Month: October 2016

Do you play the “Blame Game?’

How many times have you engaged your ADD/ADHD son or daughter in a “discussion” of who is at fault. If you have, you already know that he/she never takes responsibility. Instead, the entire focus is on who “really” is at fault.

Many families have told me that the blame/responsibility arguments can go on for hours. Unfortunately, there never is any resolution. People with ADD/ADHD cannot cognitively understand their own contributions to the problem. They cannot tolerate the self criticism implied in the blame. It is always someone else’s fault.


My Advice?

Don’t engage in this type of argument.  It is a waste of time and you will not succeed in convincing anyone. Instead, when a problem arises, consequences can be assigned without any mention of blame. If something occurs, a broken window for example, parents would announce the amount of money each participating child would need to repay. No “blame” would be assigned or discussed. If the ADD student insisted it wasn’t his/her fault, the response would be that no-one said it was his/her fault. The outcome was that he/she had to repay a certain amount. In this way, the discussion of blame was avoided but responsibility was assigned.

Second, don’t argue about statements where your ADD/ADHD child blames someone else. If he/she says, “It’s Mom’s fault I didn’t have my homework,” ignore the blaming statement. Instead, restate it asserting that he needs to keep track of his homework. Pointing out that he is always blaming someone else will trigger an argument and will obscure the main idea, that his homework is HIS.

Good News!

Over time, most ADD/ADHD people learn to accept at least some blame for their actions, but this usually does not occur until early adulthood. Until then, resist the temptation to play the Blame Game!


Psychologists often use pictures of faces to help describe emotions. Do these describe your child’s emotions?



Really mad or really happy with no in-between? People who have ADD or ADHD feel emotions very intensely. They are rarely “mildly disappointed.” People around them can quickly get worn out by the emotional firestorms. It is also very wearing on the ADD or ADHD person.

To treat this, I like to use a number scale, with each number representing a degree of emotion.


Zero might represent no anger, one would be mild irritation, all the way to number 9, which is the angriest you can be. Then I ask the ADD person to think about how much anger the situation warrants. One of my ADD patients responded that he “always did a 9 anger level!” He was right! He had to learn to use the steps in between.

Then I have the student label the behaviors that are used at each level. At a 1, there just might be a brief facial expression. At a 3, he/she might make a negative comment like “Oh Darn!” Five is beginning to look like real anger, with facial grimaces and raised voices. At seven, we change our speech patterns, our volume and increased bodily tension. At eight and nine, we begin yelling, making strong gestures and using strong words to explain his/her feelings.

ADD/ADHD does impact our emotional expression. It is important to teach students to modulate their emotions. It cannot be done without practice before the situation actually occurs. In fact, it takes many repetitions and some coaching, to begin to get this internalized. However, it is well worth the effort.

What should a parent do?

  • Instead of yelling at your “emotionally intense” child, teach him/her how to modulate emotions. You could say, “this only warrants a 3 response” and help him/her understand what that would look like.
  • Make sure you notice when he/she reacts appropriately and give approval and encouragement.
  • Don’t give up—this takes time.


Did you ever think that there was a connection between your behavior and downspouts? Those two seem like they are totally unrelated!  Downspouts take water from your gutters and direct it away from the building. The result is that there is a trench in the ground that gets deeper each time it rains. The water, then, is more likely to go down that trench.

Our behavior is the same. We develop patterns of thoughts that immediately go down the usual trenches. These might be thinking about all the mistakes we have made, or on grudges we are carrying. It also might be about changing our diet and quickly going back to junk food.  In each case, we seem to revert back to the same trenches.

Change is difficult! In order to successfully change, we have to develop a new trench.  We do that just like downspouts—keep using the new one, making it deeper each time.  One time will not be enough.

You’ve heard that it takes three months to develop a new habit. This is why. It takes time and practice to develop new patterns. You also know that at the start, it is hard to stay with a new behavior or way of thinking. Of course it is. The thoughts want to go back to the old, deeper trench. Your job is to not get discouraged, but to keep sending them back to the new one, making it deeper and deeper. Then, this will become the “new normal” for you.

People sometimes let one instance of reverting back trip them up. They think their new diet was ruined by one hot-fudge sundae. No one gains back 20 pounds from one sundae! The problem is that they do not go back and continue working on the new trench.

If you have a behavior or thought pattern you want to change, start working on a new trench. Start with just one, because it is a difficult task. And keep practicing your new patterns. Soon, they will become your regular patterns!

Syndrome Y®

“He doesn’t do homework!!” That’s what I hear so often from frustrated parents.  They tell me their son’s are bright, and have had success in school in elementary grades. But now, in middle school or high school, the potential that you saw in him is missing. You have become totally frustrated with his lack of effort and his lack of passion. You have tried everything to try to get him motivated. You have threatened, promised, negotiated with and punished, but none of these have been successful. Your son may have Syndrome Y®.


I have identified a group of young men (and young adults) who show the characteristics of Syndrome Y®.  They are bright and academically capable but do no homework. Their lives are occupied by video games. Their outside interests are very limited. They have few goals and no motivation. Nothing seems to work to get them moving along the road to independence.

There are five characteristics that I have found with these young men:

  • They use Avoidance as their primary problem solving strategy.
  • They dislike having any Demands made on them. If it is not on their agenda, it doesn’t get done.
  • They become Dependent.
  • They need Immediate Gratification.
  • They have problems with the appropriate expression of Anger. They get very angry and difficult at home, but are passive and not assertive in other settings.

These young men’s symptoms are frustrating for parents and school personnel. Traditional methods don’t work.  Reward and punishment are ineffective. Often, these young men disrupt home life.

Some young men show mild symptoms, but others are significantly impaired. Many, as they grow into young adulthood are unable to leave home, don’t work and often fail at college attempts.  Some manage to avoid life’s challenges by using drugs or alcohol.  It is such a waste of the lives of these talented and engaging young men.

The treatment is to realize that these young men have some fundamental anxiety, but more importantly, they lack emotional strength. They often have the knowledge that is necessary, but not the emotional strength. They have not (because of their avoidance) had the opportunity to learn how to face challenges, how to build up their emotional fortitude in small ways over time. Instead, many have been rescued, “helped,” or indulged so they can be happy. It is just like physical strength. If you don’t use it, you get weaker. These young men have not used their emotional strength and just when they need it the most, just when life expects them to begin to function independently, they just don’t have the strength.

What is a parent to do?  The reason your previous attempts haven’t worked is because you have not addressed the underlying problem, the lack of emotional strength.  Decide today to begin on an emotional strength building program for your son.  It is a long term process, but it is the only way he will be able to function independently in our world.  You will be able to read more about this program.  I have outlined it in detail in my book, The Syndrome Y Solution:  Emotional Strength Building for your Underperforming, Unmotivated, Underachieving Son. The book will be available in January 2017.


The first step is to change your mindset. Your goal is not to make your son “happy,” your goal is to make him strong.  Start today watching yourself, finding the times that you rescue or help him out.  Step back and let him function himself.  Start with SMALL Steps.  Remember, this is like physical strength, and he will not be able to bench press 500 pounds with one trip to the gym.  It is far better to step back in small ways and let him begin to develop his emotional strength.

Here are a few ideas.

  • Make him order his own meal if you go out for dinner.
  • Don’t get his things ready for him for school or if he is going somewhere
  • Don’t get snacks for him. Let him get them himself.
  • Let him go in and buy the extra gallon of milk you need.

He is perfectly capable of doing all of these things. He just doesn’t want to. Be ready.  He will not be happy with this plan.  But, it is the only way for him to begin to develop emotional strength.