In continuing on with the discussion The Christian Parenting Handbook, let me go on record right now as saying that this is probably the best chapter in the book if you are homeschooling a child with ADHD. The precepts of this chapter had been rolling around in my head for months, maybe even years, before I read the book, but I was missing one important component as I struggled to implement it’s principles — the issue of character flaws.
Because this is primarily a homeschool blog, and more importantly because this is THE area in which we are currently working these strategies, I’m going to approach today’s thoughts and ideas from that perspective. Please know that they are not limited to that. In fact, when you read the book, it’s not even discussed. That’s the beauty of The Christian Parenting Handbook. It allows you to take your parenting styles, your personal family situation, your LIFE, and apply universal principles to reach the heart of your child. So if you child has trouble with creating messes, or forgetting chores, or not being responsible in other areas of his life, know that this will help you, too.
Ok — let’s talk about character for a moment. So often, I have intently focused on Ben’s behavior, without considering that the real problem was an underlying character flaw. Like most of us, Ben has his share. Not to beat a dead horse, but again, with his ADHD, it’s often difficult for me to distinguish between behaviors that are purposefully disobedient and those that are merely exhibitions of impulsivity or distractedness. One of those is an issue of character, while the other may not be. The beauty of what I’m about to share is that it doesn’t really matter which it is. If I approach the issue as character training using the strategies from this chapter, either an underlying character issue will be dealt with OR he gets to practice a new strategy for managing his ADHD symptoms. Either way it’s a win-win situation for Ben.
Here’s the issue — getting through the homeschool day with an acceptable level of cheerfulness and willingness to produce excellent work, without the need for me to nag, beg, plead, coerce, or otherwise force it to happen.
It’s about diligence. And whether or not Ben needs more diligence because he’s impatient or easily frustrated, or because he’s so distracted makes little difference. He must learn to govern himself — his time, focus, and quality of work.
Heart Parenting Strategy: Transfer Responsibility for Change to the Child
In the past, I have dealt with this issue in a number of ways. I have tried a reward system — finishing all work, within a certain amount of time, with a cheerful heart = one hour of media time at the end of the day. I have added to that a method of discipline — for every 15 minutes over your allotted time for homeschooling, 15 minutes will be deducted from media time.
Ugh! Do you see the issue with this? Once again, it’s all based on a behavior modification model. How did it work? Some days, better than others. There were days, he completed everything and enjoyed his computer time. But most days, he did not. Why? I think it’s because Ben lacks self-government in the area of diligence. This makes it difficult for him to manage to complete ANYTHING (schoolwork, chores, etc) and affects his ability to create new strategies for overcoming his ADHD issues as well.
It was time for a new plan.
How to Train Character and Stop Nagging
So, here’s what I did. After one particularly bad day, and after some time of much needed truth-telling, I told Ben that he and I were going to do a word study the next morning to figure out what we could do to improve things. It was painfully obvious, even to him, that something different needed to happen.
The next morning, I was ready with pen and paper and we sat down at the table together. We began by making a list of all of the wonderful things about Ben. I wrote down all kinds of things he does right, because there are many of those. And then we began discussing the issues we were having in our homeschool with him not completing his work without a lot of nagging from me. I shared with him that we could continue my plan of rewards and consequences for this area, or we could come up with a new plan — his plan.
I then handed him a blank piece of paper and a pen. Waiting in the wings was another piece of paper. Written at the top were these words — “Ben’s Homeschool Action Plan.”
I asked him to think about why he struggled so much with getting things done and done well, and to jot down the first things that came into his head onto the blank sheet of paper. With a little help from me, we came up with this list:
going to bed too late
sleeping in too late
I don’t like math
I forget to look at my schedule
wanting to hurry up and finish to play video games
sneaking off to play with Legos
having a bad attitude
I shared with Ben the definition of diligence from the Webster 1828 Dictionary —
Steady application in business of any kind; constant effort to accomplish what is undertaken; exertion of body or mind without unnecessary delay or sloth; due attention.
We discussed why diligence was an important character trait. For example, what would happen to Dad if he was not diligent with his job — what if he had a bad attitude with his boss, didn’t finish his work, sneaked off to play golf? (he would get fired) What could happen to us if he got fired and couldn’t afford to pay the bills? (we might lose our home, our cars, not be able to afford food)
I then shared these verses of Scripture with him —
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. (Proverbs 6:6)
For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. (2 Thess. 3:10)
We reviewed the story of Joseph and discussed many examples of diligence in his life and how they landed him favor with both Potiphar and God.
After our quick word study and character analysis, I handed Ben the second sheet of paper — the one with “Ben’s Homeschool Action Plan” written at the top — and instructed him to make a plan for more successful homeschool days. He was to start with a minimum of 5 ways to make this happen. It would be his plan and my job would be to hold him accountable to it.
This is what he wrote:
1. Go to bed by 10pm
2. Set my alarm for 8:30am and get breakfast and chores done right away
3. Follow momma’s schedule. Do math first. Check off each subject with I get done.
4. Don’t sneak away to play
5. Only play video games on Friday fun school days (this one shocked me)
6. Have a happy heart
Now we had a plan, and it’s Ben’s plan to take ownership in. Now instead of constantly reminding him of what he needs to do, I can point him back to his own plan. Rather than nagging him, I can coach him and keep him accountable to the plan he has made for himself.
Not only does this teach him a concrete way to be diligent in his work, it gives him a new strategy to conquer one of the pitfalls of ADHD — distractibility.
We are currently in the throes of training Ben’s character in this regard. He has a ways to go, and yes, sometimes consequences still have to be used when he’s unwilling to follow his own action plan. There have been many Fridays with no media time reward, for example. But there is improvement and I believe by exhibiting some diligence myself here, Ben will have real heart change.
I am definitely nagging less. And that’s a noticeable improvement for us all.
10 Days of Heart Parenting is a series God laid on my heart after I read the book, The Christian Parenting Handbook by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, R.N. Be sure to click over to read the other installments of this biblical parenting series.