Struggling as a dad: Hey all, I’ve been... - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

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Struggling as a dad

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Hey all,

I’ve been a member of this group for a little while and it’s been comforting to see that what our family is going through is not unique.

My 5 year old has been diagnosed with ADHD and potential ODD (needs further observation at this stage). He’s a handful. I’d never even really paid much attention to what ADHD was until about 12 months ago when we realised that something ‘more’ was happening with him than normal in regards to defiance, moods and tantrums.

He is like Jeckle and Hyde. One minute he is a loving caring kid and the next he is screaming his head off over something trivial that he wants but can’t get. He’s disrespectful and rude and can’t be reasoned with.

He’s been on Ritalin (short dose) for 2 weeks now and we’re told he has improved noticeably at school. But it has worn off by the time he comes home and he’s hard work.

As a dad I’m really struggling with his moods. I’m trying to understand that he can’t help it, but his rudeness and refusal to listen to calm reason just pushes my buttons. I’m so sad that I can’t have a normal relationship with my beautiful boy, and I’m dreading what this will turn into as he gets older.

Can anyone recommend good coping mechanisms or techniques for a dad who is struggling.

Thank you


21 Replies

I am so sorry you have to go through these emotions. As a parent it is so hard to see your child suffering in this way. We want to take away their pain for them but can not. I am glad he has had some improvement at school! That is great. I wonder if you talk with his doctor about a longer lasting med that gets him through the evening. A friend of mine's son has the same trouble. I know she has mentioned he takes a med in the morning and the next dose is an extended release med. As he gets older and matures it will get better. He will develop tools that will help with his moods and emotions. I have seen it in my son. Maybe talking to a therapist would be helpful for you? I've also found the website ADDITUDE to be a great resource for articles and free downloads. All the best to your family <3

Thank you very much for your reply and thoughts. We’ll look at the meds and see if we can ‘tweak’ them. Maybe you are right and I need a bit of guidance on how to best manage things too. Thanks again.

Hey there. This is my first post here, but I can SO identify with what you're going through. Our son is 7, and his generic Ritalin prescription helps his ability to focus during the daytime, but in the evenings here with us, he just kind of crashes and burns. We're looking at possibly going to combination drug therapy--adding a non-stimulant to help him through the evenings, during which he's said he often can't control his anxious moods--resulting in fierty tantrums galore. Anyway, just wanted to say that I identify with the sad sense of not being able to connect with our super-sweet boy--because he can be that: sweet and fun and loving. But it's so hard to reach him so often--and it feels so damn lonely. I will say that therapy is proving to be helpful to him to get his reactions to his emotions under control. Anyway, know that you're not alone. Is it terrible that is was heartening to read your post? Phew.

Hey Totoro363, thanks for your post. Don’t worry, it’s also heartening for me to hear someone knows what we are going through. My little man is only 5, so I’m hopeful that the early intervention of child psych, school assistance and the meds will help shape him as he grows up. Then hopefully he’ll get to an age where he can help self regulate his emotions. There’s a journey ahead for sure …

Thanks again👍

When once I learned everything I could about adhd by reading Barkleys book (taking charge of adhd ) and watching all his videos, AND when I learned about why caregivers of special needs kids need to learn self care first, I finally had the strength and patience I needed to deal with my sons moods. Knowledge is power and knowledge brings compassion and understanding.

Thanks for the response. I’ll try and get a hold of that book. 👍

There are a lot of his videos on YouTube providing free info. I think he can take very negative view so keep that in mind. Everyone’s different and the diagnosis doesn’t seal your fate. At the same time, all blame will go out the window once you understand this as a physical limitation like blindness or deafness, a neurological developmental delay… Good to remember too that kids behavior is always a message and it’s often delivered in a way that can be hard to take. But the message is - I’m out of control and I need help! Lean in even when it’s hard, give big bear hugs every time… my heart goes out to you….

Hey there. Just writing from dad to dad to tell you I understand how you feel and you are not alone. I understand the pain of feeling like you can’t connect.

Thanks mate. It’s appreciated.

My son is on extended release adderall in the morning and a short acting after school. We cannot get through the evening without more medication. Not only is his brain all over the place, he is so much more disrespectful when not on his meds. It’s crazy the difference it makes in the way he talks to me when his meds wear off.

It’s taken me many years to figure out how to personally cope with this and I still don’t have it all figured out. You can say all day long that it’s not their fault, we can’t hold it against them, and it does help me to be patient knowing they aren’t necessarily trying to hurt you, but it’s just so hard to have someone that you are doing so much for be so rude to you. I’ve cried a lot over it. BUT I am trying not to take what he says personally. They seem to get over everything in a few minutes and can act like everything is ok so I need to be able to do that too. As soon as they are ready to move on from an incident, I need to be ready to move on too.

It’s hard, but we’re all trying right? Good luck

Thank you for response. You hit the nail on the head when you said "they seem to get over everything in a few minutes and can act like everything is ok so I need to be able to do that too. As soon as they are ready to move on from an incident, I need to be ready to move on too."

Thats what I need to try and do. I'm holding onto built up frustration from the previous days' tantrums and I've got nothing left in me to cope with the new stuff.

Thanks for your thoughts.

It does get better with age. Age and therapy. Our own son couldn't be reasoned with and he did try to strangle someone once so we had him in therapy for about a year working on emotional coping mechanisms. It's a long road but he's 11 now and a lovely boy. He still cries at the drop of a hat, which I find annoying because I don't need crying when I tell him to put his shoes on. But I accept that he can't help it.

Our sons therapist told us how important it is to model the behavior you want to see. We found when they were younger jumping jacks or stomping circles were the most effective forms of emotional regulation but now that they're older they do deep breathing. I do it too. In fact they find it amusing when I am clearly getting upset and then break out in jumping jacks or breath loudly.

Martial arts could be a good outlet for your little guy.

Can he focus on an activity like catch or kicking a ball around? If he can you may find yourself spending an hour doing that with him to connect. My kids used to like to cook when they were younger and now they like to go outside and jump on the trampoline or play soccer with me. Whatever it takes to get those positive connections.

Thats really great advice, thank you for taking the time to respond.

My daughter is also 5 and newly diagnosed with ADHD. I call her my little sour patch kid. (like my favorite candies that start off sour and then turn sweet.) We are not doing meds at the moment.

As her mom, I am struggling with dealing with her moods. Her teachers all say how wonderful and sweet she is. At home, she is a terror on wheels. She mouths back all the time and fights us on everything.

Sometimes I find it hard to bond with her when I feel like we just butt heads and fight each other. For me, I breathe deep and I have a finger fidget, I fidget while I try to remain in control. For her, we try to make her as tired as we can so she will pass out at bedtime! So running games work best.

Thank you for taking the time to respond. It's appreciated

Hi Greg, What you are going through sounds exhausting. I have a adult kid with symptoms of ADD. It has been a journey. Just recently I have stumbled on ADDitude podcast that has been extremely enlightening. They talk about everything from medication to emotional disregulation. Even though your son is little, one of the podcast that I felt was really informative is “Why adults with ADD stop taking medication”I wish it was available when my daughter was younger.

I admire you for reaching out. Says a lot about you as a parent. I wish you and your family the very best.


Thank you Erika. Most people seem to say that if you put in the time and effort things generally turn out ok. I'll try my best to put the time and effort in.

Hi GregIt has taken us some time and lots of reading and listening to experts to get a handle on what these kids are dealing with but it's been worth it. Understanding the behaviour and how to manage it is essential to his well-being and yours. Other resources I have found useful is Dr Ned Hallowell's books, CHADD website, Impact Parents website and program, Child Mind Institute and many parents on this site find ADHD Dude site useful especially for boys. Good luck and it will get better with work.

We switched our 7yo to a long acting, because the short acting was giving him headaches. We've noticed a definite improvement in the evenings.

That being said, here are some strategies that work for us:

1) Clear rules and consequences , as well as rewards for following through on things he needs to do but doesn't particularly like.

2) Consistent and predictable response to situations. If we set a consequence (e.g. no screen time for the rest of the day) we need to be prepared to live with it (and the fallout) ourselves.

3) Routine. As much as possible, do the same things in the same order every day. If he knows that X is followed by Y, there will be less arguments about what he needs to do. For example, in the mornings, my son knows he can get 15min on the tablet, after he has breakfast, gets dressed and goes to the washroom, and after my wife leaves to take my daughter to daycare. It was rough while the routine was getting established, but he knows that he raises a fuss about getting something when he's not allowed to, or when he hasn't done what he needs to, then he isn't going to get those 15min. We make sure he understands what he can expect from us (both good and bad)

4) Tag team. Only have one parent engaging with him at a time, but being ready to take over when there are signs that patience is wearing thin. My son pushes my buttons frequently, and part of that is when he exhibits behaviour that I know is ADHD and beyond his ability to control and it's a quality I share and that I've had a lifetime of resenting in myself.

5) Self awareness and self care. If we're rested and attend to our own needs, we're in a better position to have the patience to do what we need to for his sake.

I make it sound like a solved problem, when it's still muddy, messy and complicated. But it's better. The key thing is to not give up. Include your son as much as possible in figuring out strategies, rewards and consequences. If something doesn't seem to be working, try to figure out why before you abandon the strategy. And change little things every so often while keeping the main structure intact. For my son novelty is a huge motivator for him.

Hope some of this was helpful!

Thank you very much for taking the time to respond. I'll definitely take your points on board.👍

Has he been evaluated for autism?

Life with our daughter just got more and more challenging until we finally discovered she’s autistic AND adhd.

That missing puzzle piece changed everything.

Here’s an article that compares/contrasts ODD with PDA profile of autism:

The emotional dysregultion, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personalities, walking on eggshells, seeing red rages… what was missing when we only had figured out the ADHD piece was an explanation for her sensory issues, anxiety and what we now know are autistic meltdowns (pressure cooker effect).

I was reading all the things, watching all the webinars, listening to podcasts etc but i wasn’t learning about the autistic experience so I wasn’t finding solutions and we were growing more desperate with every day.

Just a thought. I think there’s a lot of misrepresentation about autistics out there, which unfortunately can lead to too many folx flying under the radar meanwhile struggling and suffering from really damaging trauma as a result. I’m one of them—I wasn’t identified as autistic until my late 30s. It has been life changing in the best ways.

Good luck—what you’re struggling with is so very exhausting and leaves you feeling so defeated and confused and frustrated. I hope you find something that helps 💛

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