ADHD Parenting: When You Lead A Horse To Water But Still Can’t Get It To Drink

One of the biggest dilemmas for the parents of children with ADHD, is just how much to scaffold and offer their kids extra support. 

English: Example of Bamboo Scaffolding
English: Example of Bamboo Scaffolding (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For too long, I not only ‘helicoptered’ to our son, due to the extra parental guilt derived over what I saw as his inheritance of the dodgy genes, I was the fucking all singing, all dancing AugustaWestland model (Look it up!).

The sad truth is, that although it has been widely acknowledged that many ADHD children have above- average intelligence – and from the children I have met, I can believe that – their poor motor, organisational, sensory, memory and behavior skills hold them back in life and can exacerbate poor self-esteem, which leads to other issues, particularly in the classroom and when they go out into the big, wide world.

It’s an issue the old man and I fight over continually in respect to our son. How much support to give our son? How much to compensate for his special needs? Where the old man believes that because Kurt won’t ultimately be treated any differently in the real world, it is wrong for us to provide him with too much extra support, my argument is that it is due to those very needs, that Kurt will have no chance of making it into the real world without a helpful push from us.

As you know from my recent post, I am a fan of the Love and Logic parenting ethos, but obviously their approach is not aimed directly at the parents of kids with mental health issues. So although their style encourages the idea of cultivating independence from the outset, it doesn’t take into account that sometimes independence needs a ladder, or a helping hand across the bridge.

With ADHD kids, the most frustrating aspect of supporting them is when you have led your horse to water, and they still refuse to drink.

That characteristic is something that can stirs the embers of anger to such a degree, only the mother of a child with ADHD can fully appreciate. Where normal children will in general appreciate help, the ADHD child resents it; probably because it makes them feel even more inferior. As a parent, you can put yourself out there, encourage, support, praise, do every fucking thing the parenting manuals tell you, leaving your child no excuse not to succeed, and they will still refuse.

And the hard part is, you don’t really know if their attitude is derived from anxiety, fear, self-loathing, oppositional behavior or downright teenage wilfulness.

It isn’t helped by the fact that ADHD kids struggle to understand the concept of consequences and choose to live in the moment – so they can’t see the consequences to their decisions. It also doesn’t help that they struggle with empathy, so where normal children might consider the impact of hurting their parents or peers through their actions, that is not something that will affect our kids in the heat of the moment.

I lost the plot this morning for this very reason.

Did I mention that Kurt may have a job *praying*? Anyone who understands ADHD will appreciate my honesty when I say it’s very early days, but we are tentatively keeping everything crossed.

But to get the boy to sort out his tax file number – you would think I’d asked him to walk around Sydney in a Frozen costume.

So we had to put our hard hats back on to do some scaffolding. The old man booked the appointment at the Post Office and I offered to accompany Kurt. I know that sounds like a severe case of ‘helicoptering’, but we’ve learned from experience that Kurt simply would not have gone to the appointment by himself, even if that did mean not getting paid/losing the job. This is a boy who has missed important interviews, exams, performance try-outs, sign up sessions for courses and expensive medical sessions, without for one moment considering the consequences.

Once the initial excitement of him maybe landing his new job was over, we then watched his behaviour regress for a rough few days because he must have decided that having achieved something pretty major in his life deserved time to unwind and celebrate, and remind us of the sort of behaviours we had hoped this new level of responsibility would help him leave behind.

So when he refused to get out of bed yesterday morning to come with me to the post office, I felt worn down and disappointed and simply lost my shit, stormed out of the house with the old man’s accusing voice bombarding my ear drums and found solace in pounding the pavements for an hour, until the swelling in my brain subsided.

Note to self: parenting is not an exact science, our children are not our clones, nor necessarily anything like us, nor do they think like us. No-one’s the perfect parent and sometimes you can lead a horse to water but you can’t fucking make it drink.

2 thoughts on “ADHD Parenting: When You Lead A Horse To Water But Still Can’t Get It To Drink

  1. The refusal to get out of bed seems very typical teenager to me. I understand what you mean about which behaviours are ADHD or plain old hormones. I think you’re doing the right thing providing scaffolding for him though. He’s lucky he was born to such a supportive, caring mum. Maybe having a job will help him focus on the money aspect. Fingers crossed!


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