Parenting

6 Mistakes I Made with My Kids

“I grew up feeling like a failure. This feeling of worthlessness impacted everything in my life, including my ability to parent. I’ve learned how to be a better parent with time and practice, but these regrets will forever remind me of life’s greatest lessons.”

A parent and child holding hands as the parent tries to mend their damaged relationship
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It’s Never Too Late

It’s never too late to try to mend your relationship with your child. Case in point: I’m working to rebuild my adult son’s trust in me, and wishing I could have avoided the damage in the first place. I can’t change the past, but you can learn from my mistakes — and I hope you will.

A father and daughter in an argument, looking away from each other, father wonders how to mend relationship
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1. Lashing Out

I was guilty of overreacting to the negative behaviors of my children, both of whom have ADHD, too. They acted out in ways that were overwhelming for me. I’d come home from a busy day of work to find a home overrun with chaos. Unable to process the stimulation, I overreacted to them, or took out my frustration on them when I shouldn’t have. Homework issues were always a hassle. My wife, who doesn’t have ADHD, was more patient than I was when my kids began talking about things that weren't even related to the assignment before them. It was very, very difficult for me, but I did improve with time. Over the last year, my daughter needed help with chemistry, and I was able to help her consistently. When she got sidetracked, I admit to getting irritated, but overall I saw great improvement in my reactions from when she was very little.

A father works on mending his relationship with his child by helping her with her homework
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2. Making My Love Conditional

I struggled in school and had to work 10 times harder than other kids to get the same grade. I wanted to prove I could do what anyone else could do. So, when I had children, I expected them to behave the same way and do anything for the A. If they didn’t make the grade, I would belittle them – and it wasn’t good. When I realized it and changed, they changed. If I hadn’t extended unconditional love, they would have ended up hating school, and me by extension.

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Signs that say "Yes" "Maybe" and "No," related to mending damaged relationships with your children
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3. Being Undependable

I learned the hard way that most kids interpret "maybe" as "yes,” so it's better to say "no" if you're not sure that you can follow through. It’s better to pleasantly surprise your child, than to demonstrate that you're not dependable. Lack of consistency in parenting and discipline can lead to a lack of trust; your kids may hesitate to come to you with their problems. Overreacting to your child’s negative behaviors can be an issue, as can taking out frustration from a workday on your children.

A father looking up on his phone how to mend his relationship with his child
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4. Not Being Present

Often, my son would say "Dad, I want to spend this time with you. Come look at this project I'm doing." I was constantly saying, “I’ll be there in a minute. I just want to finish something.” There was always something more important, one more thing to finish first. A lot of this was my ADHD symptoms that were not under control; we are wired differently and it’s easy to be distracted. When I was on my way to the living room to spend time with my son, I’d see something else and pick it up and forget where I was headed. As time went on, he became less trusting, and eventually stopped asking me to do things with him.

Closeup on ADHD man slamming his fist on a wooden table
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5. Bad Discipline

Growing up, I got spanked a lot. Spanking is counterproductive for kids with ADHD. It actually escalates a problem and makes things worse. It really wasn't the appropriate way to go for our children and I wish we hadn't reverted to that technique, knowing my kids now. Make sure that you are in control when you are disciplining, and be certain the punishment fits the crime, so to speak. Consistency between parents is really important. When one parent does things one way and another parent does things another way, it creates instability for children.

Son covering ears while father scolds him and wonders how he'll mend their relationship
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6. Mistaking Symptoms for Defiance

Many times it's difficult to distinguish what behavior is defiance and what is ADHD impulsivity. Particularly after a hard day, it is very difficult. When in doubt, I would consult with my wife. If I felt I couldn’t control my anger, I would get away. When I disconnected, I could see things in a different light.

[Calling ADHD Dads: How to Have a Calm, Loving Relationship with Your ADHD Child]

The word "trust," critical for mending relationships with children
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Regain Trust

When you have one-on-one time with your child, talk about just them. Focus on that child, not on yourself. If you do so, you might be able to get them to open up. It might take patience and persistence, but it can happen. If your relationship is estranged because you belittled or criticized your child, the last thing you want to do is criticize. Get yourself out of the way and completely look to that child; talk to them about what they're interested in. Your child looks up to you. If they see you as a real father figure and a leader, then they will be able to see that ADHD and leadership qualities can go together and that they can make a difference in this world. There's a lot of good that can come out of that.

[9 Ways to Be a Better Dad]

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  1. I think this article is wonderful, however,it relates to assumptions that I don’t agree with 100%. And that is fine! One thing I’ve learned as a parent, is that your child has his own mind and every person is different. For me, saying “maybe” means just that – my daughter is young but mature enough and conversations with her have helped her understand that I alwaus want to say yes! But sometimes for her safety or other obligations etc, the answer is NO, and when/if it changes, it IS a nice surprise, but she has the intellect to understand that maybe means I want to say yes but there are factors I may or may not point out that could lead to a NO. And thus maybe really means maybe… Also, letting her know and talking about my ‘restrictions/disabilities’ let her understand better that I AM distracted, and tjat it’s NOT her, and 100% honesty – if I have disappointed or let jer doen, to TELL ME! That I may or may not have a ‘valid’ excuse – like having to work so we can have money to … or that I just got distracted and will try harder and she can help – asking me – do you need time to finish…. or are you distracted and need to be reminded … This openness with her has helped our relationship, but again, she is mature enough to understand at a young age that I am human, imperfect, jave problems, but my love IS uncinditional amd she can cime ti me with anything, amd sometimes that means reminding me to drop everything and be there for her. As far as spanking – I know it is conteoversial. For my ex and I, we did spank her as a toddler when nothing else worked, but also we were able to recognise when she say, hadn’t napped that day and was ‘overwound’ and unable to control her outbursts vs just being disruptive and ‘spoiled’ and wanting her way. In those times, to rem she was so over tired and exhausted but unable to express or know why, we were able to be more giving and find otjer ways to calm her down, or even let her jer go until she collapsed – but for me, I had to just hold her, let my compassion override my irritation, and let her kick and scream against me until she fell asleep. After that period, we did not feel ‘spanking’ was the right choice ever. And regardless of other’s beliefs, there IS a point where it is not helpful, but that is not for me to judge. I can onky say during a select time, sometimes, it was the only thing that helped. And this is much differemt from abuse etc. Never leaving bruisnes or marks etc… before anyone accuses me of child abuse, it wasn’t like ‘that’ – it wasn’t abusive and always higged and lovwd and told why in the most basic ways for her tiny age. And that was a short period, after which, she understood, and other consequences like losing toys etc were understood and unwanted and made her think twice about having “fits” – and I think as an adhd parent, I was more stmpathetic, almost too much, and still told I am, when she acts out. Again, lovely article, I just wanted to note that as all people are different, not to think badly of youraelf if you choose or have chosen other means. The outcome is what counts. You don’t want your child to fear you, but respect, you want them to know they can be honest and open, and we need to recognise when our kids understand more and give them credit for that. Thank you.

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