Episode 52: Parenting a Child with ADHD

In this episode of The Family Couch, we talk with Dr. Ann-Louise Lockhart about  how to parent and be more joyous in parenting a child with ADHD.

Lockhart’s specialty is working with families who have children who have medical diagnoses such as bedwetting, constipation, pain from cancer, ADHD, etc.  Lockhart believes very strongly in education about the child’s condition and putting this education first.

We jump in and discuss how parents can learn to set boundaries with a child who has ADHD instead of using the condition as an excuse for poor behavior.  Lockhart gives an example of a 9-year-old boy who says he’s been working on his behavior skills and doing better but sometimes fails “because of the ADHD.”  Lockhart says we cannot blame the diagnosis. When she is working with a child, she teaches them to be aware of the diagnoses and understand where it is happening in the brain.  One of the first things she does is teach them about the brain, and which part is responsible for the regulation of thoughts and emotions. Because the brain is growing and developing, they can be retrained and rewired as they grow.  

We next discuss that ADHD shows up in the frontal lobe of the brain.  From the age of birth to 26, the frontal lobe is rapidly growing and developing.  It is responsible for judgment, decision-making, self-monitoring, impulse control, emotional regulation, personality, starting a task, maintaining a task, and finishing a task.  With ADHD, this part of the brain is underdeveloped and understimulated. Medication for ADHD stimulates this part of the brain, essentially. It is kind of like having a sleepy brain.  This is also the part of the brain responsible for organization. This is why when you tell your kid to clean their room, they probably won’t do a good job because they don’t know exactly what that means.  Do you put away toys, clean up books, make your bed? This is too much to figure out. It has nothing to do with intelligence. Children with ADHD are often highly intelligent but have difficulty figuring out what to do with all of the information. With true ADHD, children are often not defiant but just simply distracted and forget about what they were supposed to be doing.

Children with ADHD find mundane, boring, time-intensive, mind-draining tasks extremely difficult to do.  Most people do anyway, but with ADHD, it is hard to regulate. They have a more difficult time finding the motivation to do these things.  Parents often think that their kids cannot pay attention, but the definition of ADHD is the inability to regulate attention and behaviors. They have a thought or emotion and do not know how to regulate it.  

We next discuss how parents can set reasonable expectations for their child when there are some things that just have to be done.  Lockhart feels that if parents can better understand the behavior and why it occurs, then they can understand why the interventions is effective.  She gives an example of a child that talks too much at school and teachers want to know what to do. Lockhart says it depends on why they are doing it–they may have low self-esteem, or they have a disability, or they had no sleep.  Each intervention would be different based on why the child is acting that way. Another example is having a child that isn’t cleaning their room. Are they not doing it because it’s overwhelming, are they just being flat-out defiant, or is it because they truly do not know how to start?  If they don’t know how to do it, you have to teach them. You tell them step-by-step. If they don’t want to do it, you have to incentivize it. We should always focus on teaching the skill. We often jump to punishment but this doesn’t teach them anything.

We finally discuss how to handle the emotional aspect of having a child with ADHD in a society that does not know how to help them.  Lockhart explains that the emotional aspect is the learned piece. Children learn bad habits over time. They learn that if they whine enough or throw a hard enough tantrum, you will eventually give in or yell or tell them to do what they want.  So they learn that when they behave this way, they get to do what they want. Lockhart gives an example of a child that lies compulsively. To learn not to lie automatically, they have to take a second and think about what their answer will be. As parents, we have to give them that moment to figure it out.  Lockhart provides that the hardest challenge she has with most parents is them changing their outlook on their child’s behavior. Changing this perspective on the child’s behavior is key. If Lockhart has parents who are older or grandparents who are raising their grandchildren who say that they didn’t have ADHD back in their time, she explains that lot of things worked when they were kids that don’t work now.  Kids today are different than before. This does not mean we let them get away with things but we have to approach it differently. Kids are more savvy and aware than ever before.



Dr. Ann-Louise Lockhart is a pediatric psychologist and the president of A New Day Psychology in San Antonio, TX.  For 10 years, she worked with the military as a civilian provider. Her specialty area is working with children who have ADHD or other medical issues.  Lockhart has two children ages 5 and 7.



WEBSITE: https://www.anewdaysa.com/

FACEBOOK:  https://www.facebook.com/dr.annlouise.lockhart

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/dr.annlouise.lockhart/

EBOOK: https://www.anewdaypediatricpsychology.com/ebook-wip-page


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