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Parenting Works Cited: the Next Level

By Emily Milner

In a post a couple of years ago, I talked about my parenting works cited page: the books I read as a first time mother for each stage along the way. I’ve found myself grappling with some serious parenting challenges over the last couple of years: wrangling a toddler and a preschooler while figuring out how to handle ADHD and ODD in one of my older children.

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) often presents itself with ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). What this means is that a child who has a hard time staying focused is also wired to resist authority and rules. Things have gotten steadily better over the last year, and part of it is that I’ve done a lot of research and implemented the parts that worked for me. The other part of it is therapy, and the last part is medication. All three of those components are necessary–I wouldn’t do the medication alone without therapy and parental research, but I also saw the most dramatic results with my parenting techniques when we combined them with medication.

For a long time I kept hoping that there would be just one magic book that helped me know everything and fix all of our challenges. I tend to latch on to authority figures–if someone wrote a book about it, I figure, they must know more than me, so part of me wants to do everything they say. It’s the opposite of oppositional defiance–an unhealthy tendency to defer.

But the truth is that there is no one book written for my family. I write the book. There are works that have helped me, though, and if there’s someone out there who is wrestling with ADHD/ODD, this post is for you.

Book 1: The Nurtured Heart Approach, by Howard Glasser. More than anything else, this book helped me understand how my child thinks. Life, for them, is like a giant video game, in which attention from adults is the prize. But it’s the absolute value of attention, meaning that negative attention gives them a kind of buzz just like positive attention does. And negative attention is so much easier to come by. So if it seems like your ADHD child is deliberately pushing your buttons, that’s because they are. That negative energy is what they’re seeking. You counteract that with a completely neutral, unemotional way of giving consequences–no irritation, no negative energy, never yelling ever–and with abundant, specific, concrete praise.

This was life-changing for my parenting. I am much more positive now–one therapist told us that for every negative interaction I had with my child, we needed four positives, and I have found that to be true. I am constantly looking for good things, and when my child goes into melt-down mode, my automatic response is often (not always) to take a deep breath and deliberately calm myself. I know how to keep things from escalating like they used to.

Book 2: The Defiant Child: A Parent’s Guide to Oppositional Defiant Disorder, by Douglas A. Riley. –In many ways this is the polar opposite of The Nurtured Heart. The Nurtured Heart approach prefers that all consequences be brief time outs, and that your time not spent in time out be so full of positive, rich interaction that eventually time outs will go away. This did not happen for me. I’m sure I didn’t apply the book perfectly, but I have four other children, and I did my best (one of our therapists said that most parenting books are not written for larger families, and they assume you have more resources than you actually do). But time outs alone did not work, and as I read this book and recognized oppositional defiant characteristics in my child, I came to understand the need for real consequences so that my child could believe in my authority. I needed to give my child consequences, administered in a neutral and non-emotional, non-escalating way, that they really, really did not like. So I did. It was hard, but I’ve seen a dramatic improvement in the behaviors we struggled with. I don’t think Nurtured Heart alone could have done this.

Book 3: Parenting Children with ADHD: 10 Lessons that Medicine Cannot Teach, by Vincent J. Monastra.–this is a great general reference and resource guide for ADHD. It goes over the science of ADHD, and how the ADHD brain works differently. I was grateful to read that. Sometimes I think it’s all in my head, or my parenting, or stuff I have done. It’s true there are things I can do to be a better parent, but it’s also essential for me to realize that my child’s challenges are not all my fault. The book is not anti-medication, just pro-understanding the science of it, and pro-parenting.

These are my top three books for addressing my current parenting challenges. But every book I read adds another tool to my parenting skill set. I’m seeing more light in my family, and I feel more able to take joy in my child’s unique and engaging personality.

I’m most grateful for Book 4: The Book of Mormon, which is a great parenting resource. There’s Lehi, working away to teach his family until the very end of his life. Alma the Younger counseling Corianton. And Mormon writing to his son: “My son, be faithful in Christ, and may not the things I have written weigh thee down, but may Christ lift thee up.”

To any of my sisters who struggle with their kids, those are my words: May Christ lift thee up.

About Emily Milner

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

13 thoughts on “Parenting Works Cited: the Next Level”

  1. The third book you listed made a huge difference for me and my son. Last summer I worried constantly how I was going to "fix" my son. Reading that book helped me be much more compassionate and empathetic to him. We have such a better relationship right now that we have in the best, because I stopped trying to fix him.

    Thanks for this post. It can be really hard to publicly acknowledge having
    ADHD in your family because it is often such a polarizing issue. In the early days as I was grappling with the challenges ADHD was bringing to my family, I felt I couldn't even talk about it with others because I already felt like people around me thought I was a terrible parent who couldn't get my kid under control. Years of hard work and also a desire to reach out to others has helped me to be able to speak openly about some of the things we have dealt with and I have been lucky to talk with people who were more understanding than judgmental.

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  2. Thank you for this post! We have been struggling with my 8-year-old daughter for years and finally, in the past few months, have made it to the point of starting therapy and getting an official diagnosis of adhd and anxiety. A neuro-psych eval confirmed the adhd for us. While not diagnosed with ODD, her behavior is extremely oppositional. I was one of those people who thought adhd was mostly a made-up diagnosis reflecting a society with unreasonable expectations of children. I also had no idea that oppositional defiance was part and parcel of the adhd experience. I thought it was all about not being able to pay attention or sit still. I have read the first book you recommended and think it is something that would work well, yet after all these years of struggle, it is tiring to think about how to implement anything new. Therapy is giving me hope and restoring my faith that things can actually get better. I still have so many days when I feel like I am failing parenthood as it seems so impossible to get a grip on what is going on in our home on a daily basis. People who know us would be shocked to be a fly on the wall here.

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  3. TIffany, it really is hard to talk about. I want to be open and also respect my son's privacy, and that's a tough balance. Talking with other moms who have ADHD and oppositional issues has helped a lot. And I understand the tendency to judge because that used to be me. I have learned a lot.

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  4. Eljee, I'm so glad therapy is giving you hope. It did that for me too. I have unintentionally ended up treating therapists like parenting books: each one we've been to has had different useful things, so we've implemented them and then ended up going to someone else when they didn't have new things to add any more. I'm hoping to have a long-term therapist relationship at some point, but moving from one to another has also been useful.

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  5. I have three children with attention deficits and opposition defiance disorders.I also work as a speech therapist so I have a whole new sympathy for the other side parents experience. It has been a long rough road for us too. I appreciate these reccomended books. One that I love is Nicholeen Pecks book: A House United
    Teaching children self government. It provides an amazing way to deal with
    behavior effectvely and still love the child. I
    almost destroyed my own relationships with my children just trying to deal with all their behavior problems. This book was the beginning to helping us heal our relationships and helping our children gain self control. Thanks for sharing your struggles.

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  6. I know that this may not be it the answer for everyone but we are actually also homeschooling our children. I am finding it to be a relief rather than a burden since I can teach them in the way I think they learn best without the distractions of the classroom. I also get to teach all the other
    life skills we never seemed to have energy
    or attention for……like how to brush their teeth or clean a bedroom without feeling like it is world war three.

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  7. We homeschool too. Overall I do believe it is the best fit for my daughter, but it also means there is never a break.

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  8. Sandra, I need to look that book up. Even when I think we're doing better overall, we can still have challenging times (tonight was rough), and a new perspective always helps me.

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  9. I have thought about homeschooling, Sandra and Eljee, and I could see us doing that further on down the road. I'm grateful regular school is working out for him right now, though.

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  10. We are homeschooling too, which has ended up being a real bonus for my super-active son. For me, medication was not the answer that felt right, so I kept searching and finally found books about not medicating, my favorite is 'suffer the children, the case against labeling and medicating and an effective alternative' by marilyn wedge. She is a family therapist, she writes about the dynamic of the family/marriage and it's effect on children suffering with disorders. I bring this up only to provide a resource for someone like me, who felt meds were not a good fit for them. It took me reading a number of add/adhd books before it dawned on me that their might also be books with alternative solutions. I will say though, that I think it would be very difficult to not medicate my child if he were in ''normal' school.
    And I also really like Edward M. Hallowell's books, which have both therapy/parenting ideas and medication sections.

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  11. I love this idea of the "works cited" in parenting.

    One of my top works cited would would be Faber & Mazlish "How to listen so kids will talk and talk so kids will listen" By the same authors, there is a teen version and "Siblings without Rivalry." I learned to validate feelings without giving in on worthwhile family rules. I learned to give real feedback and acknowledgement instead of vague compliments. This made a difference in my children's lives.

    Another top work cited for me is Ellyn Satter "How to get your kid to eat, but not too much." It provided a kind and consistent approach for providing food to a child with sensitivity issues, but once again the entire family benefited. I love how she taught me an appropriate respect for my child that in no way threatened my authority or effectiveness as a mother.

    I would love to hear what other readers claim as their parenting Works Cited.

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