A parent of a gifted five-year old wonders why her son often sounds unhappy and fears growing up.
Many smart youngsters can become easily overwhelmed by their brain’s capacity to think too big. Imagine you are only five and you’re thinking about the meaning of life, growing up and having to find a job, wondering what it would be like to be alone! Very young children have no real-life experience to put any of these big, scary thoughts into perspective.
I recommend not spending lots of time talking about these big thoughts with very young kids. That only reinforces them to feel worse. If your child isn’t sharing these uncharacteristic big (negative) thoughts away from you, that may be a sign that you are fueling those concerns accidentally.
Better to acknowledge big, scary thoughts fast, then put them in their place!
First explain that thoughts are in our control: “I know you have very strong feelings and worries. Sometimes your feelings get too big – but they are only feelings and they can change. We can make them smaller or turn them into happier thoughts if we want to…”
Then show your child how to control them: “Let’s move, let’s go outside, let’s do something real like play, run, wrestle, and that’s how we stop those feelings. We don’t have to think of them right now – but if later you still feel them – we can talk about them. We can find good ways (like drawing or singing or making a play about them) to make sure they don’t seem too big or stay around too long.”
A parent I know is questioning if her second grader has ADHD. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. There are many things that mimic the symptoms. It takes time to make an accurate diagnosis and well-trained professionals should always be consulted. Meanwhile, her son has picked up on the ADHD terminology. He’s saying he can’t focus on homework because his “brain is distracted.” When he gets caught doing something he shouldn’t – like swearing at his brother – he says he’s “being impulsive.” Are his problems due to an attention deficit? Perhaps. But he’s also complaining that sorting his laundry is way too hard. And the Legos that cover his bedroom floor can’t be organized, because, well – it’s “just too hard.” This boy is smart and I think he’s found a convenient get-out-of-jail-free card … an excuse he can call up whenever the going gets tough. Whether this boy has ADHD or not, excuse-making is a slippery slope. In time, he might start believing these limitations.
If you’re investigating a diagnosis of ADHD, or your child/teen currently has this diagnosis, here’s how to avoid ADHD excuses.
A parent recently checked in about her son being accused of tackling another boy at school. When the teachers observed more carefully, it turned out he wasn’t the only one. Many of the second grade boys were tackling each other, mostly during recess. Should there be a no-touching rule instituted and swift discipline applied for any boy caught doing this? Consider that these boys wouldn’t need to be aggressive in this way if they got more movement throughout the day. They need daily opportunities to channel their natural aggression. All-boy schools give us a model to follow. They give boys many ways to release strong natural urges to show physical power and force. Don’t stuff aggression, work with it. Guide it. Channel it. Anything less denies a part of who boys are.