July 8, 2019

Stop Telling me to Discipline my ADHD Wild Child.


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Perpetually tired, more grey hairs appearing each day, and a pile of tear soaked tissues by my bedside—this is a regular day.

I am a mother who holds it together through willpower and necessity.

Some days, I just “wing it” and hope for the hour of bedtime to come as fast as it can.

I am a mother who feels guilty for sometimes wanting to log out of the trials of motherhood for a few forgiving hours—so I can remember that before I became a hot mess of someone who just copes, I was a person with goals, hopes, and dreams of my own.

My seven-year-old son is my rainbow.

He is my impulsive, sensitive, wild, headstrong ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) child and my heart is as big as the ocean for him. It’s the same ocean that I see in his otherworldly blue eyes.

His brain does not process experiences and emotions like an average child of his age, and I try to understand his meltdowns over small things. I try to be patient when it takes an hour to practise his reading because he can’t keep still and the letters on the page aren’t making sense. I strive not to lose my temper when he throws the pencil across the room 10 times when we are writing down spellings.

Sometimes I handle it. Sometimes I yell. I yell because I am scared for him, for the future, for myself. I’m scared that I am failing to shape his wild nature in the best way possible. My job is to guide him and I can’t afford to fail at that.

It’s hard being his mother sometimes.

He talks and talks like a waterfall that doesn’t end—about anything and everything his mind conjures up. His brain is like a computer that gets hot because it needs a rest. His thoughts swing rapidly from one to another, like a monkey going from branch to branch.

No one asks the stars why they shine the way they do, we just accept it. I wish he would be accepted for being different too.

He challenges me beyond borders—always colouring outside the lines because that is how his world makes sense.

He is here to blaze a trail for me and others by force and adversity; it is not an easy path.

I am as strong as an oak tree; I don’t bend to his will and he pounds up against me in frustration. He is also a fledgling oak—my darling boy. I am here to provide his structure when he loses himself in tears and anger.

One of the hardest things to deal with when it comes to having a child with ADHD is that other people don’t believe you.

It is a constant battle just to be heard, and not to be greeted uncomfortably by one of the following:

“He just needs discipline.”

I hear this one a lot—usually from parents who have average children who respond to regular disciplining techniques.

An ADHD child’s brain does not function in the same way as the brains of regular children. I am firm with my boundaries, consistent, and we do reward charts, reasoning, and rule enforcement.

If I offered my child a brand new bike if he chooses not to throw the object in his hand, he would still follow the impulsive behaviour in his brain; he is unable to choose the prize over the impulse.

“There’s no such thing as ADHD.”

Only a person who has never encountered ADHD symptoms in children would make this uneducated statement.

ADHD is not due to lack of parenting skills, nor is it down to excessive sugar, additives, colours in food, or excessive screen time (although these can certainly exacerbate symptoms).

My child rolls, jumps, runs, and climbs for hours on end and is still not sleepy at bedtime. I spend hours preparing fresh and healthy food for him instead of consuming junk and processed foods. The foods we add or restrict, so far, make little or no difference to his behaviour.

Contrary to popular belief, ADHD is not a new thing. It was noticed in the 1960s (and before). Dr. Ben Feingold’s book: Why Your Child Is Hyperactive explores links between allergies and ADHD type behaviour (which was then referred to as hyperkinesis-learning disability or H-LD). 


This is a pet hate of mine.

When my kid is laying on the floor in the middle of a supermarket, having a meltdown, there is little to be done except let the meltdown run its course. I can feel the judging eyes on me of people who assume it’s my fault that he is behaving that way or judge me as a bad parent because I am not fussing over him and trying to “make it better.” There is no making it better when a full-blown meltdown is taking place.

Be kind, and maybe next time you notice a parent dealing with a tough situation, give them a smile, or tell them they are doing a good job.

“All children go through this, he’ll grow out of it.”

This is a really unhelpful stick-a-plaster-on-it comment that does not honour that all children are different. All children do not go through the same behavioural issues and not all children grow out of it.

Would we suggest that a child with autism would “grow out of it?” It’s like saying that someone will grow out of having brown eyes; it is a part of them. Does making a person’s differences visual make it more acceptable?

My promise to him is that I will always try, no matter how hard it gets. I will catch him if he falls.


author: Gemma Malak

Image: @Walkthetalkshow

Image: Carlos Ebert/Flickr

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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gregory.leonard Jul 30, 2019 6:32pm

Thank you for this. Our son who we fostered for over two years before adopting him last week is going through this. He’s almost 5 and suffers from PTSD and the waiting list for a psych eval is 5 months. It’s all but certain that he has ADHD. His biomom had it and all the signs are there. He’s in therapy twice a week. Despite all that he just got kicked out preschool less than a week after being adopted! The utter lack of understanding from his daycare provider (YMCA) is mind boggling but we just press on hoping to find a healthier placement for him. He’s an awesome sweet kid and we look forward to him getting the help he needs.

Allison Banbury Jul 22, 2019 10:48am

Thank you for this! My 13 year old was diagnosed a couple of years ago–he has the more “inattentive” type and fewer outright behavioral issues, but still…the trials are real. Hypersensitivity, lack of focus and perseverance, quick to anger, loses everything, the same misguided recommendations coming from others, feeling at the end of my rope sometimes, etc. We started him on a small dose of Vyvanse at the end of 6th grade–his teachers said it was “night and day” in terms of his classroom performance, but ADHD is a 24/7/265 affair and the medication is a school-day aid, not a lifetime cure. I will say, since your little guy is younger, that maturity helps, and skills can be taught–it’s a crazy ride but I wouldn’t trade my passionate, endlessly chatty, sweet mess of a boy of a boy for anything in this world.

maleszkiewicz84 Jul 15, 2019 5:33pm

Well done Gemma!You’re so talented ?

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Gemma Malak

Gemma Malak has been put on this earth to create a magical life and touch as many people as she can with her healing hands and words of experience. Gemma works as a tattoo artist, and is also a reiki master, writer, and designer of oracle and tarot cards. She is a mother to two beautiful souls and has a keen interest in natural health, healing, and nutrition. You can follow Gemma on her website or on her Facebook or Instagram pages.