What My Daughter Taught Me About Patience

My daughter is 8 years old. She’s been diagnosed with ADHD two years ago, and has been on meds since the end of last school year.

We fought medication. Tried EVERYTHING we could imagine for 9 straight months — vitamins, supplements, allergy tests, food sensitivities, counseling, stern warnings and anything else we could think of. Then we tried meds. To our relief and dismay, there was a noticeable difference in her ability to focus in class.

She stopped getting sent to the office almost daily. Her reading scores improved. Her spelling improved. Parent/teacher conferences became more about her academic progress and less about her behavior.

We don’t do the meds on weekends unless there is something going on where we need focus. Otherwise, we let her run free — imagining and playing, being goofy, getting distracted for ten minutes staring at the intricate patterns on a fallen red-brown leaf.

The one thing she struggles most with, medicated or not, are transitions. If you, for example, walk up without warning to her and say “okay, it’s bedtime!” and take away the tablet or book, turn off the tv or computer, or hold toys hostage in return for potty and brushing teeth, she loses it.

Crying, yelling, pouty, refusing to go along with it… she will eventually start to do what is required but it will take FOREVER, as she vengefully finds every possible way to drag out her bedtime routine to take as long as possible. It becomes frustrating for both of us. Usually, that devolved into a shouting match.

We finally, about a year ago, recognized that it was the transition she struggled with. How could we make a transition not a transition? We tried several approaches. Here is the one that has worked best, but has also required us to be patient:

“Honey, bedtime is in 10 minutes; I’m setting the timer. When it goes off, you finish what you are doing and do you bedtime stuff, okay?”

We might have to repeat it once or twice. But once we know she’s heard us she goes right along with it. The timer goes off, and she’ll usually turn off the electronic or put down the book right then. Sometimes she’ll inform us that she is going to finish the video or the page, which is fine. She does her bedtime stuff, and then we do the rest of the bedtime routine and that’s that.

We started applying this elsewhere — when it’s time to go to school, when it’s time to leave somewhere to go home, when it’s time for dinner. As long as we are patient and give her a warning, there’s little to no struggle. If there is a struggle, it’s usually our fault for not making enough time to have an extended transition. And that ends up usually taking more time than an extended transition would have.

If you’ve got kids who struggle with transitions and you’ve been fighting and struggling and dragging them through, try this. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s far easier on my blood pressure levels and my child’s anxiety.