Temperament and Parenting

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Inattentiveness
ONE MOTHER'S STORY - The Difference between ADHD and Normal Difficult Temperament(cont.)


Kathy is moderately distractible and can have trouble concentrating at times. Perhaps in higher grades she would even have enough trouble to consider it an 'attention deficit' but so far she is maintaining excellent grades and her school behavior is fine. One thing, though, teachers comments that she often glares at them and seems a bit critical. We've talked to Kathy about what might be perceived as an attitude problem and she laughs and tells us that all the kids act this way and she's just trying to fit in. All I can say is, thank goodness she is open with us and we can steer her away from trouble.

Now, about our wonderful son. After hearing me brag about Kathy, I bet you thought we had nothing good to say about our son who is diagnosed as mild ADD. No, we enjoy his spirited nature, too, but there are some differences from Kathy that have caused us to seek a diagnosis for him. Steve (not his real name) was an impossible baby and toddler. He did not sleep through the night until he was four and he was hardly ever in a good mood. He did not play with toys (and this was the biggest difference from Kathy who always played well, though she didn't like playing alone). He could not be satisfied, unlike Kathy, who could be redirected to something new when bored. Regular discipline didn't seem to work, whereas Kathy understood the meaning of 'no'. With Steve, we had to learn how to use rewards and, sometimes, Time Out. Although Kathy and Steve share many temperamental qualities, Steve has them to a greater degree and has changed less over time than Kathy.

Steve is also very smart but we do not think he is as gifted as Kathy, although we don't really know. He gets higher marks than she did at the same age, and this is a source of wonder to us. We know he tries very, very hard and concentrates as best he can (the doctor does not think he needs medication for his attentional problems). Steve is more vulnerable to stress than Kathy, and when there have been family problems he has become more unmanageable and does not seem to have the same insight into the causes of his behavior whereas analytical Kathy knows what is worrying her. We are working on this with Steve, and he is getting better at it and is more open with his feelings than he used to be.

We certainly use what we know about temperament and ADD to help both of our children. For us, that boils down to not blaming our children (or ourselves!) for the way they are, learning to see their many positive qualities, and helping them cope with any difficulties created by their inborn differences from average kids.