The Paradox of Parenting

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How can I feel less anxious about my teen's request for more freedom?

The Paradox of Parenting

All parents, including highly credentialed 'experts', can doubt their parenting abilities with an AD/HD youth. As your teen demands that you exert less control over his or her social life, your natural instinct will be to exert more control. It is natural to want to know who your child is socializing with and how they spend their time together. It is understandable that you are concerned about the decisions that they make in the present may bring consequences for the rest of their lives. But parenting teenagers isn't joyless. In fact, these can be some of the richest and most enjoyable years of your teen's life. A few precautions are reasonable, though.

Know your teen's friends. Companions that break the law and abuse substances or drink are not good influences on your teen, but their impact on your teen's behavior can be significant.

Keep your teen occupied after school. A part-time job, sports practice, babysitting, cutting lawns, working in a store - these are structured activities that help build good work habits and accountability for one's actions.

Attend to problem behaviors as you always have: identify the issue, create an intervention strategy, and remain confident that both you and your child will cope with the current situation successfully.

When your teen practices good judgment in situations that are ambiguous, say, declining to attend a party in the home of a friend whose parents are out of town, comment on her good judgment and reward her as you would when she demonstrates that she can make good choices in difficult circumstances.

When house rules are broken impose reasonable consequences. When you threaten to ground a teen or take away social privileges for a very long time, these consequences are difficult to maintain especially when you realize in hindsight that you overreacted.

Remind your teen that driving is a privilege and connect driving privileges to responsible behavior. For instance, a teen's grades tend to do down when they first begin driving. Withdraw the driving privilege until grades improve.

If your teen is on medication that may impact reaction time responses, check with your doctor to see if the medications do not interfere with operating motor vehicles.

Avoid scare tactics and threats. Hire a driving instructor or enroll your child in the school's Driver's Ed program. This way another adult, experienced and objective with new drivers is in charge of all the "thrills" that come with learning how to drive.

Sometimes, impulsiveness can create a situation where law enforcement officials become involved. When this happens increase your vigilance and provide more guidance and supervision. Usually, the nature of the event and the subsequent natural consequences imposed on your teen will be adequate to remind your teen to make a better choice in the future.

Provide supervision, especially after school. Avoid angry, hostile interaction when the rules are broken, and seek to teach your teen something useful when you give consequences. Punitive actions designed to punish are rarely effective. Teens can and will rebel against this kind of treatment. It is better to teach your teen how to use consequences to improve deficits, rather than punish him for lacking essential life skills. Dr. Russell Barkley gives parents comfort when he stated, "The good news is that most parents of children with ADHD are doing things right...typical parenting mistakes are not irreparable or long lasting."



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