Self Esteem

Give Your Impulsive Child Forgiveness

Before I reacted, I drew in a breath and paused — the way I was trying to teach my impulsive child to do before acting out.

I’d just finished folding the sheets, dropping them into the laundry basket on the floor. Long day. Dinner was on the stove — something my five-year-old daughter with ADHD wouldn’t touch.

I’d started bracing for the battle: When she wouldn’t sit down, would refuse to eat, probably cry, drop something, or hit someone. I looked down at her, sitting shirtless because collar tags bothered her, pencils from her craft box strewn around as she drew.

In a second of my looking away, she took the dull craft scissors, lifted the top sheet from the pile, and cut a generous hole in it.

I wanted to scream. What was she thinking? Why would she do that? What was wrong with her? She looked back at me, wide-eyed and afraid, scissors still in hand, “I don’t know why I did that, Mama.”

[Free Resource: What Not to Say to a Child with ADHD]

And she didn’t. If I screamed, shamed, and punished, it would only send the message that her impulses defined her. That she was bad. So, before I reacted, I drew in a breath and paused, the way I was trying to teach her to do before acting on impulse.

“Looks like you had an oopsie,” I said. She nodded. “I’m sorry, Mama.” She dropped the scissors, and her eyes filled. “I didn’t mean to,” she said. “I know,” I said.

I knelt down and hugged her. We talked about what she could do to make up for it. She would draw me a picture and sweep the floor. I had a hole in my sheet, but my daughter knew I wanted to help her instead of shame her. The hole in her self esteem wouldn’t get deeper on my watch.

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