ADHD Persistence Doesn’t Always Pay Off

“Persistence pays off.”  

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

“Persistence is the key to success.”

We’ve all heard these quotes.  They are positive statements that encourage us to keep working, keep striving to meet our goals and feel a sense of accomplishment.  Many of us probably have various motivational quotes written down to inspire and remind us to keep moving forward! 

But what happens when we don’t WANT to hear these quotes and phrases?  Those times when we can be frustrated by SOMEONE (normally a loved one) being persistent in our lives…in a negative way.

That someone can often be our ADHD persistent child.  The child who can not “let it go” when their routine is turned upside down, or they don’t get the response they were seeking, or, most times, when they don’t get their way.   

When this happens in our home, my child handles this situation with a constant onslaught and barrage of questions…for long periods of time.  And then, maybe he comes back to it, hours (or days!) later when it’s still the first and foremost thought they are focused on and can not put away.  (That’s a long time to hold onto something that didn’t go your way, right?)

If you’ve watched my Anger and ADHD video (found in the free to join Succeed with ADHD Facebook Group), you know that when the amygdala (the small, almond shape part of our brain that is always on the lookout for anything that could go wrong) is hijacked, emotions flood the brain.

When this happens, the frontal lobe which controls our Executive Functioning (EF) area goes “off-line,” and the ADHD brain is not able to activate the EF functions (like self-control, flexible thinking, working memory) that would help the child remember how to work around this issue.  The main thought gets through, which is, most commonly, the negative one.  Unfortunately, the one they cannot let go. 

Such was the situation with my son earlier this year as we walked through the week’s schedule.  During the front loading, I made one grandiose mistake: I failed to include ONE key component (not purposely, but just didn’t think it was a big deal in my mind) that set him in a persistent state where he was unable to converse about anything other than the said component of which he was upset about: the one I unknowingly left out.

While I feel I have a ton of patience in various parenting “arenas,” this one is a trigger for me and these situations do not set me up for “rising above it” with patience, for some reason.  Can anyone relate???

Maybe it’s because I don’t like repeating myself.  Maybe it’s because I don’t like being bugged with a constant barrage of questions and statements thrown at me – the same ones over and over again.  Maybe I feel he should be in a different “place” of maturity to “drop it”.

And yes, I am a work in progress and constantly struggle with my own triggers around this. 

But in the meantime, it’s important to help him learn how to set aside this persistent thinking so it doesn’t interfere with social interactions, friendships and his ability to think about something else.

Dis/encouraging this character trait is most definitely a fine line…one that I tow, one that I allow in my conversation “space” with my son…one where I need him to get through it and be more flexible in his reactions…but yet, one where he is able to use words and express himself (not easy).

Because I think to myself: in the real world, outside the safe confines of our home, this persistent state of mind can/may be perceived as annoying, maybe even rude and/or insulting pending on who it’s directed to.  

OR it can be perceived as a positive character trait: the person who never gives up even when the stakes are turned against him and will stop at nothing to prove everyone wrong. 

Which do I want?  How do I want others to perceive this personality trait?  I’d want the latter!  

So, how do we put this persistent “puppy” to bed all the while supporting their need to be persistent and express themself?  (For those of you with ADHD children, the ability to express and put words to feelings is not a norm in the typical daily conversation and I cherish it when I can actually “feel” my son’s emotions.) 

Here is how to transition the conversation to other things so your persistent ADHD child can get grounded again:

  • Validate the feelings and overall mental well being: ie: frustration, anger, upset, etc.  “You are upset that you are missing practice.”  “You’re disappointed your sister said she’d be here and she’s not.” “You’re angry I forgot to pick up the ice cream.”
  • Acknowledge mistakes“I forgot to add that detail which made you upset.  I am sorry.”
  • Encourage“I like how you are showing your feelings and expressing yourself with your words.”
  • Express how you are feeling towards him:  “I see you are upset.  I expressed to you that I already feel bad about this situation.  I don’t want to be upset with you, but the decision is made.”
  • Give chances:  Those who are persistent do need boundaries and social awareness when expressing themselves – case in point – the boundary meaning TIME.  IE: It is NOT ok to continue to have this conversation further.  There is nothing else to discuss here.  “What else can you express so you can allow this conversation to end.”  OR “You can express 3 more times and let go of what you need to around this situation, then we are not discussing it anymore.”

While I know most of these techniques work really well, (because I’ve used them many times before!), there are the off times when I just allow the moment to happen (albeit biting my tongue) and listen to the conversation as it runs on and on.  Maybe he just needs to be his persistent self for a while, maybe that’s his way of processing, maybe we switch the setting, or maybe he just gets tired of listening to himself say the same things over and over…

The rare times when he shares his deeper emotions and expresses his frustration is one moment that I just breathe through…..and savor those emotions and words, even if they are not the happiest ones…I still get to see them come through.