Recently, I received an email newsletter from an ADHD coach. This wheel was part of a graphic that asked parents to consider how they felt in each of these areas of parenting. The other wheel in the graphic was excellent and I thoroughly agree with the components in there which included: consistent parenting, effective consequences, clear rules. All really great stuff.
Here’s the problem with this wheel: It doesn’t have “Mom or Dad or Grandparent”, the most important roles in your son’s life.
Let’s break this down line by line and talk about the benefits or potential problems with you trying to play all these roles:
Academic Coach: Totally fine IF you can do it without lecturing, getting into an argument and most importantly you’re not acting as your son’s executive functioning.
Advocacy Coach: Great. Teaching self-advocacy skills is teaching independence and it’s addressing a core social learning challenge (asking for help/clarification).
Buddy/Pal: Definitely do things with your son he enjoys and you enjoy together. Keep in perspective you are not a substitute for similar-age friends.
Career Exploration Coach: Helping your son discover his interests and possible career path is great and he needs other people to help him with this. Most importantly, by age 14 you need to have realistic conversations with your son and not tell him “you can be anything you want”. A career as a professional gamer (e-sports) or a famous YouTuber are not realistic career goals for the majority of individuals.
Life Skills Coach: Definitely yes. Teaching your son life skills is teaching independence. It will help him improve his executive functioning as he learns to do skills independently. Doing things for your son because he gets frustrated, avoids the task or doesn’t do it to your expectation sends him the message that if something is not enjoyable he can avoid it.
Social Skills Coach: A big NO! Improving social skills is an extremely complex and slow process. It involves much more than “reading social cues”. You can help teach perspective taking (understanding other’s thoughts/feelings) but when parents act as their son’s social skills coach they typically do not teach the correct concepts and most kids are not receptive to their parent’s feedback, especially around age 11 and up.
Some great suggestions in this wheel, however, you cannot take on all these roles on your own and you definitely cannot be your son’s social skills coach. Attempting to take on all these roles will result in frustration and your son will be less likely to benefit from what you’re trying to teach.
Remember, you have the most important role in your son’s life as “Mom”, “Dad” or “Grandparent”.