Throw Out Everything You Assumed About Parenthood

Your child is “different,” and that means you need to question everything you assumed to be true about parenting. Shift your thinking, using this neurodivergent guide.

Father carries his neurodivergent differently wired child with ADHD on his shoulder
Illustration of a father carrying his neurodivergent differently wired child with ADHD on his shoulder

This is article 5 in a 5-part series on how shifts in daily perspectives can help a parent embrace and support her child’s neurodifferences. Click here to read the introductory article, “Stop Fighting Your Child’s Neurodiversity.”

Question Everything You Thought You Knew About Parenting

A neurodivergent child needs a parent who will question all of his or her pre-conceived notions about parenting – from the philosophies espoused in books to the traits your family values most, like education or nutrition.

Unless you honestly examine every aspect of how you think you feel about raising your “differently wired” child, you will subconsciously see everything through an outdated lens. You will be constantly trying to cram your square peg into a round hole.

That is not going to serve your child. You will keep trying to adapt and change him rather than truly learn who he is.

There is no one right way to parent. That is especially true for parents raising kids with neurological differences. When you start questioning widely held ideals and assumptions, you will start to feel happier and freer about what’s possible for your child. It won’t happen overnight, but embodying this questioning mindset gets easier with practice.

Reflection Questions for Parents of Neurodivergent Kids

Ask yourself:

  • How willing am I to question what I expected my child’s life to look like?
  • Where am I regularly coming up against my own parenting expectations not meshing with our current reality?
  • How might my beliefs about the way things should look be keeping me stuck?

[Read This: Ditch the Deficit Thing]

Shift Your Mindset, Thoughts, and Actions

Then, start working on these steps.

Break free of limited thinking. Get honest with yourself about the beliefs you’re holding on to about what your child’s life should look like.

Stop “shoulding” yourself. Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary altogether. When you find yourself using that language, challenge those thoughts. Try to flip them around and think about why those “shoulds” or “have-tos” might not actually be true.

Imagine what’s possible. Ask, “If I knew I would be successful in doing something for my child, what would that look like?” Consciously set aside time to explore this. What would an ideal day or life in a perfect world look like for your child if he were wired exactly the way he is? You can start to discover, or at least crack open the window of what might be possible when you start opening up your imagination in a positive way.

Fill your inspiration bucket. Raising neurodivergent kids requires bravery; you are barreling headfirst through uncharted territory. To do this work, you have to admit when something isn’t working, and accept the idea that you need to make some changes. That requires bravery.

One of my personal strategies for getting more comfortable being uncomfortable is to get inspired by stories of people who are breaking the rules and forging their own path. They can show us that what’s possible is actually much greater than we may ever have imagined.

[Read This Next: It’s Not an Excuse. Or a Label. Or a Load to Carry. It’s Just Who You Are.]

This advice came from “Accepting Your Child’s Diagnosis: Transform Your Mindset, Thoughts, and Actions,” an ADDitude webinar lead by Deborah Reber in June 2018 that is now available for free replay.

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2 Comments & Reviews

  1. I agree with this article and especially with the analogy of trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. There’s also the aspect of being judged by the extended family who basically feel it’s all a parenting issue and that if I was stricter, my child would act and think the way they feel she “should”. Nothing worse than people you love (especially those who don’t even HAVE children AND only see your child a few times a year) telling you that you’re parenting style is wrong and if I would just do (insert some supposed tried-and- true parenting method) then my child would be better off. Thanks for another fantastic article. I’ve ordered the magazine, can’t wait till it arrives 🙂

  2. I have raised two boys with adhd. they are now 25 and 26. One is inattentive and the other hyperactive. Neither of them were picked up at school despite the hyperactive one being recognised as dyslexic, and always getting in trouble for being disruptive etc.

    He was a fighter, he screamed at me, he would not be told, but he was also and is still a wonderful, warm, funny and exciting boy.

    We only discovered his adhd, and subsequently mine and his brothers, when he went to Uni and was 24yrs old. That was a huge revelation to all of us.

    My health visitor told me once when I was sitting on the floor with my head in my hands at a loss as to how to deal with him, not to fight him, she said she could see that we would be better to use distraction and deals. So we did, and it def helped. I am so grateful to her for that advice and have always remembered it through many years of feeling helpless with him and his wild ways. His uni days were scary, lots of partying and drug experimenting and wild times. Through all of it, even in moments of utter despair and some times of being so upset and angry with him that I wanted to disown him, just for my mental health, I stayed his friend and let him know that he was safe with me and that I love him. I also let him know that I was scared and that I wished he would change his ways.

    Eventually I decided to trust him to make good decisions, and I told him that. I felt like it was disempowering for him if I didn’t trust him.

    After 5yrs of uni life, (it took him longer cos adhd), he finally broke free, left the country and has been travelling in Australia with his lovely girl in a van for the last 16months. They have not been partying, in fact they have been living a really quiet life, working and travelling. It has been wonderful to see him grow into a solid and sensible young man, now 26. I know that he is likely to want to party again with his old mates when he is back in UK, but I also feel confident that he has gone past that part of his life and that it will be temporary and he will realise that life is better without too much excess.

    My philosophy when raising both boys, but particularly him was to let em out and reel em in. So to give them independence at a young age, but to also bring them back and always to talk to them, as intellectuals.

    So far so good, he will always be a handful, he struggles with being too much for his mates, but they love him too, and I only hope that life will be kind to him, (to both of them of course).

    He has worked tirelessly to learn, he continues to progress his passion, and he is determined to be great and I also believe he will achieve great things, because of not in spite of his adhd brain. He is amazing, and he knows it.

    I feel we need to embrace our adhd kids, (and all kids of course), to learn what makes them tick, to encourage what lights their fire, not to want them to fit in to a society that does not understand them. To give them every opportunity to be their own amazing selves, however at odds that may be.

    My other son is doing great too, it took us longer to recognise his adhd, possibly autism too as his father is autistic, and it has helped him to realise that he is dealing with a ‘sideways’ brain. He is very emotionally driven and so empathetic that it is painful for him. But so am I so we have lovely deep discussions about society, culture etc.

    I am so happy to have both my beautiful adhd boys, they are a wonder and a joy and I am immensely proud of them, and I would not in a million years wish for ‘normal’ kids. Vive la difference! 🙂

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