When you see us in the store, you see a wild little boy who’s usually trying to run away from me or touching everything he can. If you see us at church, you see and hear a child who can’t sit quietly in the pews even though other kids his age are perfectly capable. If you see us at the park, you see a child who may get in the faces of other kids speaking a version of English that is hard to understand, and you may see him throw some sand or grab another child’s toy.
Chances are, if you see us anywhere in public, you’ll see a frazzled mom chasing after her son who looks too old to be acting like this while his 2-year-old sister toddles along behind them. You may see me lose my temper or you may see me try to let go of the little things. You may see my son and make assumptions based on your limited interactions with him.
You don’t see what I see—a very sweet and loving 4-year-old who was recently diagnosed with ADHD. You don’t see the affectionate big brother who is the first one his sister wants to comfort her when she’s sad. You don’t see the cuddly little boy who loves snuggles and hugs and kisses from Daddy and Mommy. You don’t see the child who has made huge improvements over the last few years.
You only see his struggles. You don’t see the sweet baby who made me a mom. I can’t expect you to see all these parts of him, but this is what I want you to know about my son with ADHD.
He is a very kind child who never wants to intentionally hurt someone else.
On the outside, he can look pretty rough. My sweet boy often comes off as aggressive when he meets new friends and tries to get other kids to play with him. He might not be able to keep his hands to himself, and this sometimes comes off as being mean or inappropriate.
I want you to know he isn’t actually trying to be either of those things, he just can’t seem to help himself. Children with ADHD are often impulsive, and my son is no exception. He does the first thing that pops into his head. Like many other kids with ADHD, he misses social cues and struggles to understand the concept of personal space. We continue to talk to him about respecting other people’s boundaries, how to handle our anger without hurting others, and how to better express himself.
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Obviously, we need to stand up for and protect our children, I just ask that you extend some grace and compassion toward my son who is just excited to play and embrace everything this world has to offer.
It’s not a discipline problem.
I’m sure other parents see me and assume his behavior is a result of our parenting. They assume we are too permissive and spoil our son instead of punishing him for misbehaving. We do responsive parenting, which is not permissive. We try our best to set firm boundaries while validating our children’s feelings and making sure they know we still love them despite the big feelings they may struggle to control.
My son sometimes acts out because of his ADHD, which causes him to not have much, if any, impulse control. This isn’t something he chooses to do, his brain literally functions differently than the brain of a child without ADHD. He lacks the ability to self-regulate and process the consequences of his actions.
ADHD is not caused by bad parenting, it’s a neurological disorder that may be linked to genetics. You may think I’m not doing enough, but you haven’t seen me lose my temper or cry because I feel like I’ve tried everything. This is a recent diagnosis, so we are still trying to navigate the proper ways to parent a child with ADHD, but we are trying our best. Like most parents, we want to raise kind, hardworking, and independent humans who know they can always trust their parents to be respectful toward them—even if the world labels them as a “difficult” child.
I am trying my best to teach my child to be kind; teach your children to be kind to mine.
While my son may act in ways that seem aggressive and rude, it’s him acting on impulses rather than consciously choosing to act that way. He is a very sweet child who is always wanting to make new friends, loves babies and animals, and shows genuine concern and affection toward those he loves. He has a good heart, he just needs reminders about what are and are not appropriate ways to act with other people. I am constantly reminding him to be soft with other kids, to be nice, and to share.
In return, I hope parents will teach their kids to be kind to my son and others who appear different. My heart broke hearing about a dad who laughed when his kids made fun of my son’s speech delay at the park and witnessing a grandma aggressively encouraging her granddaughter to hit my son who kept touching her hair while waiting in line during soccer practice. I know his behaviors aren’t always age-appropriate and socially acceptable, and we continue to teach him appropriate behavior, but he still deserves dignity, respect, and kindness.
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I am trying my best to help him be the best little person he can be, so please teach your children to be accepting of that. Teach your children to be inclusive and compassionate since they will spend the rest of their lives meeting people who are different from them in regard to ability, experience, family background, and culture.
He may be behind with some of his milestones, but he is very smart
You may notice my son is behind compared to the average 4-year-old. You may struggle to understand him due to his speech delay. You may also see the top of his Pull-Up still poking out of the top of his pants as he is still not potty trained—despite my best efforts.
After consulting with multiple doctors, therapists, and his teacher, I understand that these delays are normal, especially for kids with ADHD. It’s hard to be able to sit still on the potty for a certain amount of time when it’s generally hard to be still without constantly being on the move. That being said, he’s still very smart. His teacher says he does great in preschool and is right where he’s supposed to be academically speaking. We all move at different paces and achieve different milestones in our own time.
I wouldn’t have my son any other way.
It may be overwhelming and exhausting at times, but this is my son, and I love him for who he is. I don’t want to try to force him into being anything other than his silly, energetic, friendly, and happy self. I love seeing the world through his eyes, how the child he’s meeting at the park for the first time is instantly his best friend and how any task or errand can be enjoyed with laughing and running . . . even if it wears me out.
I learn so much from him and he’s opening my eyes to what childhood is supposed to be—not a time to be trained or molded a certain way but a time to explore, play, frolic, and absorb all the beauty this world has to offer. He is teaching me about love, fun, and friendship.
In your interactions with my son, no matter how limited, I hope you see him for the sweet boy he is. I hope your eyes will be opened to how different children can be and how beautiful those differences really are. When you see others around them, I hope you see more than just what’s on the outside or their abilities, and instead, see them for the amazing person they are. Having a child with ADHD makes me want to fiercely advocate for my son, for other neurodivergent people, and for all children who are each wonderfully unique.