Reply To: No Passion No Energy No Care

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Hi, I’d like to say a little bit about letting kids “fail”. There is a big difference between stepping back in a “I give up/do what you want” kind of way versus allowing natural consequences take place so they learn that their choices and actions have consequences (good and bad) and that if they want different results, they have to take different actions. I’m not suggesting that we parents just step back, stop caring and just let the chips fall where they may. Instead, I am saying that this can be done in small relatively safe ways in a controlled environment– so that they can learn and grow while they are still in the “shallow end” and are better prepared for the deep end of adulthood. For example, stepping back and not micromanaging school work and allowing your teen to get a bad grade which then results in him having to pay for and go to summer school. Or, another example, not waking him up and letting him feel the embarrassment of walking into class late. What happens when they are allowed to experience those things instead of us doing whatever we can to shield them from the consequences is that then, when they do “fail”, they see it was due to their choices and then, the motivation and desire to change comes from within themselves. With teens with ADHD, they might not know what to do to make things better or need tools/techniques/support/meditation to bridge the gaps but if/when they experience negative natural consequences, then they will be much more motivated to come to you for help and be much more willing to be open to your suggestions and be much more willing to get the help they need (go to counseling/get a tutor/take their meds, etc (For all this to work, it is important that you have a strong, mutually respectful relationship–so that when they need help, they are willing to ask you for help and trust your guidance. So I agree that this is an important thing to focus on.)

The bottom line is that we as humans are not motivated to change things until they are a problem for us. In many cases, we parents try to solve/fix/change things because they are problems for us but they are not problems that our kids have so they are not motivated to change anything. So I think it’s an important question to ask–is it a problem for him that he doesn’t have Motivation/friends/make the team/have a clean room etc etc etc.? If it isn’t, then it’s worth thinking about what kinds of natural consequences could take place for it to become a “problem” that he does want to change in order to get more desired results and outcomes.

Failing at things does not hurt self esteem if you are there to guide them toward bouncing back from it, which means being there to help when they finally ask for it. Resilience (the ability to bounce back from adversity) is a muscle that has to be used to stay strong and one of the “Exercises” is failure.

Joyce Mabe
Parenting coach, school counselor, mom of adult son with ADHD