Talking About ADHD

“My Daughter’s Confession Crushed Me”

When my daughter confessed to a priest how my short patience was affecting her, I was devastated — but I recognized my need to control my frustration and anger in the face of her ADHD behaviors.

A child praying after being yelled at by her parent, who is often losing patience with her
Black and white hands praying child hands

My seven-year-old daughter recently had her first Reconciliation, one of the seven holy sacraments in the Catholic Church. During Reconciliation, a person confesses her sins to a priest, in private, and the priest absolves her, letting her know that God forgives her.

It was an exciting day for my daughter. Her teacher had been preparing her and her classmates for months. My daughter was nervous, though, so I handed her one of her fidget toys, and I told her that she had nothing to be scared about. I put my arm around her and held her close as we sat in the pew.

When it was my daughter’s turn to speak with the priest, my husband and I waited off to the side as we watched our daughter sit down with him. She didn’t look him in the eyes. She looked down and fidgeted, with her fingers on her lap, which is pretty normal behavior for her.

[Free Download: The Secret Power of Fidgets]

I wondered what sin my little girl was confessing. Sneaking a candy before dinner? Not sharing a toy with her sister? She is a second-grader who loves to draw, sing, and be silly. She believes in fairies and magic, and she sleeps with five stuffed animals every night. What sin could she possibly be confessing?

Later, when my daughter told me what she had said, my heart stopped and I held back tears. She told the priest, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I didn’t listen to my mommy.”

Day-to-Day Challenges

You might not think that’s a big deal, but it is. My daughter is not like most children. She has ADHD, and she has a hard time paying attention. This affects every aspect of her life. At home, she may hear what I am saying, but she can’t process my words, because she is distracted…constantly. Even when she processes what I am saying, it seems as though she didn’t listen, because she doesn’t follow through. I tell her to make her bed, and she wants to make her bed, but she can’t get started. She can build an impressive Lego castle for her Shopkins, but her bed doesn’t get made. She has the best intentions, and I have a good reward system, but her ADHD stops her from doing things she knows she should do.

I was heartbroken to hear that she thinks “not listening to Mommy” is a sin. What is worse, I know I am the reason she thinks so. When I see her little sister, three years younger than my daughter, listen to me and behave the way I expect her to, I praise her and reward her. When her older sister can’t do the same simple things — sit down at the table for dinner or get into her pajamas without complaining — I get frustrated. I lose patience. I blow up, particularly at the end of the day, when I am physically and emotionally drained.

[Never Punish a Child for Behavior Outside His Control]

Losing It

There have been times when I have screamed at my daughter: “Why can’t you listen like your sister?!” When she doesn’t do what I ask, I punish her by yelling, taking away screen time, or taking away a toy. I punish her for not listening, so of course she thinks it is a sin. I am punishing her for having ADHD, which is something she can’t control.

Realizing this, I feel like crap. I pray to God to help me be more patient, compassionate, and understanding, but God can do only so much. It is up to me to make that change. I have researched “parenting a child with ADHD” for hours, and I have given advice to other parents of children with ADHD. It’s easier to preach than to practice. I know the mother I want to be, the one that my daughter needs me to be. It is time to practice what I preach, and to ask my daughter for forgiveness for the sin I have been committing.

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  1. I think your daughter’s confession is a sign of what a great mother you are and I applaud you for the young lady you are raising. I hope you can see that your daughter’s words speak of her faith in God and in her desire to be a better person. She loves you and it sounds like she is gifted with an innate intuition/awareness of others. Instead of blaming yourself, see it this way…she wants you to be happy and knows that when she listens things are better – for both/all of you. She isn’t necessarily blaming herself – she’s asking God to help her be a better version of herself. You should be proud of her for asking for help, for her faith, for putting others first and for being a loving daughter.

  2. Hello, I’m a 22 year old with severe Adult ADHD. I was diagnosed when I was six and have been taking medication for most of my life. I greatly urge you as a parent to keep what you have discovered in mind. I am the eldest child of four children but I am the only one with ADHD. I learned a very long time ago to never trust my own instincts because if I think I’m right, I’m more likely to be wrong and it’s best to ask others, just to save yourself the frustration of failing. I can tell you for a fact that your frustrations with your daughter (though fully understandable) can 100% effect her self esteem. I have many memories of crying alone at the kitchen table, trying my hardest to solve my homework to no avail and feeling completely abandoned, stupid and useless when my frustrated parents give up trying to assist me and walk away. I don’t blame my parents, I was very difficult and it takes a lot of patience to deal with me, but I must stress how damaging it is to be a young child and feel abandoned because you cannot think like other people and understand certain concepts as quickly or as fully as other kids. I very rarely had low grades in elementary and highschool, I averaged a B+ generally. But I never felt smart. I always knew that I couldn’t complete with other students because I had the belief that something was wrong with me mentally. It can weigh on me like I’m guilty of something, but it’s simply my brain. I don’t choose to be this way.

    I know it’s frustrating to deal with a child with ADHD, especially if you have other children that can wear you down but I beg you, for your daughter’s sake, be patient! Never let her feel different or abandoned. Take a breath and gently, understandingly remind them of the task they need to complete and give a wide, flexible time frame.

    Thank you.

    1. Thank you Amanda, for your insight. I could have written the story, “My Daughter’s Confession Crushed Me”. My son has ADHD and I constantly try to figure out how to get him to do the things I ask him. I so often lose my temper and feel awful later, and worry about his self-confidence. Having a person articulate their experience and advice is very helpful. Please keep writing to provide advice that young ones can’t express.

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