"My grandchild always talks in class! The teacher says he disrupts the other children. They don't want him in the class. What can I do Dave?" said the desperate granny to me on the phone recently.
Later the same day I saw an email from reknowned speaker and author, Nikki Bush about restaurants refusing entrance to patrons if they have children with them. I have sympathy with those restaurant owners. At the same time my heart sank as I realized that most of the children described in the article could have ADHD.
The difference between children that have ADHD and simply badly behaved children is the concept of " intentional." No ADHD child gets out of bed in the morning and plots how to make your life a misery. They will do so, but it is never intentional. Implusive means without thinking, and one of the 3 hallmark characteristics of ADHD is Impulsivity.
I am on record - many times - that the hardest job in the world is mothering an ADHD child. The younger the child, the more difficult it is to teach them to think first - before acting or speaking. One of the best descriptions of Impulsivity I have ever heard is that " words bypass my brain, they just come strainght out my mouth!"
Often when that happens to us as adults we try (in vain) to catch the words before they reach the other ears in the vicinity. Impulsivity is almost involuntary. I say almost because we can learn to control it, whereas distraction, the main characteristic of ADHD is completely involuntary. Like your eyes, you have no control over them.
Back to the restaurants - or any other place that demands good behaviour - what are you to do? There a couple of things to do:
- Create a secret code-word(s) between you and your child - stress that this word belongs only to you and him/her.
- The spend a good amount before the event - no matter how many times you may been there in the past - discussing what behaviour is required. You can also discuss what behaviour is not expected.
- Limit the choices available. I am loath to list the "taboo" behaviours as the child might just be tempted to test just how taboo they really are. Tell your child what to do. Don't tell them what not to do.
- Be patient and kind. This is not a lecture. Even if the questions sound or appear to be trite or twee, remain patient.
- Most importantly don't threaten.
- Use repeated "I" messages. State clearly what you expect.
- When do you use the code-word(s)? When the behaviour is approaching disrespect or worse, obnoxious. It's good practice to have two codewords. A popular and very effective set of code-words are yellow and red.
- Yellow means your behaviour is nearing danger point - be warned you should stop.
- Red means your are about to wlak home by yourself, or be removed from the environment.
Use words that suit your life and the event.
These measures take time and repetition - often lots of both. But they are more effective in the long run.
Punishing a child for something they have little control over and didn't intend to do batters their already low self esteem deeper into deficit or overdraft.
Low self esteem is very difficult to repair at any stage of life.