A New Have a look at Discovering What Works with ADHD
When I was a kid, I used to teach my mom to yell and yell at me.
“This room is a pigsty, clean it up immediately!” Feeling bad, I took a sweater, folded it up, put it in the drawer and looked around at what to do next. “Oh, well, there is my book. I wonder how Nancy Drew will find the missing clue. “
Mom inevitably came to check on me: “What are you doing? I told you to tidy up your room – now be busy. ”Feeling even worse, I hung up two blouses and tossed a pair of dirty pants into the clothes slot. After scanning the endless stacks, I got discouraged and lay down to take a nap. If I got some rest, maybe I could cope with the mess.
Woken up by the pounding on the stairs: “What’s wrong with you?” My mother would scream. “I asked you to do a simple thing and you deliberately defy me.”
Sound familiar? We didn’t know much about ADHD back then. My poor mother didn’t know what to do with me. My sister had no problem keeping her room and clothes nice and tidy. It seemed that the only way to clean up my room was to stand over me and scream and scream. As you can imagine, this pattern was disastrous for our relationship.
Fortunately, you are a parent today when we know so much more about the brain, motivation, and ADHD. It turned out that I was really not being bad, or lazy, or deliberately defying my mom, even though I was struggling to motivate myself to do boring things. Neuroscientists recently demonstrated that this behavior is a characteristic of ADHD.
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A new look at understanding ADHD
Brain scans show that humans have two circuits to motivate themselves: emotionally and cognitively. The emotional cycle works both positively and negatively. For example, if you’re very excited about going on a trip, you may find it easy to organize and pack your clothes. On the other hand, even if you hate doing bookkeeping, you can probably motivate yourself to get your taxes done by April 15th because you fear the negative consequences.
The cognitive circuit does not respond to emotional motivation. People have to tell themselves to just do it.
Get it: It turns out that ADHD types don’t have a cognitive or “just do it” cycle.
The director of neuro-imaging research at Harvard, Dr. George Bush, conducted a study that put people into a brain imaging machine and asked them to remember a rule and do a boring task. He learned that neurotypical people use a small patch in the center of their brain. They now call this the Nike Circuit because people use it when they’re not really motivated, when they have to bring themselves to “just do it”.
When Dr. Bush tested participants with ADHD, there was no activity at the Nike site. Instead, the emotional centers on either side of her brain lit up. When he asked the neurotypical people about the exercise, they said, “Really boring.” Those with ADHD exclaimed, “That was horrific!” Participants with ADHD naturally knew that they had to be emotionally upset to do the task.
Find out what’s working for your ADHD
If my mom had known my “just do it” cycle wasn’t working, she wouldn’t have viewed me as deliberately lazy and defiant. She might have said, “I know your room is hard for you to clean, so let’s find out how to make it work with ADHD and make it fun and easy. Let’s put on some happy music and set a timer and see how much we can do together in 10 minutes. ”Or,“ If you want to go to that fun slumber party tonight, you have to pick up your clothes first. ”That would have worked because I could always bring myself to doing unpleasant tasks for an instant desirable reward.
We all need to figure out how to get ourselves to do things that we don’t necessarily want to do. Simply understanding this wiring difference can reduce your frustration and stimulate effective creativity.
Modeling is a parent’s most powerful tool, and you can involve the family in the process. Try asking your children for suggestions. “I wonder how I am going to get myself into doing boring bookkeeping. Do you have any ideas? “Then thank them and let them know how it worked. Or,” What do you think might inspire you to get your project done early? “Then experiment and find out what works best.
Getting up in the morning was a constant ordeal for one of my families until we asked Jake what would make him get up on time and comfortably. It turned out that the simple instant reward of a baseball card was incentive enough. It worked like a charm. The secret is to ask them instead of telling them. Without exception, they have the best ideas.
Here’s the good news: as your children learn more effective ways to motivate themselves, they will find out what works for their ADHD and life will be easier for the whole family, especially you. Have fun!