Book Review: Parenting Your Child with ADHD: A No-Nonsense Guide for Nurturing Self-Reliance and Cooperation, by Craig Wiener, EdD

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I have recently read this book, and I think it would be extremely helpful for parents, teachers, and counselors who work with children in this area.

Here are some quotes:

“…ADHD [is] something that your child does rather than something that she has.”

“The first thing to realize is that while you and other adults see your child’s ADHD behavior as a problem to overcome, for your child, ADHD behavior holds solutions to the difficulties that he faces on a daily basis. When your child encounters adversity, ADHD behavior somehow mitigates the situation. When you identify what gives his ADHD behavior its staying power, you will have gained valuable insight into why such behavior repeats so frequently. You will also be taking a giant step forward in knowing how to eliminate it.”

“Groups are breeding grounds for ADHD behavior, because children often have problems accommodating when they must function in groups. In group settings, individuals are typically less important than the group as a whole, so they may feel neglected in comparison to one-on-one interactions, in which they have more influence and importance. It comes as no surprise, then, that one-on-one interaction results in less ADHD behavior in comparison to when a child is part of a group. This is why your child might have been doing okay before he started preschool or kindergarten.”

“When your child feels neglected or denied in a group, ADHD behavior can be quite effective in getting people to shift their attention back to him.”

“Your child’s ADHD behavior may have any of the following beneficial effects: it may garner attention for her, it may get others to make accommodations for her, it may help her avoid certain situations, it may help her acquire something she wants, and it may antagonize others for doing things she does not like. Any one of the five “A”s can increase the frequency of ADHD behavior. Sometimes these reinforcements even work in combination to drive particular behaviors, strengthening them that much more.”

“ADHD behavior generally remits as soon as the child hears the word “yes.” Loved ones will frequently offer relief when hearing a child complain or create problems. This can occur when your child overreacts, shows frustration, becomes self-critical, or behaves in any number of ways that indicate distress. When a child is diagnosed with ADHD and considered impaired, the tendency is for the adults in her life to lower their expectations and offer support.”

“The accommodated child will often ask questions about matters that she can easily resolve on her own. She enjoys the fact that you drop everything to address her concerns. Playing dumb or foolish can increase assistance because it’s difficult to impose requirements, hold her accountable, or ask her to contribute when you have doubts about her competence. Her staying ineffectual can keep you preoccupied with her, and it becomes your responsibility to solve her trials and tribulations. Often she will complain, ‘Why didn’t you remind me?’ when you failed to run interference for her. The side effect when you and others ‘pick up the slack’ is that she remains unskilled.”

“If your child frequently sabotages your shopping, shop for essentials and the items you want first. Buy what she likes at the end. If she wants you to buy snacks, for example, say, ‘We can get the snacks before we leave, if we’re still interested in shopping.’ Even if this makes your shopping trip less efficient (e.g., instead of working through the aisles in order, you pass the snack aisle at first and return to it later), her behavior may improve.”

“Most ADHD interventions recommend that schools adjust to the needs of the child with ADHD. If the school does not make the recommended changes, parents are encouraged to pressure administrators until the adjustments occur. However, insisting that the school make all the adjustments comes with an important risk: your child may not learn to adapt to others’ ways and adjust to the world the way it is.

As is evident from the above quotations, Craig does not conceptualize ADHD as an illness.  Rather, he presents these kinds of behaviors as ways in which the child copes with difficulties that he or she might be experiencing for various reasons.

The book is written in plain, jargon-free English, and is filled with down-to-earth, practical advice, suggestions, and detailed illustrations.  Craig encourages parents to scrutinize their own actions and perspectives, not from a blaming perspective, but rather to explore ways in which the parent-child interactions might be reinforcing the very behaviors that are causing concern.

Craig’s suggestions and examples are presented thoughtfully, and without patronization, and I think most parents, even those whose children have never been labeled ADHD, will be able to see something of themselves in the pages.

I, and I suspect most people who have worked in this field, have heard many parents say:  I’m at the end of my rope.  I don’t know what I can do with this child (or words to that effect).  Well here’s something that any parent can do:  get a copy of this book; read it; and give the suggestions a try.

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Disclosure:  I have no financial links to this book or to any books/materials that I endorse on this website

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

1 COMMENT

  1. Good to know someone is writing about a behavioral perspective on ADHD, as many, many cases are simply a matter of the child finding a way to meet his/her needs when presented with a situation that is dull or frustrating or overly constraining. The author does not appear to identify one other reward of “ADHD” behavior – it makes things more interesting! The only thing most “ADHD” kids have in common is that they don’t like to be bored. Our own often seemed to create arguments just for the sake of seeing the adults getting upset or getting themselves removed from a dull environment. Pre-emptively creating interesting or exciting or stimulating activities is often an incredibly effective way to redirect “ADHD” behavior to something productive. Additionally, getting “upset” when they do what is wanted is an excellent and humorous way to reinforce the more oppositional kids when they are induced to cooperate.

    It is also important to remember that this kind of behavior can actually be caused by a number of other physical and/or psychological conditions, such as low iron, sleep difficulties, and a traumatic or chaotic home environment. It’s always critical to keep in mind that “ADHD” children are for the most part very different from one another, other than the fact that their behavior is annoying to adults and especially teachers who have an interest in children who can more easily be herded efficiently into doing what they are asked.