Sean E. Heerey  ND, MA, CCC/SLP

The words we say have power. Sometimes it is not the words we say but how we say those words that communicates how we are feeling. Our words can have the power to hurt and harm someone or they can heal and uplift.

Researchers at Florida International University made an interesting discovery about children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and parental expressed emotions. For many children with ADHD, symptoms appear to decrease as they age, but for some there is no such decrease and one reason for that may be persistent parental criticism. The researchers found that children with ADHD who had parents that regularly expressed high levels of criticism over time, were less likely to experience such a decline in symptoms.

While sustained parental criticism is not the cause of ADHD symptoms implementing interventions to reduce parental criticism may lead to a reduction in ADHD symptoms. (Although not the focus of the research article treating the unique needs of the child with ADHD can have profound effects.) Choosing our words is important. I recall my 4th grade teacher admonishing us to “think before you speak”.

Here are some ways to encourage children even when their behaviors are challenging your patience:
Start with something positive:

When you see the shoes in the middle of the room say “I like that you took your shoes off when you come into the house. Next time place them in the rack” (or wherever they belong)
Communicate rather that criticize. “Let’s do it differently next time” rather than launching into critical attack mode.

Wait. Some issues can wait. If one parent has already discussed an issue the other parent can wait or just not say anything.

Don’t forget to give praise! Always praise (or punish) the behavior and NOT the child. The child is inherently good. It is the action or the poor decision that is the issue. It is less stressful and better for all parties involved to act and speak with kindness and compassion.