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Dr Hallowell ADHD and mental and cognitive health

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Dr. Hallowell's Blog

ADHD and Life as a Mom, a Psychologist, a Parent, and a Spouse

Life is an adventure, and over 30 years ago, in my early years of parenting I never dreamed that my struggles with a son with ADHD and dyslexia and an absent-minded professor husband would lead to the joys I experience today.  And yes, the apple never falls far from the tree, and it took winning the Nobel Prize (in Economics) to encourage my husband Robert Shiller to self-identify as an individual who likely has ADHD.  (To read my husband’s Nobel biography, click here: his elementary school teachers saw him as uncontrollably restless and talkative.)

But, the early years of my own parenting weren’t easy.  I wrote the book “Rewards for Kids!  Ready-to-Use Charts & Activities for Positive Parenting” (with Meg Schneider, published by The American Psychological Association, 2003) partly as a self-help measure.  If I could just make my “home laboratory” into a professional project, it would stimulate me intellectually and make the daily struggles a little easier!

Indeed, reward plans were the key to solving many of the potential roadblocks that could have prevented my sons from achieving success.  And they allowed me to keep the focus on the positive.  While I am actually not a behavioral psychologist – I think children’s emotions absolutely need to be attended to – the truth is that children who have challenges of many kinds respond very well to rewards plans.  (Well, actually practically all children respond well to reward plans.)  But, they are particularly useful for kids who struggle somewhat harder to accomplish tasks at home and school, to keep on track, to inhibit impulses, and to get along well with others.  And they’re helpful for parents to keep them focused on children’s positive traits and to limit the need to incessantly correct and control problem behaviors.

My good friend Janet O’Flynn, an Occupational Therapist with two children the same ages as my sons, designed lots of fun and creative charts  As our children grew, we supported each other in finding novel ways of solving a variety of problems; many of the reward plans we actually used are included as sample programs in the book.

Today, Janet and I are proud that all four of our children have achieved well in their chosen fields and are solid, well-adjusted individuals.  There are definitely those who believe that reward plans don’t foster internal motivation to achieve, but Janet and I strongly disagree.

As a psychologist, I encourage all parents to have hope for their children and to remain as positive as possible despite challenging behaviors.  Ned Hallowell’s message that parents must spend years helping to “unwrap the gifts” of ADHD and dyslexia is an accurate one.  But the rewards are well worth the effort.

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