If you are around age 40 or older, you grew up in a time when ADHD was rarely diagnosed. Often, the guys who we went to school with who had (undiagnosed) ADHD may have been the guys who would come into school high, reeking of pot. Other ones were placed in special ed classes, often with kids who had much more significant challenges. Some were the guys who would read books all day, rarely socializing with anyone. Some of the lucky ones discovered vocational school and went on to have highly successful careers in vocational fields.
The first mention of ADHD was in the late 1700s, in a German medical textbook. It’s had many labels over the years, and eventually, I believe ADHD will be called “executive function developmental delay”, which is a much more accurate term.
ADHD stems from a genetic mutation which sometimes is inherited from fathers to sons. I can’t tell you how many fathers have told me “I was just like him when I was his age”, referring to their son. Other fathers have shared with me that based on their sons behavior, they’re positive they have ADHD but were never diagnosed.
There’s a wide body of scientific evidence to prove ADHD exists.
In 2019, as common as we know ADHD is, it is still poorly understood by most educators and mental health professionals. People going into these fields learn very little about ADHD. The only reason I can do the work I do is because I sought out education and training on my own. The majority of work I use is not from the mental health field, but from the speech-language pathology field.
So what does it mean that ADHD is poorly understood by the people who work with our kids? It means there’s not a lot of effective help out there aside from medication. More importantly, it means that ADHD is often seen as a character flaw. Criticisms like “lazy”, “unmotivated” and “he doesn’t care about anything but video games” are often used to describe boys with ADHD.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about teachers making comments like “He’s smart, he just doesn’t care.” This is a reflection of a teacher’s frustration that stems from their lack of education about how to support kids with ADHD in their classes. It’s important to know that intelligence has nothing to do with ADHD symptoms. You can’t talk a kid out of ADHD-related challenges by appealing to his intellect.
One of the most common things I hear from parents is “We tried counseling and it wasn’t helpful” or “The counselor said my son’s not opening up so he couldn’t help”. ADHD is a learning issue, not a mental health issue which is why traditional “talk therapy” is often ineffective in addressing ADHD.
I always tell parents, therapy was not designed for boys and it was definitely not designed for boys with ADHD. You can’t “fix” ADHD by trying to get a kid to talk about his feelings or lecturing him on why he should have better impulse control, make better decisions, etc.
If you want to learn how ADHD affects the brain there’s lots of excellent information online. Dr. Russel Barkley’s videos on YouTube are great.
What I will tell you is that if you view ADHD as a character flaw in your son, there’s a high likelihood it’s going to negatively effect your relationship with him, for many years to come.
The good news is that for most kids, ADHD symptoms improve with brain maturation. There are many highly successful people who have learned to manage ADHD, and there some who go through life having difficulty sustaining employment and struggle with social relationships. Unfortunately, some go down a dark path of drugs/alcohol as a way to self-medicate.
As father you need to make a decision-You can take a little bit of time to educate yourself and understand that the things your son does that piss you off or create stress in your house is not intentional, rather it has to do with his brain development lagging in certain areas, compared to other guys his age.
My unsolicited advice to you: Take some time to educate yourself, watch some of my videos on the ADHD Dude YouTube channel but most importantly, don’t let a condition your son didn’t ask for define your relationship with him. ADHD is not his identity, it’s not an excuse for disrespectful behavior but it is something that you can learn to help him deal with and that will help your relationship with him immensely.
Boys learn how to be men from their fathers and other male role models whom they choose to emulate. Think about your son being a father one day, do you want to see him criticize your grand kids or become frustrated with them? I think the last thing any father wants is look back on his life and regret that he wasn’t more attuned to what his kids needed when they were growing up.
Let your son know that you’re trying to learn what you can do to help him because at the end of the day that’s what he needs most from you.
Your unconditional love and understanding, particularly when he’s struggling the most is what will help him become the type of man that you hope he’ll become.
You got this,
Ryan (ADHD Dude)
Learn more about the work I do:
www.adhddude.com (Online Coaching)
www.ridethewavecounseling.com (My practice in Linwood, NJ)
www.summertripcamp.com (Margate, NJ)
https://tinyurl.com/ADHDDudeYouTube (YouTube Channel)
(My son and I with our dog’s father, 9 years ago.)