What you must do is determine if your son’s problem is an “I can’t” or an “I won’t” type of problem. This allows you to decide how quickly you should step in to help. If it is an “I won’t” problem, then you need to wait and let him try to work through it on his own. If the problem is “I can’t,” then you should step in, provide instruction, and step away to let him try. You want to do this to teach your son an “I can and I will” attitude.
You can help strengthen your son’s self-esteem by affirming him in front of others. So often we reprimand and correct our son around other people, but we affirm him much less. Regardless of his age, your son needs to hear your encouragement and positive reinforcement, and he needs others to hear you giving it to him. He needs to hear you say statements like, “I’m proud of you. Your performance was awesome. You have a great heart. I love you.”
If parents don’t affirm their son in this way, then he will find another way to get that affirmation, usually from peers or by smoking, drinking, or engaging in other dangerous behaviors. Build your child up by telling family or friends a positive story about him, send them an email with a photo or a great story about him, or simply send him a note in his lunch box that he can read.
How to Navigate Challenges with Self-Esteem
The elementary years will likely be challenging for you and your son. The demands of school shine a new spotlight on his deficits in executive functioning skills and his difficulties with behavior, focus, and attention. Do you recognize these weaknesses?
Your son needs you to be involved at school to advocate for him and to work with his teachers to create interventions that will help him succeed at this critical time in his life. Remember: Your son is different from every other boy with ADHD, so he requires interventions tailored to his needs.Throughout everything, be sure to keep a problem-solving perspective, seek professional help when necessary—and, of course, never give up.
James W. Forgan, Ph.D., is a parent of a young son with ADHD and a licensed school psychologist. Mary Anne Richey, M.S., is a parent of an adult son with ADHD and a licensed school psychologist. This article was reprinted from their book “Raising Boys with ADHD: Secrets for Parenting Healthy, Happy Sons“ (©Sourcebooks 2012).