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  • Writer's pictureADHD low-down

“Throw Out the Rulebook”

#ADHD ~Something beautiful happens when you set expectations for your child with ADHD based on who they are and where they are today. It’s called success and happiness.


One thing I keep telling the parents of kids with ADHD who I work with — coaching clients and online course students —is: Place the parenting rulebook in the garbage can, please. This is my No. 1 priority for parents raising kids with neuro-atypical challenges.

Your child is not a typical child. What the parenting gurus teach, and likely what you grew up learning about being a parent, applies to raising “typical” children. It’s information for the masses, for the norm. That means, these books and societal expectations of parenting are for typical children, not your child.

I grew up with the notion that success in life was a game of sequentially falling dominos, and it started with school. When you get good grades in school, you get into college. When you do well in college and get a degree, you get a good job that pays well. And a good, well-paying job equals success.

I’d be boiling over with frustration if I had that expectation for my son, a high school student with ADHD, “high-functioning” autism, and learning disabilities. With that mindset, I’d feel certain that he would never achieve success or happiness as an adult. I’d imagine a grim future for him. And, often, that negativity can turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. No one wants that.

So I learned to throw out the parenting rulebook and write my own guide for who my child is — what’s true for him. I stopped expecting A’s and B’s in school, even though he has a gifted IQ. I stopped expecting him to “act his age.” I started crafting my expectations of him based on his truth, not on some parenting book written for typical kids, and not on the experiences of families around me.

As soon as I made the conscious decision to throw out the conventional parenting guides and the traditional ideas of parenting, it opened the door for parenting the way my son needs me to. It can do the same for you.

Once you recognize and accept that your child doesn’t fit that “typical” mold, you automatically look for what is specifically true for your child. You automatically start setting expectations based on that information, instead of the more traditional parenting ideas. Something beautiful happens when you set expectations for your child based on who they are and where they are today, in this moment: success, achievement, and happiness come flooding in.

When your child achieves your expectations, he or she feels successful, confident, and happy. When your child achieves your expectations, you feel confident, hopeful, and optimistic. Now you have positivity to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because now you changed your thinking — your mindset — about raising a child with ADHD. You’re focusing more on the good than the bad. You’re crafting a life of success and joy for your child’s future.

All parents have the same goal: raising their child to be a happy, successful adult. What that looks like and how to achieve it looks a lot different when the child has ADHD — and it is anything but “typical.”

Author: Penny Williams

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