My Eight ADD/ADHD Parenting Books

In writing this particular post, I’m going to get a little personal, so I hope you don’t mind. By that, I mean that I’m going to divulge some of the difficulties I’ve faced as the parent of an ADD child, and the books that have helped me or are helping me in that journey, and I hope that by doing so I might be able to help someone else know what they can do if they think or know that their child has ADD/ADHD. I’m the mother of a 13-year-old boy who was diagnosed with ADD in fourth grade, but who was more dynamic, stubborn, fun, impulsive, and forgetful than other kids from the day he was born. In those thirteen years, I have gained first-hand knowledge that ADD isn’t just a fancy name for the combinations of traits that can make a child harder to handle than others; it is a real-life disorder–a difference in brain structure–that manifests itself in an impaired ability to focus, to control one’s impulses, to handle transitions, and to organize. My son really wants to be able to focus, to be less forgetful and more organized and successful in school, but these things are hard for him, even despite years of training and mentoring. He’s getting better, but it’s probable that he’ll always struggle with these things more than other people.

That being said, I believe that ADD is also a blessing in his and our lives, in a way: he is incredibly interesting and fun and “in charge” (although that last trait may be more attributable to his personality and birth order than to the disorder itself). It’s very possible that he’ll be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company some day, if he can learn to focus on the positive parts of the disorder and compensate for the negative parts. I see my role as guiding him in that process, and I’m doing that with the help of several books, which I discuss below:

  • Smart But Scattered by Peg Dawson, EdD, and Richard Guare, PhD: helped me understand the relationship between ADD and executive skills, which are certain “life skills” like response inhibition, working memory, sustained attention, time management, goal-directed persistence, and flexibility. When I realized that, helping my son manage his ADD became more a matter of focusing on the development of those life skills than on treating a disorder. It’s not like I hadn’t been trying to help him develop life skills before than, but this book better helped me realize which ones I needed to focus on.
  • Parenting the Ephraim’s Child: Characteristics, Capabilities, and Challenges of Children who are Intensely MORE: by Deborah Talmadge and Jaime Theler. This is the book I got before Jonah was even diagnosed because, as I mentioned, he has definitely been always more. He refused, on pain of throwing up all over himself and crying for 5 1/2 hours, to sleep through the night until he was almost a year-and-a-half old, for example. The well-researched recommendations the authors make for managing these children have become some of my bedrock parenting skills, and have popped up–cloaked in more technical jargon–in many other ADD books I’ve read. I especially connected with the authors’ discussion of control and routine and of the potential that ADD brings to my son’s life, and with the fact that all of this is done within the context of LDS (“Mormon”) theology and culture. Since I and my family are Mormons, that was especially helpful.
  • Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents (Third Edition) by Russell A. Barkley, PhD. This one was recommended to me by a social worker recently, and it has been by far the most helpful. It sensitively dispelled some of the guilt and worry that I’ve felt about failing my son. The techniques that it prescribes are different than a lot of the other ones I’ve read, but they make so much sense, and seem to bring the whole family into the efforts to help the ADD child overcome his or her particular challenges and create a positive family culture.
  • Get Out of My Life, but first could you drive me and Cheryl to the mall? by Anthony E. Wolf, PhD. This one is actually not about ADD/ADHD at all, but about helping parents know to handle their teenagers. It helped me grasp better which behaviors I can attribute to my son’s dominant personality, which to the surge in his quest for freedom, and which to his ADD.
  • Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder From Childhood Through Adulthood by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., and John J. Ratey, M.D. I’ve read this one the least, as it’s geared toward the people who actually have the disorder, debunking common myths, providing coping tools, and a deeper discussion of the positives, which can include high energy, intuitiveness, creativity, and enthusiasm.
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, by Sean Covey. This book, too, is geared toward teens themselves, those sufferers of adolescence, and is not about ADD either, but provided me with a good sense of what’s really important (i.e., my son’s happiness and understanding of the world as opposed to his grades).
  • ADD/ADHD Behavior-Change Resource Kit by Grad L. Flick, PhD. Of all these books, this one is the most technical, in-depth, and “hands-on,” to be sure. It’s a workbook. It has whole sections on social skills, homework issues, and for teachers. It explored executive functioning in depth, which helped me realize that I needed professional coaching myself in the implementation of the many behavior-modification techniques it provides. It can be kind of overwhelming to implement all the possible recommendations from all of the books, let alone keep track of which book recommended what technique, so if there’s anything that I really credit this book for, it’s for helping me realize that I can’t do it alone, which is, ultimately, a good thing.
  • Positive Discipline Parenting Tools by Jane Nelsen, which I reviewed here, seemed to me to the most grounded in reality, even if its recommendations were somewhat unique.

 

Notice that I didn’t rank any of these books, even though some have definitely been more helpful than others to me. I describe them here so that you can have some of the tools you need to better parent your child with ADD/ADHD, if you have one, and to have more happiness and joy in the process.

The words "Positive Discipline Parenting Tools" 49 Most Effective Methods to Stop Power Struggles, Build Communication, and Raise Empowered, Capable Kids by Harmony

Book Review: Positive Discipline Parenting Tools

If there’s one truth I’ve learned as a parent, it’s that not all parenting books are created equal. I have read many in my time, and some have become my bibles,  while others…not so much. Recently, I read Positive Discipline Parenting Tools by Jane Nelsen, Mary Nelson Tamborski, and Brad Ainge. Thankfully, it has become one of the former: an enlightening and realistic book that helps me see my children and their behaviors in a new light. It also gives me hope for the improvement of both mine and theirs.

positive-discipline-cover

What Is Positive Discipline Parenting Tools About?

The main premise of Positive Discipline is that all punishments and rewards should be eliminated as disciplinary methods, and that they should be replaced with a kindly and firmly administered system of encouragement that addresses the basic needs of children to belong and feel significant. When I first read that in the introduction, I was instantly skeptical, sure that eliminating all rewards would take away what motivation my kids have to help around the house and do their homework, and that eliminating all punishments would make them think that they could get away with anything. But I was intrigued; as a parent, I’m always trying to make sure that I’m doing the best I possibly can for my kids, which for me means, in part, keeping up on all the best parenting techniques, and using those that best apply to our circumstances. Unless my kids are perfect, which they won’t ever be, and I and my husband are, which (sadly) we won’t, I’m always on the lookout for better techniques. Those described in Positive Discipline, at least the ones we’ve implemented, have been effective in reducing misbehaviors and increasing family harmony.

My Criteria for a Good Parenting Book

Obviously, that is one of my criteria for the quality of a parenting book: that the techniques it recommends actually work. My other criteria are as follows:

  • Are those techniques explained in enough detail that it’s easy to understand when and how they should be applied?
  • Are real-life examples given?
  • Does the author acknowledge the difficulty of consistently applying any disciplinary technique?
  • Is the author qualified to speak on successful parenting techniques? If so, what is their background? Do they have kids of their own?
  • Do any of the techniques described have elements in common with those recommended in other parenting books I’ve read?

 

The instructions provided about how to be kind and firm, given in chapter one, are a good illustration of how Positive Discipline passes my test.

An Example…

“Have you noticed how often two people with opposing philosophies about kindness and firmness get married?” the author asks.

“One has a tendency to be too lenient. The other has a tendency to be too strict. Then the lenient parent thinks he or she needs to be more lenient to make up for the stricter…parent. The strict parent thinks he or she needs to be stricter to make up for the more lenient…parent. So they get further and further apart and fight about who is right and who is wrong. In truth, they are both ineffective. The trick is to be kind and firm at the same time.”

That makes sense; I’ve seen that time and again in my own marriage and in others as well. A couple of in-depth examples are provided by Mary and Brad, two of the co-authors, about how that dichotomy looked in their family.  Then, Mary acknowledges: “Many parents struggle with this concept.” But then she provides a solution for a “coming together,” if you will, of those two opposing approaches, in the form of a list of options that I thought was very helpful.

Solutions

  • Validate feelings: “I know you don’t want to stop playing, and it’s time for dinner.”
  • Show understanding: “I know you would rather watch TV than do your homework, and homework needs to be done first.”
  • Redirection: “You don’t want to brush your teeth, and I don’t want to pay dentist bills. I’ll race you to the bathroom.”
  • Follow through on an earlier agreement: “I know you don’t want to unload the dishwasher now, and what was our agreement?
  • Provide a choice: “You don’t want to go to bed, and it is bedtime. Is it your turn to pick a book or mine?”
  • Validate feelings, give a choice, and then follow through by deciding what you will do: “I know you want to keep playing video games, and your time is up. You can turn it off now, or I will.”

 

Redirecting and providing choices are techniques that this book shares with Parenting the Ephraim’s Child: Characteristics, Capabilities, and Challenges of Children Who Are Intensely More by Jaime Theler and Deborah Talmadge, a book that has been especially helpful in raising my son with ADD.

But it’s not just because this book met my criteria that I liked it. Nor is it because the authors do indeed know what they’re talking about, possessing among them two advanced degrees in related fields, and being the parents of a combined twelve children. It’s also because it helped me realize some of the latent attitudes and beliefs I hold about myself when my children that very much influence how I parent.

So, yes, I highly recommend this book.

Who Would Like This Book?

Parents of kids as young as 2 or 3 and as old as 15-16.

What’s The Deal?

It’s normally $17 on Amazon, but it’s on sale for $13.72.

What parenting books have you found most helpful? What are your criteria?

Visual, Anyone?

via GIPHY

 

Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley.  All opinions contained herein are my own, honest-to-goodness feelings.