African American boy on grey background

ADHD: 3 Ways Parents Can Avoid Being The Source Of Your Child’s Negative Inner Dialogue

The client was a woman was in her mid-twenties with the ADHD diagnosis. Her studies were not going well. She was failing courses, not attending classes, not handing in homework, etc. And while she really wanted to do all these things, it was like she couldn’t do it. She was bright, intelligent and loved her studies.

She complained about her insecurities, fear and self hate.

We tried to power up her motivation, so she could do the right things at her school. But it was obvious that there was something else in the way. While working, I had noticed a pattern in the way she moved. Every time she said something positive or expressed hope or any type of direction or goal setting, she would twitch her head ever so slightly forward.

When I mirrored back to her what I saw, and asked what was happening with the head, she started crying.

The young woman realized at that moment what was going on. It was as if her father was standing right behind her, telling her to stop dreaming. And he was giving her a whack on the back of the head every time she had any kind of positivity in her. She could physically feel his presence and the blows to her head.

That was why she had been twitching her head. And that was why she was unable to make any kind of progress that mattered to her in her life.

But how did he make his way into her head like that? And how can you avoid being the source of this kind of negative inner dialogue in your differently wired child’s mind?

The Origin of Negative Inner Dialogue

Inner dialogue is normal and completely healthy. The only reason why it may come across as strange is really that we don’t realize that we all have it – and because we don’t talk about it very much.

We all hear voices in our heads. How ever else can you be thinking: “I wonder how I got my own negative inner dialogue?” Or maybe you’re thinking: “Wow, now it makes sense.” Either way it comes from a voice inside your head.

We normally just call them thoughts.

Negative inner dialogue is what happens when parts of your personality have something to say. Parts of your personality are interesting “creatures” in the sense that they can take on any form or function that it wishes. This means that parts of your personality can literally be a devil and an angel. Most often they are just different expressions of your own younger personality. They can be expressed as important people in your life, and most people have the voices of their mother and father inside their minds.

What you’ll notice is that your thoughts have different qualities when you are excited or sad, when you are proud of yourself or when you are mad at yourself. Those are four different parts of your personality speaking to you in your mind.

Once again, they are normal and part of having a healthy mind. You may want to shut some of them up, but they are really there to help you. They may not be helping you, but they are trying.

So where do they come from?

Imagine being a small girl who just started school. You are a happy girl and you have a rich imagination and you love to share what’s on your mind. You love your mom and dad.

But to other people you come across as unfocused and chatty. You talk a lot – about everything else but homework.

Your dad does not have any insights or tools to help you, so he scolds you, tells you that you are going to be a loser if you don’t focus. To help you focus on your home work, he stands behind you and gives you a gentle whack to bring you back to what’s important. Every time you loose focus!

Every time you have one of those happy thoughts that your imagination serves you!

You hate the experience, and it feels like you are being punished and like you are losing your fathers love. Why else would he be hitting you for doing what you love to do?

So in order for you to avoid being whacked on the back of the head by your dad, you incorporate a “dad” part into your subconscious to help whack you from the inside, – so that your real dad doesn’t have to do it!

This is of course a poor strategy, because the inner as well as the outer whack only comes when you have already lost focus to your imagination. But it helps enough that dad doesn’t hit you anymore, and the coping strategy worked “enough” for you to commit it to the subconscious.

All this happens subconsciously. A mental coping strategy has been created and will continue to “help” the girl as long as she has something to focus on and an imagination that likes to serve up funny things. Which means forever.

Unless you change it. I’ll get back to the changing part. Right now I want you to understand what is going on, and how to avoid causing your child to create a lot of negative inner dialogues.

3 Ways You can avoid being the source of your childs negative inner dialogue

Working with clients they often remember very distinct situations that we the source of the negative inner dialogue. Sometimes these situations were part of the daily ritual, like home work in the client story above.

Your primary job is to steer clear of those situations, and find ways to express your values in action in the kindest and most accepting way.

  1. Stop Scolding You Child
    • It’s not a bug surprise that scolding is not only ineffective, but also harmful in the long run. Stop it. Acknowledge that he is really trying his very best, even when it doesn’t look and feel like it. He doesn’t have good mental strategies for handling the situation *yet*.
    • Then start working with your child instead of against your child. When you give your child a full voice, he’ll be able to hear yours as well. And you’ll be surprised at how good he soon becomes at finding solutions when he realizes that you listen. It’s called the coaching approach that you can learn in Transformational Parenting.
  2. Don’t Blame Your Child
    • Do you ever ask “Why …?” questions? They are received universally as a personal attack and as a way of throwing blame around. Start there. Don’t ask why questions. Don’t look for reasons. Accept that he has a positive intention that drives him – and that you don’t understand it *yet*.
    • Instead look for motivation. What was your child trying to make happen? What was he hoping that would happen? Then listen and find ways to help him understand the situation and/or make the right things happen in a better way.
  3. Never Degrade Your Child
    • When a parent degrades a child by name-calling or letting the child know that it’s a failure in the parent’s eyes, it sticks to the child’s self worth like lint to velcro. It takes forever to get off.
    • Instead find ways to uplift your child’s self worth in every way possible. Not only by praise, but primarily by letting your child know that you see him, you love him for who he is, and that you understand that he is trying his very best. Help him keep trying and be motivated by trying even when it’s not working.

What if the damage is already done?

Since you are reading this article on this homepage, the damage is most likely already done. Very few will be able to help their complex child grow into a harmonious young person without getting irritated, frustrated or angry. And most likely words have been said, that were regretted moments later.

All that makes an impact on the child. And we’ve all done it.

I can see it on my daughters. In fact some of their patterns we can trace back to very distinct situations. And we are confident that we’ll be able to help them get through those patterns and build very constructive patterns to substitute for the old ones as they grow older and more aware and conscious.

Becoming aware that damage is being done is the first step.

The second sted is to understand that there are thousands of parts to every personality. Most of them are just fine or even great.

We want more of the great ones, so the third step is to start helping the child produce supporting, motivating, uplifting, powerful parts that will eventually help the child succeed in life.

Creating Positive Inner Dialogue

Positive inner dialogue is created just like negative inner dialogue. By exposure to positive reinforcement from people who really mean it. And for the child to understand that this is special.

You can think of parts creation as something that mostly happens when the child is in a new situation, a surprising situation or some other situation that will stick in their memory. You might be able to think back on some of the pivotal moments in your life, those moments that were course corrections in your life.

Those are the ones that you want to create.

When I got down on my knees with my girl (who had lied to me), looked her in the eyes, and told her with power in my voice that I loved it when she told me the truth, – in that moment – I am positive that she created a part of her personality that sets the truth to a high standard.

I could see the shift in her eyes – and in her behavior afterwards.

Transforming Inner Dialogue

Negative Inner Dialogue, like Positive Inner Dialogue, is a subconscious coping strategy. The problem is that this particular coping strategy is no longer working correctly.

We normally don’t *just* change and transform our subconscious coping strategies. Of course we normally don’t *just* change any of our coping strategies, – that’s why there are thousands of books written on the subject.

But through conscious work, with the power of externalization and metaphors, which I have written about here and here, we can transform even the most evil, condescending, depleting, self hating inner dialogues.

If you have a child with negative inner dialogue, and you are interested in getting the insights and tools to help your child, then read through the archive of articles, – or get on the mailing list so you know when my new course Transformational Parenting is out.

Action Points

To start helping your child produce positive inner dialogue, start by figuring out what that inner dialogue should be saying.

Then start embodying the quality of that inner dialogue in your own actions and interactions with your child.

And when the child embody the quality, make sure that you make it absolutely clear that you value your child and his actions. So clear that he will never forget the moment, when you let him know that the part of him that creates this kind of behavior is fantastic.

And when he exhibits the opposite traits, find a way to honor the parts of him that are struggling to do the right thing.

What parts of your child will you be bringing out?

Let me know in the comments!

And do share this article on social media, if you found it valuable.

Have a great day,

Anders.

Father and son playing at the park near lake at the day time.

How To Master The Practice of Parenting The Differently Wired Child

When I lived in Boulder, Colorado, I was introduced to a way of thinking that have resonated into our way of parenting in our family. The saying is: “If you don’t like the weather in Colorado, just wait 15 minutes. Also if you do like the weather in Colorado, just wait 15 minutes.”

When we later got our now 6 year old daughter, we read about the cycles of development that she would go through as an infant, and these were surprisingly precise. We started joking that “If you don’t like the way the baby sleeps, just wait 15 days. And if you do like the way the baby sleeps, just wait 15 days.” That’s how often things changed back then, and we might as well accept them as conditions, because if we fought the baby’s natural cycles we would be spending a lot of energy on things we couldn’t change.

And if you are a parent to a differently wired child, you know that some things are still changing in ways that you don’t understand.

How do you deal with that?

For me the term “The Practice of Parenting” has become part of my filosophy of parenting our wonderful daughters – and in this article I’ll walk you through what that means to me and how you can apply it with yourself and your child.

The Practice of Parenting

Most often we hear the word practice in sports. You practice becoming better at that particular sport. You do this by doing the sport or by doing exercises that will help you get better at the core elements of that sport. Practice is a part of the constant striving towards becoming better at the sport.

Of course we also hear practice in performers of every kind, in the military, in school, in the arts and many other places.

Then there’s the yoga practice, where “to practice yoga” is not only doing the correct postures (asanas) but an ongoing participation in and engagement with yoga. It’s diving deeper into what yoga is, the filosophy behind it, the history, understanding the asanas, etc. You can even have a daily yoga practice without being on the mat every day, when you let the ideas of yoga penetrate your entire life.

But we don’t hear parents talking about their practice as parents. It’s more often that we hear techniques and methods, but not practice. I think that we should change that.

So what is the practice of parenting?

The practice of parenting is a deliberate effort to being present with the changes that you child goes through and adjusting your skills, tools, and efforts to best match your child’s needs, while having the overall goals for your child in mind. (Share on Twitter)

That means that when the 15 day cycle of great sleep (in the case of my infant daughter) is over and sleep becomes sparse and choppy, you attempt to become aware of it and adjust to it. Adjusting means changing your own sleep rythm to start earlier and getting more powernaps, cancelling arrangements, – and maybe to reach out to learn new baby tricks that will help the baby feel safe in her new understanding of the world.

For older and differently wired children, being present and adjusting might mean something else. Maybe your child develops anxiety over some future episode – and a normal talk about why the child doesn’t have to be fearful when it comes to that episode does not help your child. Then being present might mean to really listen to the child, figure out what the anxiety is really about. Maybe it’s running through different scenarios, maybe it’s offering to join him, make special arrangements, etc. Your child has probably just developed a new understanding of things that let’s him see something that wasn’t clear to him before. And he does not know how to tackle it.

Your job is to figure out how to help him tackle it. You may have to tackle (part of) it for him at first. And then as he becomes ready, you slowly move responsibility over to him, and you let him do the work. Eventually he’ll learn how to tackle it himself.

There are so many steps in those few sentences above. The art is to keep responding to where he is, and then developing the response and he changes.

You can tell when parents have not adopted the practice of parenting mindset. This is when they talk to their kids like they are younger than they really are – and/or when they become really frustrated over seemingly benign things. They have not adapted to the child’s age and/or have lost touch with what the child needs.

Or maybe they still think that their differently wired child *should* be developing like everyone else, and they become frustrated by the apparent lack of normal progress.

If we want to become (or stay) great parents we need to adopt the practice of parenting mindset. Otherwise we will be talking like my wonderful (and sligtly senile) granddad that kept calling me “Little Anders” even after I grew so much taller than him that he could no longer reach to pat me on the head. 🙂

Becoming a great parent

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

– Archilochus

Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson argues in his famous research that “the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.”

So the way to develop your practice of parenting is to make a deliberate effort to improve your parenting skills. And while that includes putting in the (significant) effort, it also means that you, your child and your family as a whole will develop so much faster and stronger than if you don’t put in this effort.

You are going to be getting almost immediate response to the changes in your practice.

Here’s how to Practice Parenting through deliberate practice

When your child is differently wired, you are most likely having daily chances to practice, to develop your self and the mastery of your parenting skills and yourself.

These are ways I have found makes me a better and stronger parent, all the while eliminating a lot of conflicts and hardship.

Observe Yourself As a Parent

The first step to practice parenting is to observe, to become aware. That means not only experiencing the conflicts through your own eyes, but also through your child’s eyes, AND to step back and look at the situation from the outside. It is interesting to go through all three perspectives.

  1. Notice your actions and reactions – feel the emotions that you have without judgment. Be honest with yourself and seek the truth even if it sucks to realize that there’s anger, sorrow and other similar emotions at play.
  2. See the situation from the perspective of your child. Step into your childs shoes for a second and imagine that you are doing your very best to go through life in a good way. What is your positive intention in this situation? What does it feel like to be in this situation? How do you like the reaction of your parents?
  3. Step all the way outside the situation and imagine that you are a caring consultant without anything at stake in the situation. No emotions. What do you see, and what would your advice be to the parent in this situation?
  4. Now re-enter your own perspective with your own emotions.

What can you use the outside perspective for?

How you can create a better outcome next time a similar situation arises?

Change Your Ways To Accomodate Life’s Conditions

Often in the situation, we are emotionally highjacked, and can only respond from a lot of very powerful emotions. And that’s often one of the reasons that the situation arose in the first place.

So you need to get your thinking out of the highjacked state. When you do the above exercise and take the second and third mental position as the child and an emotionally un-attached observer, you’ll notice that you get better “advice” from yourself than if you stay in your own emotions.

The key to changing your own ways is *not* to think too much about the situation that is behind you. Because you can’t change it.

The idea of “I wish I could go back and change that!” is incredibly destructive when it comes to trying to change. (Share on Twitter)

What you do instead is to learn from the past situation and apply the learning to the future situations that inevitably will arise. So the past experience becomes a learning experience instead of  another reason to blame yourself. In fact when you blame yourself, you learn nothing. But when you use the situation constructively, your learn from it. (Share on Twitter)

And you can then apply that learning to the future situation like this: “It’s obvious that yelling didn’t work and I guess I knew that already. So I will try a different response next time he does that. What would my inner consultant advise me to do? Okay, – next time, I’ll ask him calmly to pick up his stuff, and if he doesn’t do it, I’ll get eye contact and slowly and calmly say ‘I want you to pick up that LEGO yourself’ every 30 seconds until he does it or stops throwing it.”

Then if you really want to practice – and that’s what this article is all about – close your eyes and do a couple of run-throughs where you imagine actually being in the future situation with you child and experience your own new emotional state and behavior. Adjust and re-imagine as many times you need to feel comfortable going into the future situation.

When you do that, you notice that the change you are trying to create is coming easier to you in the future situation, because your mind already knows what to do.

Acknowledge And Love Yourself

Realize that you are doing your very best, and that it’s okay to feel okay about yourself. Even when some things are going bad. Even when you are not performing like you would like to every minute of the day.

You are in a tough spot, and you haven’t had the insights and tools to go through it in an elegant way. If you did have those tools, you would use them and change things.

Then acknowledge yourself for moving in the right direction along with that wonderful child of yours.

Now over to you!

What did you get out of this article?

How do you practice parenting in daily life?

What challenges do you have with respect to practicing great parenting?

If you enjoyed the article and want more like it, go ahead and join other parents to differently wired children when you sign up for our newsletter. Then you’ll get immediate access to the Free Transformational Tool Box that will bring you further into your practice of parenting.

Have a great day,

Anders

PS: It would be really cool if you will spend a second and share the article on social media, so that other great parents like yourself can get more and better inspiration on how to bring differently wired children up and out.

Man with spinning thoughts - adhd

ADHD: A Simple Trick to Stop Your Thoughts From Spinning around and around

Do you know that feeling when the thoughts are just spinning – around and around, and it feels like there’s nothing you can do about it?

Perhaps you also know the feeling of not control over your thoughts, but that thoughts are really controlling you.

Or maybe you heard your child or your partner talk about it?

In this article I’ll walk you through a mental training exercise that makes it possible for you to control your thoughts. And hopefully that’ll help you realize that there’s an enormous potential for transformation in your mind and in your child’s mind.

After the exercise, I explain a bit about how and why this works like it does, and I explain how you can use it with your child.

Are you ready?

For optimal results make sure that there is peace and quiet around you for at least the next five minutes, so you have time to both read from the screen and do the exercise. When you’ve done that, return to the text and do the exercise again.

Spinning Thoughts

This exercise if for you if you have spinning thoughts. You’ll know that you have spinning thoughts because you sometimes use that phrase or at the very least kind of recognize the saying. If you never use the phrase spinning thoughts, this exercise might not have an effect on you. Feel free to do it anyway if you are curious.

  • Concentrate now on the thoughts spinning around. If you do not have them right now, think back to a situation where the mind really had a good spinner. Put yourself mentally in that situation again and re-live it as if you were there.
  • Allow the thoughts spin right now. Usually you tend to fight against them. Don’t do that. Let them spin freely instead.
  • While letting the thoughts spin around, notice which way they spin. Make the same movement with your hand as if you are showing me which direction the thoughts are spinning around. Maybe you already know this movement with your hand, because you use it when the thoughts are spinning to illustrate the spinning? Is it clockwise or counterclockwise? Forwards or backwards?
  • Imagine that you can get them to spin even faster now. Around and around. Speed up your hand to show the speed increase.
  • Can you make them to spin even faster?
  • Now slow them right back down to their “normal” speed.
  • And now imagine that the thoughts are spinning the other way around. The same speed and in the opposite direction.
  • Reverse the movement of your spinning hand, and let the hands show how the thoughts spin when they spin the other way round.
  • If it feels right – imagine the thoughts running faster and faster the other way around.
  • Now slow them down again.
  • Continue slowing them down. Slower and slower.
  • Until they calm down completely.
  • Notice how your hand is not moving either.

Allow yourself to enjoy this moment …. 😉

Debriefing

Now it may be that you’re thinking: “That was strange!”

Maybe the thoughts really are still. Maybe not. Maybe it was difficult for you to do the exercise, or maybe you think it’s too weird to talk about your thoughts in this way. It is perfectly fine – there will be other exercises for you later!

It does feel kind of strange to talk about thoughts in this way. The interesting thing is, that we do actually talk about our thoughts like this all the time, – just not consciously. We use metaphors to describe what is going on inside of us. We just don’t realize it, so we don’t take it serious.

When we talk about our thoughts using metaphors, the thoughts are often described as active and in motion or as if they have their own will.

  • “My thoughts are spinning around,”
  • “Every time I try to concentrate, my thoughts get in the way,”
  • “My thoughts will not leave me alone,”
  • “My thoughts are driving me around,” and so on.

This exercise exploits the fact that if we transform the metaphor, we transform the inner experience. And when we do that, our behavior changes too.

If you imagine doing this exercise twice today and twice a day over the next week, how good do you think that you’ll be at controlling those thoughts in a weeks time?

Doing The Exercise With Your Child

Girl with spinning finger at temple - adhd spinning thoughts

If you want to do this exercise with your child, you can just guide him/her through it with a slow voice. Give him time to do what you ask him to do in his mind. Look for cues that he is doing it. Look at the hand, etc.

At the end, ask him if there’s anything else he needs to do to the thoughts to help them stay calm. Whatever he answered, you just answer: “Okay, just imagine that you do that now!” with a smile. He may or may not be able to do it, but you have both given it a great first go at transforming spinning thoughts from the inside out.

This is the kind of transformation that you learn in the Transformational Parenting course that I am working on. And it’s the kind of transformations that your child will be able to do alone in the ADHD Power Mind series.

Now Over To You

How did the exercise go for you?

What happened at the end?

Write in the comments below if you had success with the exercise. How was it for you right after the exercise?

Write also if it did not work. What was it that did not work, and what will it take to make the exercise work for you?

If you are interested in more exercises like this make sure to sign up for the newsletter. This is where I’ll let you know when the Transformational Parenting and the ADHD Power Mind program opens.

Have a great day,

Anders

PS: If you enjoyed the article, feel free to share it on social media to help other people find it as well.

Closeup Headshot side view Portrait Angry Child Screaming, fists up in air. Expressing Anger, Rage. Transforming ADHD

ADHD: Transforming Anger In Your Child From The Inside Out

The Boy With Anger Inside

One of my very first clients with the ADHD diagnosis back in 2007 was an 8-year-old boy. When he and his mother came to see me for ADHD Coaching, he could only focus for 20-second stints. He was threatening in his communication and behavior at home. And he told me about how he threatened other children in the schoolyard when they were after him.

It took me three sessions to gain his trust enough that I could work with him. In that fourth session, he stayed overtime to finish a drawing that expressed something inside of him that he really needed to show me. He had drawn a stick figure with a high hat, big boots, and a gun.

He said: “This is Mr. Stupid.” He didn’t get that name from being stupid, but because the boy thought that Mr. Stupid did stupid things. The boy didn’t like Mr. Stupid, and he could tell me in detail how Mr. Stupid would make him do things that he didn’t want to do. And that Mr. Stupid was the angry one, not the boy.

When Parts Of Our Personality Messes With Us

We all have parts of our personality.

  • One part of us wants us to eat better and another part of us wants to eat anything that will make us feel good right away.
  • One part of us wants to achieve lofty goals and another part of us wants to watch some more TV.
  • One part of us wants to talk nicely to our children at all times and knows that that is the way to go for both child and family, yet sometimes another part of us takes over and “makes” us do things that we are not aligned with how we want to be as parents.

This is normal. We all have it, but not many of us are aware of this fact, even though it comes out in our language all the time.

Apparently Mr. Stupid was the part of the boy that would make him do stupid things when he felt challenged, and he would make sure that the boy gave an “appropriate” response.

His mother had brought him to me, hoping that I could help the boy change his behavior, not knowing that we would be transforming his anger too.

Externalizing Our Emotions

When I had the boy draw the anger and what was happening inside of him, I was using a methodology called Externalization. The name comes from Narrative Therapy although I use it with the NLP understanding of how our minds are structured.

Externalization is a way for us to talk to the boy about what’s going on inside of him without talking to him like he is at fault for everything. And it’s a way for the boy to easily communicate about what is going on inside of him in much richer detail than we normally experience.

It is a way to talk about the Anger with the boy instead of talking about the Angry boy, and it makes a world of difference for both the boy and the parent/therapist.

You do this by externalizing the anger, – making it the third thing in the room, pretending that it’s as real as the boy. Because to the boy, it is.

Is Vs. Has

That way I could talk to the boy about his relationship with Mr. Stupid because the boy IS NOT Mr. Stupid. The boy HAS Mr. Stupid INSIDE of him, – just like he has hundreds of other parts of his personality in there. And Mr. Stupid is responsible for that specific anger reaction, so it was Mr. Stupid, we had to have a good discussion with.

This is where the beauty of externalization comes in. Having framed it so that Mr. Stupid has the anger, I can have a sensible conversation with the boy about the anger, about Mr. Stupid. And that’s the basis for the transformation.

And as I have written about here, there’s almost always an opposing part that wants to do something else. In this case, the boy could tell me that there was Little Nerd that wanted to be a good boy. But Little Nerd wasn’t very cool or very attractive to be, so he always lost in the inner power struggle between Mr. Stupid and Little Nerd.

Transforming The Externalized

The boy ended up first transforming Little Nerd into an attractive superhero-like character Mr. Cool before he transformed Mr. Stupid into Mr. Awesome that became friends with Mr. Cool. Now instead of having a super-dominating “negative” part and a boring “positive” part of his personality, he had two positive and energized friends that he could use to create a new way of behaving in and outside of school.

He changed his behavior so dramatically that his mother wanted to have their psychiatrist take away the four diagnoses the boy had. The psychiatrist didn’t believe it, so she refused even though his teachers confirmed this transformation in behavior. You can read more about him in the TransformingADHD Manifesto here.

The transformation of Little Nerd and Mr. Stupid happened through a series of drawings sessions and conversations which took us most of 10 sessions. All of the conversations were about what the boy wanted to change in inside himself. Only when the boy realized that I wasn’t trying to mess with his mind or force him into a different behavior pattern, did he trust me enough that we could do the transformational work. In the Transformational Parenting course, I’m going through more details and case studies with externalization and helping children draw out their own transformation.

The Speed Of Transformation

Even though this transformation took several sessions, the results came so fast, made permanent shifts in the boy and did not demand a lot of work from the boy outside the sessions, that I feared it was a one-off. But these results have been consistent with children where I have been able to gain their trust and where they have enjoyed the metaphorical work with parts of their personality, etc.

And yet 9 years later I am still amazed every time it happens.

What do you think about this way of addressing the mind?

What are your biggest challenges when it comes to anger/rage?

And what do you think, this method can do for you?

Have a great and inspired day,

Anders.

PS: If you know other parents with children with the ADHD diagnosis, you know parents who need to know more about handling and transforming anger and ADHD. Share this article with them using the buttons below. 🙂

Wolf pack walking in the woods a cold winter day. Snow on the ground and on the trees.

ADHD: How To Reach The Part Of Your Child That Wants To Behave Well

Behave! Not so easy…

Humans are incredibly complex emotional and cognitive beings.

  • We can have an urge to do something and then not do it.
  • We can want to focus on something and then move that focus onto something else.
  • We can know what is good for us to eat and want to buy it, and still buy something that’s bad for us and eat that instead.

Often when we talk about things like this – the inner struggle – we use terms like:

  • “I really wanted to do it, but part of me was afraid to do it!”
  • “I sat down to focus, but my mind just kept wandering!”
  • “I went to the store to pick up greens for the smoothie, and there was something in me that just made me buy chocolate as well.”

You may recognize this from yourself – or at least from someone you know. 🙂

We all have this inherent duality about pretty much everything in our lives. I work with Neuro Linguistic Programming methods, and in NLP we take everything literal as an expression of what is going on inside a persons mind.

That means that when a person is talking about a part of him that wants to do something and another part of him that is afraid to do it, I accept that as what is actually going on inside of him. Like I did in the case study of the boy with ants in his pants.

When we accept what is going on inside another person, we can have vastly different conversations than we used to have.

The Two Wolves

You may already know the old story of the two wolves.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

In NLP we have an entire field of insights and methods called Parts of the Personality, dedicated to understanding and transforming parts of our personalities that are “bad” or in other ways disruptive to leading a great life.

One of the experiences that have come out of this field is that in most cases there are two opposing parts, – just like the bad and the good wolf above. And just like in the examples I gave at the very top of the article.

Common internal power struggle in people with the ADHD diagnosis is:

  • The Motivator vs. The Slacker
  • The Focuser vs. The Curiosity
  • The Common Sense vs. The Impulsive

Your Child Has Inner Struggles

Often times when we experience conflict with our children, we only see the part of the child that acts as the “bad wolf”. We hear that they don’t want to do something. They won’t stop doing something. They are afraid of something. Or they lie to get out of a poor situation, etc. You know it.

In those situations, we don’t hear the other part. And if we do, we often ignore them.

Imagine this conversation.

Parent: “I heard from you teacher that you hit Emma today! You can’t hit other people like that. We talked about this already!”

Child: “I tried not to hit her, but she said nasty things to me!”

Parent: “You have to stop it.”

And so on.

Now did you notice the “good wolf” in the child’s sentence?

“I tried not to hit her” is the good wolf in your child. And at this point in your child’s life, the power struggle in this type of situations are won by the bad wolf. It has been fed for too long and is stronger than the good wolf.

I say “at this point”, because we can change that.

First of all, we have to realize that it’s there. I’ll give you a couple of real life examples and then talk more about how you can do it too.

To Lie Or Speak The Truth

When my oldest daughter was 4 she learned that she could get out of bad situations if she lied about them. “I didn’t do it, she did!”, – blaming her 2 year younger sister who couldn’t defend herself.

From the theory of the parts of the personality, we know that there’s a part of her that wants to lie because she gets an immediate benefit from doing it. We could call this part of her the Liar. There’s also a part of her that wants to tell the truth – The Truthteller, and apparently it’s not as powerful as the Liar. YET!

So how do we make it stronger? How do we feed it?

What I did when I realized that she was lying one day, was that I got down on my knees so that I could look her in the eye, and I said, sincerely and with power: “I Looove it when you speak the truth! The truth is so important!”

And nothing else. I got up and walked away, as if I was praising her for being honest.

10 seconds later, she came back to me and told me that she had lied. And I praised her again for having told me the truth. I looked her in the eyes and repeated that the truth was important and I loved it when she told me the truth.

From that day on, she told much fewer lies, and when she did, I would just repeat the process of praising her for being honest.

Very importantly I also made a point of praising her for being honest when she was being honest!

And I still do.

Especially when she comes to me to tell me about something she did that she isn’t so proud of…

The idea behind my behavior was and is simply to make sure that she knows – in a positive way – what our family values regarding the truth are, and to feed the “good wolf” as much as possible.

Go To School Or Stay Home

I have been working with a family where the boy didn’t go to school for 9 months, and they wanted to get help getting him back to school.

He is now attending a new school and slowly getting more and more days per week in school. But frustration has been high in the parents when the boy didn’t want to go and couldn’t explain why. The morning struggles where often experienced as a win or loose battleground.

I suggested that they start acknowledging the part of their son that really wanted to go to school, but that had lost the inner battle to the part of him that did not want to go – today. I suggested that they honor the part of him that tried to get out the door, that wanted to go, that is longing to be in school to learn, that really wants to hang out with the new friends.

And it made a difference. For the parents because it moves focus away from what is not working so well. And for the child who gets a very different kind of acknowledgement for who he is and what he is trying to accomplish.

And it seems to have made a difference in the number of days per week in school too.

What You Can Do

As a parent you can look at some of the difficult situations, where you have conflicts or where the child often does the opposite of what you want of expect of him.

Then imagine that he has an inner struggle going, where you can only hear one part of that conflict coming out through his mouth. Then imagine what the opposite part must be. Maybe as you think about it and imagine the parts, you’ll realize that your child has been communicating about it, but you haven’t noticed it before. Maybe not.

If your child is reflective about what is going on, you can relay what you have learned in this article and see if he knows himself who the parts of his inner conflict are. If he’s not old or mature enough you can just assume it’s there, and speak to it and about it. He’ll correct you, if you’re wrong – and you learn from that.

I would love to hear what shift you got from this article in the comments below, and I would be happy if you come back and let me know what is changing in your relationship with your child, when you see all of him and not just the bad wolf.

To Your Success,

Anders.

PS: Grab the Free Transformational Toolbox to get even more insights and tools to help your child.