Raising a child with a mood or mental health disorder can be challenging, to say the least. My son has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), and the relationship that he and I have is monumental to his development.

As a parent, no matter the child, we want to raise a self-sufficient individual. Among many other qualities, we only hope that our children will possess, being self-sufficient in life builds towers of stability and success. I know I want that for my children, especially the ones who will struggle the most because of their disability.

There has always been a stigma around mental health, and specifically with children who struggle through having ADHD and ODD. But what I’ve learned about kids with these types of mood disorders is they’re sensitive, and their sensors are usually on overload the majority of the time.

The relationship I’ve developed with my child is a sacred one. It’s one of the most important and influential relationships he will ever have. Because it’s the relationship that will teach him to speak up for himself and stand up for what he feels is right when he’s being pushed to back down. If you’d like to check out an article explaining the Inside of our Son’s Battle with ADHD and ODD, you can read the full article here.

However, even in the safest and most reliable relationships between a parent and a child, there are challenges. The challenges I face most often, are the outbursts and means of communication my son chooses to use.

At times, he can be disruptive and disrespectful, making the channel of engagement very rough. Instinctively, I want to react back in an authoritative “I’m the parent” tone. Although, with a child who struggles with authority, and who is naturally defiant, my reaction is key to the spiral action that will take place immediately after. This is not something I’ve always been good at either.

I simply learned that for starters…

  • I must pick my battles with my son. Asking myself, is this a fight I really need to win? Or is there a learning opportunity involved where I can help redirect how he responds?
  • Is my son looking for attention or is something else bothering him, and he doesn’t know how to express it?

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In the past, whenever I’ve stopped to check my emotions and consider my reaction, I’ve been able to think constructively and foster a healthy more sensible communication with my son; really getting to the root of an isolated feeling or emotion he’s been experiencing.

Most children struggle being able to express themselves in reasonable ways, causing an onset of nasty behavior. Once, as parents, we learn to understand their language and help them construct more sensible reactions to their feelings, over time more balanced behaviors are developed. But this takes time, patience, and practice.

How to Raise a Self-Sufficient Child

The relationship I have developed over time with my son goes back and forth all day every day. I realized how important it was about a year back when I heard him tell his younger brother something I had been ingesting into his daily routine.

It dawned on me, “Nicole, he’s listening, he’s watching, and he’s absorbing what you are showing him and telling him”. This is huge because this means my son is trainable. Not like I see him as an animal or something I get to control. In fact, it’s the reality that it is possible to raise a son with ADHD and ODD to be self-sufficient. How do we do that?

Assigning Responsibilities

Chores are a great place to start. They give the child a sense of purpose beyond being a child in the home. Rather, it helps them develop a sense of authority over their dedicated tasks, as well as, the responsibility to those tasks. Once they’ve completed the chores, they experience the feeling of accomplishment. This is the first ingredient to building a self-sufficient individual.

Encourage Independence

Taking a step back and allowing children to think for themselves whether it’s right or wrong (wrongs can be corrected later) can give them a boost in confidence. It also can encourage independent thinking and learning the essence of being a self-starter.

In the event they need some guidance, you can be their safety net. Although be careful how you approach them because it’s pointless to talk down to them when they’re wrong, it’s counterproductive. Giving lite guidance to ways something would work better and allowing them to finish the thought or fill in the gaps will keep them on the path of independent thinking.

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Teaching and Learning Through Their Mistakes

There are going to be moments the child will make mistakes. In those moments, you can allow them to see the results of a mistake they’ve made. Because it’s apart of life, it’s important for them to know that not everything they set out to do, will get done right.

The importance is to learn from the mistake and grow from it, to affect the outcome the next time they come face to face with a similar challenge. This is another way to build confidence because of their thinking and learning through decisions they’ll have to make.

Problem Solving Skill Sets

One of the most important values of being self-sufficient is problem-solving. Not having to always turn to someone else to fix something you're qualified to do on your own. Kids are learning and growing every day, they need to be taught how to pull together little pieces of knowledge to solve one big problem.

As they’re learning, parents can interject soft advice in places to remind them they have the skills already, they just need to put it together to perform the overall task. Ask them questions to get their minds thinking in ways they don’t naturally consider at first. Make little suggestions on what may work or why something wouldn’t work.

This should help them to consider alternative ways to solve their problems. Once they’ve thought through the problem and used their own judgments to solve it, there again is a sense of confidence that will continue to build in them.

Continue Fostering Self-Confidence

The sister strength of being self-sufficient is having self-confidence. Have you ever seen the power behind the mind of someone who has good self-esteem? I have. It’s someone who wakes up in the morning, and despite their biggest fears, gets out of bed and faces their day head-on. With resilience, they handle the obstacles in front of them, with grace, dignity, and respect.

As their parent, you’re responsible for building their confidence. This one can be easy, but it also can be easily destroyed. It’s important to remind your child how awesome they are. To discourage them from ever saying mean or cruel things about themselves, and others as well.

Every day is a new opportunity to tell your child how proud of their accomplishments you are, to engage in being positive and supportive through the things they must go through individually. Give your child the space they need to trust themselves, to learn to love themselves, and to also be proud of the work they’ve completed.

Final Thoughts

The relationship you have with your children is always going to be important. When you establish a strong, trusting, and reliable relationship with a child early on, it’s something they refer to for years after.

Children are products of their environments, so modeling self-sufficient behaviors in yourself will also influence them to follow. My relationship with my son is something I focus on daily because it requires I engage with him differently.

He challenges me in ways my other children just do not. I don’t want my son to feel rejected or different because he communicates, thinks, and engages differently than others do. Nonetheless, I want him to feel the same sense of love, support, and motivation from me too.

What are the ways you’ve gone out of your way to ensure you have a solid relationship with your children?

This Guest Post was Written by Nicole Emanuel. More about Nicole:
Hey there! Thanks for reading this guest post for Apparently Parent. It’s been an honor to receive the invite to write for you all. My name is Nicole, I am the creator and designer for a Parenting Lifestyle Blog called, Keep Calm its Life. Which is a community of parents who have caught the wind of my inspiration. I often refer to myself as a Professional Mommy, after having four kids, three of them back to back, I literally feel like I’ve been through nearly everything that revolves around parenting. Naturally, there are things still left to learn. But more than anything I use a platform to encourage other parents to stray away from the idea of Perfect Parenting. It simply does not exist. So, while we all travel our parenting road of adventures, we can join together to share how we stay healthy in our mind, body, and spirit. I invite you to stop by and visit me at Keepcalmitslife.org and see what adventures we have in common. It was nice meeting you! Love Nicole

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