You Don't Get My ADHD


Stop Shaming Your ADHD Kids, Choose Love Instead

It never fails to surprise me just what some parents will do to shame bad behaviour out of their children.

I’m going to preface this post with a ‘not all parents, some kids are evil, blah blah bollocks’, but those are not the parents I am talking about. If your child is off the rails and you have posted publicly about their behaviour, genuinely seeking advice, you aren’t the person I’m coming for.

I’m talking about the parents who come to me to say “OMG Look at this that my kid did, what a *insert derogatory term here*”. The parents who humiliate their children for mess, poor hygiene, or disorganisation. The parents who fail to see that their child’s behaviour is a result of a condition, and poor parenting, and instead choose shame as a motivator for change in the young person.

Allow me to explain.

When I was 17, and still living at home, my ‘Bad Behaviour’ (which I know now was self-medicating due to undiagnosed ADHD) got me moved to the smallest bedroom in the family home. I went from having a large double bedroom with fitted wardrobes, a desk, the works… to a cat hair-covered shoebox, with my double mattress on the floor, and a unit with fabric covering. The cat-hair was so embedded in the fabric, I couldn’t store my clothes in it – aside from the hair, I’m also intensely allergic to our feline friends.

Naturally, my bedroom fell quickly into disarray, and it worked for me… but not for my parents. This was in 2008, when Facebook was the new ‘thing’ and so my parents decided that posting it on Facebook, on public, and tagging all my friends would scare me into fixing it. 

Except it didn’t, because at that point, I didn’t really have any friends. Between my stepdad converting to Islam two years after the 9/11 attacks, being a ‘swot’ (a UK term meaning nerd, dork, teacher’s pet), and generally struggling with undiagnosed neurodivergence, I was not a popular kid. I only have two friends from that far back who still keeps in touch. Natalie and Dan, I love you.

What it did do, was make me start planning my escape. I wasn’t ready to live independently. I was studying the A-levels that would get me in to study Medicine at University. 

Just like that, I wasn’t. I was working in a pharmacy all the hours I could, saving every penny to move. Unfortunately, my parents took half my income in board and lodgings, so between that and my bus fare, my lunches for work and my driving lessons, I didn’t have much left. Thankfully, my grandparents, God rest their souls, helped me. They didn’t ask questions, but they helped to finance the move and, in July 2009, I was out. I lived in a flat, and then another flat, which was the home I lived in when my son came. Before that, it was the ‘World’s End’ after a crazy night out with the crew from our local bar. But it was home, it was safe, and nobody judged my mess.

My parents never told me how to look after my possessions, they just expected that I could clean and tidy. But who teaches us to clean and tidy? I was EXPECTED to do that, but had no real practical guidance as to how to do that and what that looked like.

It took me most of my adult life to figure that out. But even now, when I am triggered, scared, or stressed, I will clean and tidy til my hands bleed, because of that ingrained shame taught to me by my parents. Last week when I had a meltdown, cleaning and organising was where my brain went.

It’s because of all this that I get so, SO angry when people my age will shame their children for the state of their bedrooms. I’m not saying that it’s a parent’s job to clean their kids room. Up to a certain age, it absolutely is, but once the child is around 10, I feel that is an appropriate age to learn chores. They can follow systems from age 5ish if they are shown! 

But if you don’t teach your kid HOW, and praise them, and respect them, and give them your appreciation, how will they ever learn the skills and the pride for themselves? Tidiness does not come naturally for me, and even now at 32 I thrive on being praised for my efforts, because of how hard things are for me. 

If you are a parent thinking of shaming your child, especially if they have ADHD, for their inability to keep a room tidy, I hope you slip in turd every day for the rest of your life. 

Humans are deeply motivated by shame, and the avoidance of shame. But love is a bigger motivator. Choose love. And stop trying to embarrass your kids.

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