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Home > Support > Mothering > How can I handle the disruptive influence of my ADHD child?
Question: My oldest child was diagnosed with ADHD two years ago and has been taking a medication to help. My fourth child is now 5 years old and to say that she is a handful is putting it mildly. My husband and I think she may be ADHD, no it could be that God has given her a cross in the form of a temper. She uses words that are on the family no-no list (such as shut-up, stupid, etc.) all the time even though she is punished for doing so. She says some of the most awful things to her friends in the neighborhood. Now her little friends don't want to play with her anymore and she is very lonely but blames the other little girls for the problem. This fall I will have a 6th, 5th, and 2nd grader in homeschool and just don't think I can handle the disruptive influence of my 4th child. I have been advised by various neighbors that I should enroll her in the Kindergarten class in the nearby public school and I must admit it's very tempting. I know that we could be taking her from the proverbial frying pan and throwing her into the fire but the thought of trying to teach her for even 1/2 a day is daunting. Do you have any suggestions?

Dear Mom,

Your letter was such a holy witness of a parent's interior struggle to understand behavior in their child. To say that disruptive behavior brings confusion and sorrow into a parent's life is an understatement. One of the reasons that such behavior bows a parent down is because is breaks our heart to see the hurt and pain that it brings into the life of our child.

ADHD is a medical term which describes symptomatic behavior in persons. I believe that it can only be correctly diagnosed with proper medical help. Too many times we are quick to label behaviors with medical terms out of our complete frustration to understand what we can not comprehend.

Children are constantly learning to decode the behavior that they exhibit. Let me explain. When a very young child "explodes" in anger out of frustration in order to manipulate those who care for him or interact with him, this surprises the child almost as much as it shocks those who witness the behavior. Sometimes inexperienced parents (and we are all in that category at one time or another) react by "giving into the child" in order to make them stop the behavior that disturbs everyone. Only after parents have had the time to sort through the feelings are they in a position to think and react differently should the outburst happen again.

Some children exhibit negative behavior due to immaturity. At our house we call that a "short fuse." Until the child learns to control that behavior on their own, it is a parental challenge of the greatest magnitude. As I implied earlier, this is in large part a question of maturity.

Maturity is reached throughout a lifetime and in different ways and in different phases according to the individuality of the person. We can not rush maturity. Therefore it is unfair to the child to compare his or her maturity level based on the behavior of others. If a child is not mature for their station in life then it only means that something may be making this difficult whether physical or emotional. There is a great deal to consider.

I always feel that it is best to talk situations like this over with a qualified health care provider trained to help parents to discern what is happening in their child. Though neighbors may be kind and caring individuals, the easiest child to parent is the "neighbor's kid."

As parents we must take responsibility for our children in a loving and forthright manner. We are the ones who are responsible to seek the advice of qualified persons.

Schools and institutions are not in the business of "straightening out" our children. Let me explain. A kindergarten teacher is teaching from knowledge which empowers her to work within a wide range of normal behavior. She is not there to "cure" problems that may impair a child's ability to interact with other children. Though she reaches out in compassion to a troubled child, she will in wisdom alert the parent to problems that are beyond her scope as a teacher. Responsible parents will then use this information to help their child.

To say that sending your daughter to kindergarten will "cure" or fix a preexisting problem is to expect too much from a school. In other words, would you send a 5 year old who has never been potty trained to kindergarten hoping that the kindergarten teacher would potty train the child? Of course not. Behavior is the same way depending upon the severity of the behavior. If a child gets homesick easily and cries uncontrollably when separated from parents, is it fair to force them to conform to social norms and "drop them off" for hours on end just to cure them?

What's a parent to do? First talk with someone (a health care provider) who can help you discern normal from abnormal. Secondly make it a priority to deal with her behavior as it happens. Devote all your attentions to this challenge. Her behavior is already isolating her from her peer group and this must be very sad for this dear one. Use compassion, not anger (her behavior is angry and getting angry with her just reinforces a negative response to frustration). Explore healthy alternatives and teach her healthy alternatives to negative behavior.

I have a daughter with this same problem. She was a "late bloomer" and handled frustration very poorly. Her dyslexia was at the root of many of her problems.

We have to work together to understand healthy ways to handle frustration. For example, "walking away from situations that are making her angry," "sitting quietly when feeling pushed or mad," etc. It has been a challenge, but I will tell you that she is one of the most loving of individuals and seems to have a heart of compassion for the "underdog." Her patience is incredible when dealing with very young children. I believe she has an understanding of their feelings borne of personal knowledge.

Until you help your dear daughter deal with her behavior she will be unable to function in groups of children no matter where she is schooled. Her behavior is causing the sorrow not where she is schooled.

What a blessing that this dear child has you for a mother. Jesus loves our children more completely than we can understand or comprehend. In this great love for the child He gives each child to the perfect parent for them. Because Jesus has blest you with this child then it only stands to reason that He will give you the skills to work through this challenge. Do not let the Tempter enter the mix. Rejoice in the power of the Lord and go forward towards solutions and answers. Accept your rightful empowerment and gift from the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, we praise You and accept from Your everlasting love for us the gift of empowerment which is from the Holy Spirit. Please come to the side of this dear mother. Lord, she loves her children so very much and longs to know the right course of action to take. We trust in Your desire to show us the skills we need and trust that You will not hide yourself from us. Come, Holy Spirit, and empower the spirits of all parents. Amen.

I will tell you this, Mom. When a child loses their temper there is a deep feeling of sorrow that covers their heart. They may not always show it due to the feelings of vulnerability they have. It always feels appropriate to hold a child in our arms and surround them with love and say to them "I love you. I know that you are hurting right now. Let's sit quietly and rest for a moment."

Sending out a prayer,
Rita Munn

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