“But, it’s not fair!” This phrase, and the tone that comes with it, is a universal button pusher for parents. It inevitably comes a time when you’re already running low on patience, and calmly engaging in a discussion about the fairness of a situation is the last thing that you want to do. Your child is equally as distressed, and because he or she truly believes that he or she has been wronged, your child’s mind becomes focused solely on arguing his or her position in the fairness debate.
Kids with ADHD identify more situations as being “unfair” than kids without ADHD, and they struggle to move on and let go. Why? In general, kids with ADHD are prone to black-and-white thinking, and struggle to see the gray areas in situations. They also tend to have difficulty looking at things from the perspective of another person, and think that their view of a situation is the only perspective that exists. In addition, when they are frustrated, they have a hard time managing their feelings, and when they feel frustrated they are more likely to think negatively about the things that are happening around them.
It’s challenging to know how to respond when your child complains about fairness. You want to help him or her understand why something is fair despite how it may seem, or learn to be okay with the fact that things in life won’t always be fair. But the life-lesson conversations about fairness that you’ve had with your child in the past don’t really seem to be having an impact.
If you follow this three-step approach consistently, you’ll start hearing fewer and fewer complaints from your child about fairness. At the same time, your child will learn that he or she can tolerate feelings of frustration, and that it can feel good to let go and move on from difficult situations.
Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.
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