You Can Lead A Groundhog to Water

I know, the saying is, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”, but it’s probably even harder to lead a groundhog.

That’s how I feel with my son every morning. And night. And sometimes in the afternoon. He is 9 years old now and he has ADHD.

That movie with Bill Murray, “Groundhog Day”, probably illustrates the way many parents of kids with ADHD feel. Every day is Groundhog Day. Every day you go through the same routine with the same script and the same struggle and every day you try to change something to break out of that infinite sense of deja vu. 

This morning was no different than yesterday morning. He stayed up too late last night. He was in bed at a reasonable hour, but couldn’t, or wouldn’t, fall asleep. Therefore, he had a hard time waking up. Despite this, he did get out of bed with time to get ready, but getting ready is a huge water trough and he wasn’t the slightest bit thirsty. I managed some sort of game that resulted in his being dressed with enough time to get breakfast and brush his teeth, but that’s where it fell apart, just like the day before, and many countless days before that.  He wanted to watch TV. I let him watch a little, but it’s never enough. I turn it off and the wild rumpus starts. I’ve tried not letting him watch TV in the morning, but the wild rumpus still occurs, only worse. In any scenario, it always comes down to those last five crucial minutes that it takes for him to brush his teeth. I won’t go on about it. Suffice to say, we are tardy almost every single day.

I’m not looking for any advice here. Please don’t try to give any. The thing with advice is that it all sounds very reasonable and very sensible and very promising – I’ve done a lot of reading and heard out a lot of friends and actually have a family therapist – but putting it into practice is a whole other animal. (Ahem. Especially when you, yourself, have your own issues to contend with).  Sure, I can set up charts on the wall, set up routines, set up a reward program, etc. etc. but if my kid won’t participate, or if he tires after a day or two of participation and quits, then what? Force him? How? Manhandle him to the ground and dress him myself? Wrestle him to the floor and brush his teeth for him? Stick a pencil in his hand, hold his little fist, force it to the paper and guide his writing? (Something my own mother, in total desperation I now know, tried to do with me – in high school no less – before breaking down into tears, which I had never seen her do before. Let’s just say, that’s not the way to go). Threaten him with a beating? Aggression and punishment only lead to a laser-focus on resentment and unjustness and anger on the part of the punished (I should know).  It does nothing for motivation (because true motivation always needs to come from within); it does nothing for a willingness to cooperate (again, true willingness comes from the same place as true motivation); aggression and punishment do nothing to foster self-reflection.

I haven’t given up on the quite sensible, reasonable, humane, advice I’ve read or been told. I know that consistency is the key. I know that we need to stick with it. 

We just all need to be thirsty at the same time.

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