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ADHD Journal: My ADHD Child

I’ll see your marshmallow and raise you two forward flip half turns

Last night €(tm)s dinner conversation:

Alex: What €(tm)s your greatest fear?

Sis: That I won €(tm)t be able to live my dreams.

Little Bro: That a monster comes out from under the bed and stabs you.

Alex: Mine is that I won €(tm)t be successful in my life.

I €(tm)ll take credit €” or blame €” for instilling these thoughts in each of their heads. Here €(tm)s the difference between them. Alex €(tm)s sister knows exactly what she wants to do, so the €œlive my dreams € is a specific, known goal. Little Bro lives in six-year-old monster-fighting land just hoping to emerge victorious. Alex, while he still spends a fair measure of time in monster-fighting land, has an evolving concept of his future with a fuzzy outline of what it means to €œbe € something.

For a time, that something was a lawyer. Or an engineer. Once he suggested it would be fun to be a cab driver. Now, he €(tm)s starting to get a real taste of failure, and he hates it. But the bigger question is, can he overcome it?

Paul Tough €(tm)s How Children Succeed walks straight through the minefield of education principles and assumptions. Standardized testing, IQs and other rigid doctrines of how kids are taught, evaluated, disciplined and eventually turned out into the world are flawed predictors of success. How many times have you heard, or uttered, about a flunky family member or friend, €œHe €(tm)s just so smart, why can €(tm)t he get his life together? €

If the word €œmarshmallows € [] means anything to you in this regard, you are probably an educator. Tough €(tm)s premise argues that a set of character traits, some of which can be taught, determines if a child can weather through challenges to obtain a desired reward. Sometimes, those challenges can be extreme boredom, busy work with no clear benefit, laborious work with reward that doesn €(tm)t come for a very long time €¦aka delayed gratification. You know some of these as grit, persistence, conscientiousness.

I like Tough €(tm)s own description of the book from this Washington Post Q&A: []

The book is about two things: first, an emerging body of research that shows the importance of so-called non-cognitive skills in children €(tm)s success; and second, a new set of experimental interventions that are trying to use that research to help improve outcomes for children, especially children growing up in disadvantage.

I €(tm)m forced to rethink my motivational strategies with Alex and the other two, which consists of frequent, but small, desired rewards for compliance. The ability to push through an unpleasant task and endure a delayed reward (again: Marshmallows) is one of the most difficult for Alex.

But remember: Tough levies the proposition these things can be taught. I want to levy the idea that kids will find their own path if you just let them venture off the trail.

Last night Alex went to his second parkour class. This is a somewhat obscure, demanding physical sport that attracts kids who like weirdness. And, I have to say, the nicest group of young men I have ever met. They welcomed Alex with out a hitch and before I knew it, Alex was launching from a springboard and doing a forward flip with a half-twist and landing into a foam-filled pit.

And high-fiving the others every time, as if the crash were its own reward.

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