My dad is a safety fanatic, truly obsessed. So when I was a kid our dart board was Velcro. The "darts" were ping pong balls with little strips of the scratchy side of Velcro. The dart board itself was soft material. You had to throw that dart-ball just right; because, if you didn't the smooth side of the ball would bounce right off the board.
The more I experienced ADHD with my husband and children, the more I learned about it, the more I saw a similarity between my old dart board and the ADHD brain. So much information comes at the brain, there is not much rhyme or reason to what sticks and what doesn't. It is just like those little dart balls - it has to hit just right to stick.
Some things stick so well that you can hardly get them off the board.
In my years as a parent I have spent all summer trying to get my kids out of their winter clothes, despite the 100+ temperatures. Right about the time they finally put away the parkas the seasons change. Then I spend most of winter reminding them that they are cold because they are wearing shorts!
My current dilemma is how to pry my two youngest off the sides of the shopping cart. I realize that this might not be something to complain about given the alternative.
I remember when my second child was born, I was panicked about taking two small children to the store by myself. By the time my last child was born I had six under nine years old. Of course, shopping had to be done, so I figured it out. I did it by having them hold onto the cart, several on each side. What a spectacle we were, bulldozing our way through the store!
The kids knew that if they did not hold onto the cart it was a deal breaker - we would leave or they wouldn't get a promised treat. One by one they all got older, they all reached the point where they could let go of the cart. I will have to be honest, sometimes their exploits in the store make me question that decision.
My last two, my boys, won't let go of the cart.
That rule stuck and now I am stuck with the rule. People coming the opposite direction - the boys won't budge. Narrow isles - I am begging them to let go. Encouraging them all the way - you are big now - you don't have to hold on to the cart...every second. Then finally the voice of frustration, "Okay, we're stuck, someone has to let go!"
Then there are the darts that don't stick no matter how many times you throw them.
For example, we have toy box we bought many years ago to use as a shoebox in our house. No matter where we have lived that shoebox has been within steps of entering the house, you practically trip over it to get through the entryway. And yet, almost anytime of day, any day of the year, there will be shoes all over my house.
No amount of threatening changes this. I have not yet found a consequence that has the power to make them remember to put their shoes in the shoebox. No matter how many times or differing ways I throw that dart it just doesn't stick. I have a friend who is fighting the same battle - she has been confiscating the shoes that aren't put away.
I thought about that for a moment - I may have tried that in the past - to be honest, I don't remember. I do, however, know exactly what would happen if I tried it today. My children would all be shoeless.
Truth be told, regardless of motivations disciplining a child with ADHD is just different than one without. Traditional punishments rarely work. Maybe it is their tendency toward creative problem solving (see post Creativity and ADHD part II). Their minds naturally go toward a solution that makes the punishment not a punishment. I cannot tell you how many times I have taken away a privilege only to hear something like, "Its okay that I can't play the Play Station, I have been meaning to read more."
No matter how many punishments I can throw out they can come up with ways to make the punishment work for them. It is a frustrating process. I think it is why I am so fond of the "put your nose on the wall" punishment, boredom is the worst and most powerful punishment I have found.
But, it has yet to get the shoes in the shoebox.
I am sure there are many reasons why some things stick and some don't. When it comes to the shoes I am sure that when my children come through the door they have long ago left behind whatever they were doing before they came inside. Mentally, they have already been in the house and working on whatever they are running towards. They are moving as fast as they can so that they don't lose the idea or forget it.
I have come to a place where I pick my battles. In addition to being hard to discipline I believe their is a real danger in a child being constantly in trouble, being constantly reminded of how forgetful and in translation how incompetent they are. I don't want my children to feel defeated, I want them to feel empowered to conquer their struggles with ADHD. How can they feel that way if their faults are constantly the only thing they see?
So, I choose what rules I will be a stickler about and I do my own "creative problem solving." I send the kids out once or twice a day to get all the shoes and put them away. The shoe situation is one of those things that I have had to find a different solution to.
So, if you stop by my house my advice is, watch your step.