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Parenting a Kid with ADHD: Focus on the Good

Posted by Karla Socci Somers

The marquis at my wellness center says, “Find the good and praise it.” – a quote by Alex Haley, most famous for authoring Roots: The Saga of an American Family.

Even before I read this positive reminder on the larger-than-life sign, I have been telling myself to “focus on the good” when it comes to my daughter. As you probably know already, parenting a child with ADHD and Oppositionality often puts the not-so-good front and center.

When my almost-10-year-old (who has one foot on the emotional rollercoaster known as Puberty) is making me feel like I will quite possibly start screaming, I absolutely have to focus on the good. If I don’t, it is way too easy to spiral into a boiling vat of negativity that will scald us both – perhaps permanently.

“It is exhausting,” I complained to a friend. “Lately, all I do is argue and negotiate the benefits of brushing her teeth, or why she has an actual bedtime. Or why I won’t let her wear a tank top to school when it is only 43 degrees outside.”

I continually find myself wondering,

Why can’t she get it?

Why isn’t she able to simply follow a morning or bedtime routine now that she is almost 10 years old?

Why do I have to remind her to put on shoes and brush her hair every single day?

Why can’t she be obedient like other kids her age?

Then, I remind myself: because she is not like other kids her age. She is uniquely and wonderfully her own individual being. And, I have the opportunity to focus on all the good things she is rather than what she is not.

Too Much Negativity is Not a Good Message

It occurred to me that kids with ADHD frequently hear what they are doing wrong. They often hear how a parent or teacher is displeased with their behavior or inability to focus on the important task at hand. In my daughter’s case, she often hears things like…

Really? You are changing your clothes again? We were supposed to leave 10 minutes ago.

Why haven’t you brushed your teeth yet? The bus is here!

Shoes! You need shoes before you come downstairs for breakfast. Why do I have to tell you that every day?

Honestly, do you have to debate everything I say? Can’t you just say, “OK, Mama” and do what I ask?

Where is the praise for all that is good that I have found in my beautiful daughter?

Identify the Good…

My intelligent daughter likes to take things apart and ask lots of questions. She is the first person in our home to offer help with a screwdriver. She has the mind of a little engineer who wants to understand how things work from the inside-out.

My kindhearted daughter likes to share her lunch and snacks with other kids at school who forget their lunches, or with kids who don’t bring a snack because their families aren’t privileged enough to have “extra” food in the house.

My vocal daughter tells me exactly what she likes, dislikes, and what she is indifferent to, so I am never guessing. She also uses her lovely voice to sing to me in the car, to audition for her school musical, and to learn new songs in chorus.

My caring, sensitive daughter looks truly upset when I raise my voice or give her an earlier bedtime because she came home 20-minutes late from her friend’s house across the street.

Sometimes, my loving daughter even says, “Mom, I’m sorry for lying. I will try to never do it again, because worse than having to go to bed early is making you feel sad.”

…So You Can Praise It

I have found many ways to focus on the good, it seems, but that marquis reminded me of the piece I have been missing. “Praise it.” Out loud. So my daughter will understand that as often as I am frustrated with her behavior, there are twice as many times when I am so proud of her for trying hard to get it right – with the extra challenge of having an extra-busy mind.

So, that is my mission, as the mother of a child with ADHD – to “find the good and praise it” as often as I can. I want her to know that I love her no matter what, and that she can achieve anything she wants in life.

But, I especially want her to know that there is so much about her that is innately good.

If I don’t remind her of that, who will?


About Karla Socci Somers

Writer, graphic designer, and mother to one little girl and one very large dog, Karla is a native New Yorker who traded in her downhill skis for flip-flops when she was transplanted to the South in 2003. She has a master's degree in Communication and Rhetorical Studies from Syracuse University, with a certificate in Conflict Management and a focus on Interpersonal Relationships. In the past, Karla worked as a family mediator for New York State. She loves to help her family and friends improve their interpersonal relationships and attempts to apply that expertise to her own life, every day. Whenever you need to add some humor to your day, you can visit her website at:

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