Debunking a Damaging Myth About ADHD
Of all the myths about ADHD, the misconception that “learning the hard way will help people with ADHD to suddenly learn to take responsibility” is one of the most damaging.
An Extreme Example to Illustrate the Point
To help make sense of why, let’s look at an extreme (and unthinkable!) example. Imagine the parents of a young child saying,
“I’m not going to help her learn to swim anymore, she’ll have to learn the hard way.”
The Unfair Logic Behind the Myth
When it’s such an extreme example, it’s clear to see that these comments and attitudes are extremely unfair. It’s clear that this type of approach would be very distressing for the child, damaging to their self-esteem, and possibly really dangerous.
The Emotional Consequences
It’s understandable that the child probably feels like they’re being punished because trying their best wasn’t good enough.
More Common Scenarios
More common examples like making a child with ADHD go to school without lunch for the day if they forget their lunchbox, as a way “to learn the natural consequences of their actions,” is not a fair or effective approach.
Understanding the ADHD Brain
Is it likely that your child with ADHD forgot their lunchbox as an act of deliberate defiance? Or by choice? No!
The Danger of Comparing Apples to Oranges
It’s not fair to compare children with ADHD to neurotypical children when their brain is wired differently. Children with ADHD may need a bit of extra support when learning new skills, and that’s okay.
The Importance of Individual Strengths
All children have their own unique strengths, and it’s never okay to shame or punish a child (or adult!) with ADHD for what they can’t do.
Research-Backed Insights on Discipline and ADHD
It’s really important for parents to be aware that using punishments for ADHD symptoms is not fair and not effective. Interestingly, research shows that fear-based incentives and punishments can actually make ADHD symptoms appear worse.
ADHD is Not About Effort
ADHD symptoms are not a choice and won’t go away if a person would “just try harder.” ADHD symptoms are not a reflection of effort, how much the person cares, and will NOT suddenly disappear by being left without support to “learn the hard way.”