Discipline and ADHD Child, Part 3: The Power of Positive Parenting
Updated: Jul 5, 2022
You just hosted 20 people for dinner. The food was delicious, the table simply beautiful. You worked hard and you are tired! As you and your husband finish the massive clean-up job, he says “My dear, that was such a great meal, thank you. Everything was so tasty. Its all to your credit. What happened with the dessert? It was a little drier than usual, new recipe?” Ok… How do you feel? I don’t know about you, but I feel like “Next time you’re cooking, you ungrateful -------“. But he said so many nice things, right? Why are you so infuriated?
Being a positive communicator is a precise art. Are we positive communicators? Most of us would say sure, I give compliments all the time. But are our compliments getting through? Is our child being emotionally nourished by us? In the example above, a magnificent compliment was sent, but due to a complex compliment error, it was intercepted.
In the last 2 posts we discussed reducing the heat on our negative emotional outbursts, so as not to dish out too much instant gratification feedback from our rants. Today we will explore how we can up the warmth with positive communication.
Before we tackle the ‘how to’ of powerful positive parenting & developing self discipline in a child with ADHD, let's explore why most of us struggle with compliments.
For some, it is because we did not grow up with positive communication, so it feels unnatural to be so positive. I’ll never forget the woman who raised her hand in one of my lectures and said, “I’m Hungarian, I can’t do what your saying”. I hear you sister, but from a German to a Hungarian, our kids need us, lets pull it off for them. And once we get started, we may really like it.
We are fixers. Especially the wife/mother/teachers among us. We feel like if we don’t grab the opportunity to point out mistakes as they happen, our kids (husbands?) will never learn. We're totally off! The learning process is so much more powerful when we point out what a child did well and use his actions as an example of excellent behavior, rather than catching him in the deed of breaking rules. We do a lot of “stop that”, “Don’t do that again”, thinking our kid will figure out what he should do based on what we told him not to do. Our well-meaning message generally gets lost in translation.
We worry that if we overdo it, we will spoil our child. What will happen when he gets out into the big bad world and he does not get all the positive feedback we are offering? Imagine if a pregnant woman thought that way about her unborn baby; “Why bother taking too many vitamins, eating well, resting and exercising to help ensure my baby is born healthy. The minute she shows up in the big bad world, she will be inundated with toxins and disease, what’s the point?” absurd, right? Our home should be where he receives all the warmth and love so that he can build his strength to navigate and endure the world.
So, let’s get started:
These positive parenting rules were developed by #AlanEKazdin Ph.D. in his fantastic and incredibly user-friendly book “The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child”.
Rule #1: Be enthusiastic!
When we are angry at our kid, boy are we enthusiastic! There's no stopping us. We raise our voices, perspire, get right in his face, he knows we meant it! When he does something praiseworthy, we say something bland like “good job”, “keep it up!”.
If our kid is an '#instantgratification’ seeker, he will make a quick calculation and choose to elicit our scolding response. He gets more feedback that way. We must completely reverse this process. Let’s raise our voices with joy when she does something right and be bland with negative responses.
We must smile, get close, speak louder, say it like we mean it. Also, name the deed; that was so respectful, responsible, kind, thoughtful…. Labeling behavior with a positive value is a good balance to our statements like “that was not kind to your brother just now”, “Why did you just say that, it was SO disrespectful”.
Let’s catch her being all the things we tell her to be, and then celebrate it by letting her know that we noticed and loved it.
Rule #2: Be specific.
We are great at making long verbal lists. “You came in and threw your backpack, you didn’t take out you sandwich which will now get moldy, you demanded a treat and immediately started bothering your sister!!!!” Sound like anyone you know?
Somehow, we expect our critical never-ending barrage to magically create better behavior. It NEVER does. Our victim is not listening. Do we listen closely and take notes while we are being yelled at!?! If we truly want to educate our children to improve their behavior, we must use their behavior as an example.
When we give a powerful compliment, we are giving our child a candy, he wants more! If we are very specific with our compliment (You walked in, warmed my heart with your smile, and asked for a treat so respectfully) he will receive instructions from us as to how to get the candy again.
The more specific we are, the more instructions we are giving for the future.
Rule #3: Say it right away
The closer a compliment follows a deed, the more a child links the two in his head. We are of course invited and encouraged to repeat it later, tell Grandma, tell Daddy when he gets home, but it is of utmost importance to say it right away.