Thursday, April 19, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Tell Me About It: Stern dad is unrealistic about ADHD son

Q: My 8-year-old son does not have the greatest relationship with my husband, and I am clearly his favorite. My son is a bit challenging in general; he has ADHD and is gifted and sensitive.

Anyway, my husband's expectations of him just don't seem to match reality. He expects my son to act like a "normal" 8-year-old, and when he gets distracted or forgets to do things, my husband gets stern with him. He believes he should treat him as normally as possible, and thus similarly to his older brother, because that's the way the world works.

Every time my husband gets stern, my son gets upset, reflexively saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," even when he wasn't to blame.

Of course my husband doesn't believe in therapy and won't go. He doesn't especially believe there is a problem at all. What's my next step?

Caught in the Middle

A: There absolutely is a problem here, and most of it is your husband. The arbitrary stubbornness required to rule out a possible way to make things better will affect every aspect of your home environment.

Therapy might not be the answer, who knows. But his refusal even to try it means he won't challenge his certainties with new things; won't consider that his reasoning or actions might be wrong; won't defer to an expert; won't acknowledge your son's feelings and confidence as aspects of his overall health.

Kids can grow into happy adults by way of households tyrannized by know-it-all parents, but it'll be harder than it needs to be for sure, and it won't be sure to happen. Your advocacy is going to be crucial to your son's belief that he's not defective and is not to blame for every obstacle he faces in life.

Specifically, you need to avail yourself of every resource you can: Advocate for your son to get what he needs at school; look into assistive technologies and techniques.

Finally, go to therapy solo, please. Your kids need you to have a steady hand.

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