect of ADHD manifesting in that prior moment of irritation to help your child understand and learn the executive functioning skills needed to regulate behavior and expression of emotion, and to organize her or his thinking.
Example: S/he comes home from school. A torrent of information comes out in every breath. Parent is irritated, having only said “Hi Seeetheart, how’s your day? Ready for a snack?”
How the parent responds to the torrent (or maybe a total lack of engagement) is key. You can’t ignore it.
“Whoa. Sounds like a lot has happened. Wash your hands and tell me more.”
S/he drops books and backpack on the floor (how many times have you said to put it on the hook?!) and begins washing hands.
Washing hands makes this child focus on the feeling of water. Standing in one place with senses engaged, a conversation is possible.
“What is the first most important thing you want to tell me?” asks the parent?
Then “and the second most important thing that happened today?” And so on.
Finally, “is there anything else?”
By helping a child organize and prioritize oral presentation of information you are teaching important skills and engaging with a child who needs your engagement and love without irritation, anger, despair or helplessness.
To create the best experiences for children and adults in a family, parents have to learn how to feel and act like adults — and systematically meet their child’s needs.