Posted on August 19, 2013 by Debra Burdick
I am embarrassed to admit that I used to yell at my daughter. Yup, I did it. Now I’ve said it and everyone knows. So why am I telling you this now? Because it taught me such a powerful lesson and I think what I learned might help other parents.
My daughter was diagnosed with ADHD in grade school. She was always beautiful, bright, full of energy, and very social. But she had trouble sitting still or staying focused long enough to do school work or homework. Plus she was very strong willed. We used to joke about how she inherited her ‘stubbornness’ from her father’s grandmother.
Why did I yell at her? She was the cutest little girl, so loveable, and so sweet. But all of a sudden when she didn’t want to do something she would transform into a very angry and obstinate child. She was a master at pulling me into no-win power struggles before I knew how to avoid them. And she really knew how to push my buttons. She would yell at me, tell me she hated me, criticize my work, and on and on. And I would yell back. It turns out this pattern is not un-common with kids that have ADHD.
Why did I get so angry? I had never felt so angry in my whole life before I started getting angry with my daughter. I felt helpless and so frustrated, often not knowing what to do to get her to go to sleep at night, get up in the morning, or to pick out an outfit for school, or to be ready on time for the bus, or to do her homework. You know – the basics that all kids must do but that kids with ADHD often struggle with. And as I discovered, the usual parenting tactics don’t always work with kids with ADHD.
I always felt horrible after I yelled at her. When she yelled at me and I yelled back I always apologized for yelling at her after we calmed down. I knew these battles were not good for either of us and I hated losing my temper with her. I figured since I was the adult I should be able to control my emotions. So I looked for help. Here’s some help for you!
I finally learned to avoid the power struggles and step away from the battles. When she would get so angry with me I began to pay attention to my own emotional reaction. As soon as I noticed my anger coming up, I would know it was time to disengage. When she screamed ‘I hate you’ I would tell her ‘I’m sorry you feel that way. I love you very much. I’m going in the other room to calm down. Let me know when you feel calmer’. At first she would try to follow me and kept yelling but eventually she realized that I wouldn’t engage with her until she was calm. Invariably after her anger subsided she would come in and apologize for yelling (she learned to apologize because that’s what I always did). Then we would talk about what happened and figure out how to get done what needed to be done. For more info, go to http://thebrainlady.com/articles/adhd-can-mindfulness-help/.
We have a very close mother-daughter relationship. I am so thankful that I finally figured out how to stop yelling at her. Becoming mindful of my emotional reaction was the key to helping me change my response to her behavior. It helped me stay firm, without getting angry, when I needed her to do something she didn’t want to do. It allowed me to model for her how to manage intense emotions without causing damage to our relationship.
Be mindful of your emotions as you parent your child. Tune in and notice what feelings you are experiencing while they are happening. This will help you respond to your child in a healthier way with less anger. Being more mindful will also expand your awareness of the joy and love that comes with parenting. It’s all good. To learn more about being more mindful in your daily life visit http://thebrainlady.com/mindfulness/.
I would love to hear your personal experiences with this topic.