Six Lessons We Can Learn From People With ADHD


Six Things I Learned from ADHD

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As parents, we often focus on finding solutions to the challenges our children (and we) face. We think of these challenges as negatives. What if we are really the ones who need changing? Maybe God gave us out-of-the-box kids to cause us to grow in our faith, to throw away our assumptions about parenting, and to learn how to love like He does. Here is my list of things I’m thankful I learned from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Don’t worry about tomorrow or what happened yesterday.

Jesus told us to walk with Him and not worry about our lives. He forgives us for our past mistakes. People with ADHD live in the eternal now and don’t plan. They just “go with the flow” and know that everything will probably work out. In many ways, that’s what all of us are called to do when we walk with Christ. He says, “Just take the next step and then I’ll tell you what to do.” God almost never shares the whole plan with us. We walk by faith, not sight.

People are more valuable than material goods.

How many of us get upset because something is lost or broken? I do. We yell at the kids for being careless, but who yells at us when we do the same thing? Our goods can be replaced, but relationships can’t.

Tell the truth . . . with love.

Children with ADHD often blurt out whatever is on their minds, even if it might hurt someone’s feelings. We need to be tactful and kind with our words, but at least they tell the truth about what they truly think. Sometimes it is better not to share our opinions, but there are times when a well-chosen truth might save someone from embarrassment or choosing a wrong path. How often do we keep our mouths shut when we ought to open them and open them when we ought to shut them?

Creativity is messy.

If we are going to be creative, we have to be willing to put up with crayons, paints, paper, electronic parts, cardboard, flour, fabric, and any number of items being within eyesight. People with ADHD are usually visual and do their best work when everything is out in front of them. Experiments with creativity show that a table full of random materials will give rise to the most innovative solution. Check out the desks of the most creative people, and you will likely find stacks of paper all over the place, books and equipment lying around, and a skinny path to the actual seat.

Personally, I can’t stand all the mess, but allowing them to create their own sense of order works better than imposing my systems. Creativity doesn’t come in a box, it comes when we color outside the lines and use unusual items together.

There are many ways to accomplish the same thing.

People with ADHD ask a lot of questions, questions like, “Why do we have to do this?” or “Why do you do it like that instead of like this?” Dealing with these folks requires flexible thinking. Some people learn to play an instrument by listening, some by going to live lessons with an instructor, some by following a book. It is the same with everything. We can’t get stuck on doing things our own way.

Life is not linear; it’s random.

Is life naturally predictable? Not really. God loves transforming people and turning our comfortable lives upside down. We often think that “If I do A, then B will happen.” Sometimes that’s true, but life is often more random than that. The high school dropout becomes the multimillionaire. The gangbanger becomes the youth pastor. The super health nut dies of a heart attack; while the smoker lives to be 95 years old. Life seems random because it doesn’t always make sense to us puny humans, even though it makes perfect sense to an all-knowing, mighty God. Embrace it.

Are there things that you’ve learned from your special children that you’d like to share? Join the conversation and leave a comment.

Julie Polanco is the homeschooling mother of four children, the oldest having graduated in 2016. She is frequent contributor to Old Schoolhouse Magazine and is the high school botany instructor for Her book, God Schooling: What the Bible and 25 Experts Say About How Children Learn Best will be released in summer 2018. Keep up with her at her website, where she regularly posts about the writing life, homeschooling, Christian living, and her book projects.

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"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).