Most children with ADHD love positive feedback. And they rarely get receive enough of it.
Adults with ADHD crave positive recognition. I certainly do, and on our website, TotallyADD.com
, we hear from adults who feel shell-shocked by endless criticism and complaints from those around them. It's fascinating to see the support and praise these 'under-acknowledged' adults give each other in the Forums. Comments go beyond, "Been there, done that," "Been there, done that," to honestly celebrating each other's accomplishments, including the simple act of sharing their story.
It's been said what works well for ADDers is beneficial for anyone. An obvious example is regular exercise. Universally great advice, it seems to make an extra difference for us ADDers. (Too bad it couldn't be eating cake or napping.)
Same with praise. Everyone loves to hear they're doing a good job, but ADHD experts agree that we seem to get an extra boost from positive feedback. It seems to fuel us.
Of course, only if the kudos are heartfelt. If you can't see your spouse behind all the piles of paper on their desk, cooing, "I love that you're so tidy" will not resonate. Even a perky, "You sure know how to pick a strong, sturdy desk," won't fly.
On the other hand, as your spouse wades through the paperwork, you might acknowledge the challenge and admire their efforts.
Why are ADDers so responsive to praise? The same reason diamonds are valuable: Rarity! To us ADDers, praise and acknowledgement are often scarce. Until we start to manage our ADHD, we draw a lot of criticism, correction and anger, often unexpectedly. Sometimes we don't know what we did wrong, or we don't notice the 'collateral damage' we cause.
For example, when you arrive home and your ADD spouse shouts, "Surprise!" and points to the four-course meal they've are oblivious to the pile of pots, pans and utensils heaped on the stove. But you sure do! Instead of gushing, "Oh honey! How thoughtful!" but you gasp, "What have you done to my kitchen?!"
Bam! Instantly they feel like a failure and vow, "I won't ever do that again."
The success of a marriage can hinge on these moments. Many experts suggest you offer five positive comments to every negative one. Recently a social worker told me she thought it should be 10 to 1.
"What?! How can I find ten things to praise about someone who drives me crazy?"
The answer lies not in what your ADHDer is doing, but in how you view it. With practice, you can find something to praise in any situation. The secret is to stop focusing solely on results. Instead, praise their intention. When your spouse surprised you with that four-course dinner, the goal wasn't making you angry.
When you acknowledge an accomplishment, add emotion to it. Personalize it. "The lawn looks good," is nice. "I love what you've done with the lawn!" is way better.
When you acknowledge an accomplishment, add emotion to it. Personalize it. "The lawn looks good," is nice. "I love how the lawn looks!" is way better.
Finding things to praise or celebrate requires a shift in perspective. Not only is the cup half-full, it's a beautiful cup. And it's full of delicious juice!
Praising someone with ADHD, adult or child goes beyond motivating them. You get to see your world from a place of optimism and gratitude. And that's a great place to live.
The heap of dirty pots and pans happened because someone loves you. Same pile of pots and pans. Whole new perspective!
From there, it's almost natural to say, "You made dinner! You did all this. You look so proud. I'm proud of you too." Point out the mess after dessert. By then, you may decide to turn the 'mess' into an opportunity.
"Let's do the dishes together and I'll show you a trick to avoid them stacking up on you."
Or, even better...
"Let's go to bed, darling. The dishes can wait until morning."
Rick Green, a well-known Canadian comedian/writer/actor, has ADHD. The creative force behind www.TotallyADD.com, Rick shares his hilarious and often-pointed observations about living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to liberate fellow ADHDers from the fear, shame and stigma of ADHD and help them create a life they love.