Nothing works better than love. [The] most common advice [my coauthor and I give] to parents who are having ongoing trouble with a difficult child is…
“Hang in there. Keep loving him. Keep showing up. Keep trying. Keep setting limits, offering new ideas, making deals, wrestling with one catastrophe after another. Just don’t give up. Don’t write him off. One day all your love and all your efforts—and his—will pay off.”
Sometimes these parents get annoyed with us for giving this advice. They already know that, they say, and they want something more esoteric, something more elaborate, something new that will work. And I do have various new interventions to offer. But none of them is worth a nickel without love.
I’ve been in this business long enough—I started treating patients in 1978—to know that I’m right. I’ve seen teens go to jail but, because one parent hung in there and kept loving them, find great careers for themselves years later.
I’ve seen children with ADD get tossed out of school after school, their parents told each time that this child is the “worst” (the actual word used) the school has ever seen, only at age 25 to own a million-dollar business and be as happy as can be.
I’ve seen adolescents with ADD get so depressed that they wanted to commit suicide and even try it, only years later to be helping me counsel other adolescents on how much better life can get.
I’ve seen girls curl up on the floor of my office crying, pounding their heads, saying how stupid they are and how life sucks and how they wish they were dead, only years later to be sitting in a chair in that same office telling me about their medical school acceptance, their upcoming marriage, or their having started their own business.
I’ve seen boys spend most of their teens smoking pot and doing very little else, only in their twenties to find the right job and the right girl and turn life into a spectacular success.
The difference—every time—is love: Love applied by someone, somewhere, somehow.
My name is Ned Hallowell and I’m a child psychiatrist. The words above are from my book—Superparenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child. I cowrote the book with Peter S. Jensen, M.D., one of the country’s top ADHD researchers.
People sometimes ask why we started a book about ADHD with a chapter on love. The answer is simple. Love is so powerful, yet we don’t talk about it nearly enough. Doctors don’t stress love enough. Teachers don’t honor it enough. As a parent, the loving relationship you have with your child is more precious than gold.
Now, let’s be clear. Treatment for ADHD matters a lot. Scientifically proven treatments can (and should) help your child. From behavior therapy to medication to counseling, there are many, many good options.
But love is a key part of any treatment plan. Children who are loved, and who know they are loved, are getting the most powerful medicine for ADHD.
So, as you wade through treatments and therapies, never lose sight of what’s important. As you face challenges, and celebrates successes, keep the focus on love. It can make all the difference.
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