I do not want to create too much controversy with the post this month, but the truth is that I’ve been toying around with the issue of HONESTY; an essential value to teach to our children with ADHD (and to those without the disorder as well, of course, but it is not the same …)
Being honest is being worthy of honor; meaning that anyone can count on you. If someone asks you to do something, and you start doing it…. (hey, does this nuance ring a bell? There are so many times when we ask them to do something and so very few times do they do what we ask them …) you’ll finish it the best you can, even if it takes you some time and is difficult.
People who practice honesty are known for their determination, their formality and accuracy. In other words, they walk the talk. Others will know they can trust them.
I have to confess that I have often thought that children with ADHD do not deserve to be trusted because most of the time they don´t come through. This occurs in most cases and has been my experience so far. And I have gradually become a person who is doubting, guarding, controlling, and less relaxed. How awful!
In order to practice honesty, before making a commitment, we have to stop and think (Stop? Think? But I’m ADHD!) and make sure it is something we can and really want to do. We will then go forward as we understand it is important to be worthy of other´s trust in us.
Do these situations sound familiar?
– We ask for the change when they return from a quick shopping trip and they do not know where it has gone …
– A family member shares a secret and they do not keep that secret despite having promised that they would
– They promise to help (yes, right now, for sure…) but are distracted watching TV or reading a book
How difficult is it to make them understand? Why can´t they just answer: “I do not feel capable and I need you to explain it to me again” or “I’d rather not to do it because I’m not sure I´ll be able to finish it by myself”, or “would you mind asking me again in 10 minutes, the time it will take me to finish watching these cartoons?” First of all, it´s difficult for them to tell us and difficult for us to remember that they do not process our requests the same as other children without ADHD. Second of all, we end up judging them; “liar, lazy, worthless …”, and we just go back to our feelings of frustration, disappointment, exasperation …etc
Neuroscience tells us that our brains are not designed to tell lies or to cheat, but don’t admit uncertainty. What I mean to say is that when ADHD children percieve a situation as stressful or being the source of anxiety for whatever reason : (because they don´t fully understand a concept or don´t want to make the effort to; or whatever…), their first answer will be “YES”, because for them it is essential to remove those feelings of uncertainty, and if they are also impulsive, they will be quick in answering anything off hand…
Their intention is to remove the stress of the request and run from it. They don´t think that they are being dishonest; they just need to escape.
To me, honesty has to do with responsibility. In the world of coaching, we say that having responsibility is having the necessary skills to be able to respond. Our children believe deep down in their hearts that they don’t have these skills and therefore avoid any responsibility in a very particular way. This elusive behavior is disguised by attitudes that seem insincere and unreliable to us.
What can we do? In this case, I don´t think we should dwell as much about honesty, which is good, and is, after all, a virtue and a value as we should on helping them to become more aware of what is going through their heads at that moment with these following techniques: ( relaxation, a walk, a talk …).
Remember that our children’s ADHD lives only in the present and has no image of the future. They will verbalize, without thinking, only what their neural circuitry offers them as a first alternative to escape. So it’s good to stop and wait for a few seconds in order to give the brain time to seek other alternatives. If not, their truth will seem a lie to us, a big one. And we already know how we can react …
I realize that this is a very sensitive issue. Talking about it is not easy but as parents, we must lead by example and practice in front of them. For example, if we are offered a new position, we can give them a small demonstration of an analysis of the risks, opportunities and inference process that allows us to decide whether we should take it or not, and the commitment which it entails. If we are asked for a favor, let’s share our thinking on how to ensure that we are able to accomplish what we are expected to, reviewing our skills and looking for people who can complement us. Or, when we have a private conversation with someone, comment about the importance of discretion and how important it is for the other person to respect our privacy.
They will see attitudes opposed to theirs. They will listen to ‘rare’ words like: decision, commitment, trust, peace, tranquility, satisfaction and pride for a job well done…
We should be here for that, to teach them to mature as human beings. Shouldn’t we?