Today I spent fourty-five minuts enforcing a ‘five-minute’ time-out.
Today I had children screaming through my house, running as fast as they could, dodging parents in an act of defiance.
Today I had to warn my child that if they attempted to hurt me again, they would be taken to the police station.
Today was a tough day in a household with an ADHD, ODD child.
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is a behavioural disorder that affects a person’s attention span, impulse control, and overactivity. For our child, this means they are constantly moving, have trouble listening or following instructions, and almost always act impulsively. According to the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, 3-5 in 100 kids are diagnosed with ADHD, it’s reasonably common. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is less heard of. According to the ‘Better Health Channel,’ ODD is “a childhood behavioural problem characterised by constant disobedience and hostility.” You know how most children have a line they won’t cross? Well, ODD kids just don’t give toss. They not only question, but blatantly defy authority; and not in the ‘yay, little punk kids’ way, either. When ODD peaks, there is no reasoning or rational thinking. You have to draw a firm line and just ride the waves until the hurricane of chaos is over.
I don’t often talk publically about our family experience with ADHD and ODD for two reasons:
1) the privacy of my children.
2) the idea that I’m bad-mouthing my kids by sharing our experiences.
It’s a little isolating, really. At the time of diagnosis, the paediatrician said “the only people who need to know are you and the child.” Let’s just say this didn’t work out, as the child did a talk on it for show-and-tell (spontaneously, of their own choosing), and will openly talk about ADHD with anyone who will listen. I, on the other hand, still feel the sting of stigma around ADHD and ODD. I feel there’s judgement on both child and parent for the conditions, like we’re supposed to be able to control every second of the child’s experience. Little secret: we can’t; but we’re doing the best job we can to help them along. I’m exhausted from being silent about ADHD and ODD. Here’s what I’d like you to know:
It’s not just bad behaviour.
My child can’t help that they have low impulse control, or that they struggle to listen, or follow instructions. My child can’t help that their natural instinct to authority is to lose control. My child can’t help that they thrive on chaos. Yes, consistent discipline helps, but this is not just a child ‘being naughty’. My child works very hard to fit in, they could do without the idea that they are simply misbehaving.
I can’t ‘control’ my child any more than you can.
My kid isn’t a dog. They don’t sit when asked, or come as they’re called. Kids have a mind of their own, and so they should. We work with our children to teach them how to behave in public. This is a long journey for all children, let alone one with added hurdles.
My child has so many good qualities.
They’re funny. They love reading, and are so smart. They are creative. They are active. They are passionate. They are loyal, and generous, and compassionate. They are affectionate. You don’t always get to see this, but it’s not sitting far beneath the surface, even on the worst of days.
Medication isn’t ‘drugging’ my child. It’s a game changer.
The idea that medication for ADHD is harmful to children is a dangerous misconception. Parents and children should not feel bad for the need to medicate. We medicate for depression, we medicate for illness, we medicate for mental disorders. We trust the advice of medical professionals over other parents. There are little side affects, and the benefits are incredible. For the most part, my child is able to focus and calm their body for periods of time. That’s a game changer that opens them up to make the most out of their education.
What you see as ‘crazy’ or ‘out of control’ is normal for us.
One morning, I shared the story of how my child had sought vengeance by tipping out an entire container of washing powder, all through the house. People looked incredulous, and I was a little surprised. This is life for me. It’s messy, chaotic, wild, hyperactive, impulsive, and full of disobedient behaviour. And I’m doing my best to work with what I’ve got. Judgement and awe changes nothing.
I don’t always expect my child to conform.
My child isn’t always going to do what you, or I, want them to do. They can’t sit still. They can’t listen for very long. They’re going to forget what we’ve said the moment it comes out of our mouths. They will pull faces in photos. They will need to fidget when listening at an event. We will bail early to let out energy somewhere else. We will do time out anywhere we need to. We want our children to grow up in the safety and comfort of being themselves, they don’t always need to conform to everyone else’s rules.
We, as a family, are doing the best job we can.
And that should be enough.
In saying all of this, we are very fortunate to have a lot of support, and know many wonderful people; we are so thankful for their kindness. People, and families, come in all shapes and sizes. This mess just happens to be ours.