Find out your ADHD parenting style: are you a warrior, repairman or director?

Editor’s Note:  Edge Foundation’s Founding board member, Dr. Patricia Quinn, has a new book out, Ready for Take-Off. We are pleased to peek inside the book and share some of its nuggets with you.

Edge: There are a lot of other books out there about school and ADHD, what motivated you to write this book?

Dr. Quinn: So often I would hear from parents and their concerns about their teen with ADHD and what would happen when the teen left home for college. Yet these parents would go on enabling and rescuing these same young adults until the moment they drove away from their teen’s dorm in late August. These parents forget that they are not going off with their teen until it’s too late. Although on occasion, I have spoken to a few parents, who do show up at college to do their teens laundry or type a paper.

In order to address this issue, I teamed up with Dr. Theresa Maitland from UNC, Chapel Hill to present an alternative “coaching” approach to parenting. In Ready for Take -Off, our primary purpose was to convince parents they could best help their teens by designing a program to empower their teens and help them gain the necessary skills to succeed in college.

Edge:  What are some of the things parents should look at with their student to determine if he or she is ready to live away from home?

Dr. Quinn: Organization and time management are often the keys to success at college. Making appropriate choices, prioritizing time and tasks, solving new challenges are important skills that teens will need in order to live on their own.  In addition, I have listed some very specific skills below. Ready for Take-Off features two extensive questionnaires, one for parents and one for the teen, to complete to determine what skills the teen has mastered and what skills still need to be developed before leaving for college.

Edge: It sounds like parents can get in the way of helping their children get college ready.  What are some things for parents to do differently with an older child that may have worked quite well as a strategy when the student was younger?

Dr. Quinn: When children are diagnosed with ADHD and/or LD, we often find that it is not unusual for their parents to respond by falling into one of three roles that can prevent their children from learning many important lessons and skills that will be important in college and in life. In Ready for Take-Off, we call these the Parent Warriors, the Parent Repairmen and the Parent Directors.

Like the medieval “knight in shining armor,” Parent Warriors participate in every battle that needs to be fought to ensure that their child is understood, treated fairly and given all the services that ultimately will lead to his or her success.  We fully appreciate that without the “parent warrior,” many teens would never be able to even dream of attending college.    However, the down side of this parenting pattern is that the parent warrior may be so intent on fighting and fixing every bump in their teen’s life that they don’t allow their teen the opportunity to struggle and learn to handle any of the challenges that are part of a normal life.

Parent Directors are naturals at noticing small problems and reading warning signs, at taking charge and problem-solving. Over the years, they may have fallen into the pattern of always directing their son or daughter with ADHD or LD by telling him or her how to get a difficult project done, clean a room, handle a conflict with a friend or even quickly pitched in to help.

Some parents don’t act as parent warriors or directors but, instead, they unconsciously “fill in the gaps” and become “repairmen” who fix the damage created by their teen’s attention and self-management problems. These parents have a tendency to “repair”  homework problems by always asking if homework is done, checking on progress on long-term assignments, and forcing their teens to work in the dining room or a non-distracting area when they are “caught” off task during mandated home work hours. By always double-checking in the morning and at night, these parents prevent their teens from learning how to manage on their own – to wake-up in the morning and get to bed each night.

Edge: What are some of the skills students should focus on sharpening in order to be ready for life away from home?

Dr. Quinn: To ensure success, students need to make sure that they have achieved independence in daily living, study and self-advocacy skills. These include being able to:

  1. Awaken himself each day.
  2. Be responsible for his own laundry.
  3. Keep his room and possessions organized.
  4. Take any medication needed with few or no reminders.
  5. Eat healthy meals and exercise regularly.
  6. Manage money.
  7. Make good decisions about how to manage stress and to balance time between fun, chores and schoolwork.
  8. Set up a study schedule and stay on top of schoolwork without reminders.
  9. Organize ideas, write and edit his own papers.
  10. Motivate himself to face assignments and tasks that he doesn’t really enjoy.
  11. Clearly explain strengths and weaknesses to teachers and other people.
  12. Comfortably ask for help or admit when he doesn’t understand something.
  13. Find resources or support when he can’t figure something out on his own.

About Patricia O. Quinn, M.D.

Dr. Patricia Quinn is a developmental pediatrician in Washington, D.C.  A graduate of Georgetown University Medical School, she completed a fellowship in developmental pediatrics at Georgetown and specializes in child development and psychopharmacology.  Dr. Quinn has worked for more than 35 years in the areas of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities.

Dr. Quinn is a founding board member of the Edge Foundation an organization dedicated to providing coaches to high school and college students with ADHD.  She is the author of more than 20 books on ADHD for children, adults, and professionals. For the last decade, Dr. Quinn has devoted her attention to the issues confronting girls and women with ADHD and feels a strong commitment to helping them to identify and manage issues specific to their gender.  Her 1999 book, Understanding Girls with ADHD, is groundbreaking in its presentation of this population.

Dr. Quinn is a well-known international speaker and conducts workshops nationwide about ADHD.  She has appeared on Lifetime TV’s New Attitudes, the PBS show, To the Contrary, and on Good Morning America to discuss the issue of girls and women with ADHD.  Dr. Quinn appeared in a video aired on PBS titled, OUTSIDE IN: A Look at Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder.  She produced and appeared in an educational video ADD: Transition to College – Passport to Success for the National Attention Deficit Disorder Association.

Dr. Quinn, a woman and mother with ADHD, has four children, three of whom have ADHD as well.

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2 Responses

  1. adrian

    Everything from #10 on is my son’s problem and I am definitely in that Director/Repairman role. It’s just such a tough tightrope to walk to give him some responsibility, but ensuring that nothing with terribly serious consequences is going to happen. He just got his own apartment, which was a good step, and I haven’t been over there once (pat on the back for me), but I have been doing a lot of directing from afar to get his finances in order and make sure he doesn’t ruin his credit while trying out his wings. Thanks for the reminder to fade back a bit.

    PS: I DID resist the urge to set him up with the girl at the hair salon. He hasn’t had a girlfriend in such a long time! But I guess he’ll just have to cope with that problem himself.

    • Peggy -- Edge blogger

      Congratulations on keeping out of the matchmaking department! And thank you also for sharing your story with our readers. You aren’t the only parent out there who is walking that tightrope!