I can't count the number of times I've heard people comment, "When we were kids they didn't have all this ADHD stuff. Kids either behaved or they got in trouble, period." If you have kids like mine, you've probably heard it endlessly as well. And you've probably been as frustrated as I have, trying to explain all of the things that are wrong with that line of thought without sounding like you're an ineffective parent or just making excuses.
The pervasive belief in our society is that children misbehave to get attention, or because they're "bad" or "acting out." They misbehave because they're not being parented appropriately or disciplined enough. My children have disorders that walk hand-in-hand with behavioral challenges, and as their mother and their advocate, I'm compelled to actively challenge this kind of thinking.
In The Explosive Child, Dr. Ross Greene writes, "Children do well if they can." Many people think rather that children do well if they want to.
Consider the impact of that statement.
I think of my son, in his classroom, out of his seat, touching everything, ignoring instructions, tantruming when he feels other kids are looking at him or when he has to cope with a change from one task to another.
He doesn't want to act this way. He's not seeking attention. He doesn't like being in trouble, he doesn't like being different, he doesn't like not being liked. He does these things because he can't help himself.
When we understand our special needs kiddos in this context, almost everything about the way we parent them changes. Dr. Greene says that the difference between the kids who can do well and those who can't is simply that the kids who can't lack the skillset they need. That's where they need their parents, educators, counselors, therapists and doctors - they need us to help them learn those skills.
Once we grasp this, we can stop looking at the behavior and look at the child underneath it and start to discover what they lack and where we can assist.
I posted several times about the disconnect between my son's teacher and me. I felt that she was focusing too much on the things he was doing wrong and not seeing the same child that I love with all my heart. The best thing about people and circumstances, though, is that they are always changing.
At our last team meeting, I noticed a change in how C's teacher talked about him and the things that were happening in her classroom. She seemed excited to relate some of the things she was finding helpful, and there was a shine to her that wasn't there before. After the meeting, when his counselor and I were talking privately, I remarked on this. The counselor told me that she, too had noticed a change and not only that, but that the teacher was now contacting her frequently with ideas and questions on things that might help my son.
Then yesterday, when I picked him up from his aftercare, the director (who has been a wonderful friend to us) passed along a little bit of information that brought tears to my eyes. She had been late arriving to pick him up after school, so the teacher had seen the rest of her class off and had taken C back to her classroom. K apologized for being so late. The teacher responded, "Oh, I don't mind that at all. It gives me a chance to have some one on one time with him, and I enjoy that so much."
She gets it.
He will do well IF HE CAN. And she wants to help him get there.