Turning your inner voice from harsh critic to loving parent
Updated: Apr 27
Is there a right way and a wrong way to guide your inner voice? Yes. There is. Wait, you may be saying, how can you be sure? There is always more than one way to approach a situation. Plus, I don't like being told what to do! Ok, I understand. I don't like being told what to do either.
But, stick with me. I'm going somewhere with this. Hear me out and after you consider my argument if you still think I'm wrong feel free to tell me so in the comments. To show you how to go about guiding your inner voice lets first take a brief trip into the world of parenting. Research on parenting provides a strong argument for how we could best communicate and guide ourselves. An understanding of this research can help us to improve our fitness goals, succeed in a academic or professional pursuit or manage the corners of chaos and doom boxes that exist in the home of any adult with ADHD. There is a generally recognized best way of parenting. This approach to parenting is called authoritative parenting. Authoritative parents are responsive to their children's physical and emotional needs and provide clear limits for their children. They discipline their child fairly, and are able to consider their child as an individual with unique challenges, abilities and temperaments. This term dates back to the 1960's when psychologist Diana Baumrind began studying the parenting styles of the parents of more than one hundred preschool age children and the effect of these styles on children. Her research identified four parenting styles that are still highly regarded as accurate descriptors today. These four styles were based on observations of warmth and nurturing or the lack there of and a presence or lack of significant control exerted on a child by the parents. Based on these categories four styles of parenting arise. Permissive parenting which is characterized by creating a warm and unrestrictive environment, uninvolved parenting in which both rules and warmth are missing, authoritarian parenting in which a high value is placed on control but warmth is lacking and authoritative parenting in which a child is raised in an environment where both warmth and limits on their behavior and structure are present. Studies since these four styles were identified have repeatedly held authoritative parenting to be the gold standard. When children are raised with both warmth and limits they do well. This is not an article about parenting. So, why is an understanding of parenting styles beneficial to us, as adults living with ADHD? Consider the goals of a loving parent. A loving parent wants what is best for there child. They work hard to help their child to set and reach realistic goals. They encourage them to do their best and avoid comparing their children to others. Now, consider what brought you to this article. What drew you to to a blog about finding joy and embracing life as an individual with ADHD? Are you tired, stressed and overwhelmed? Do you want your life to look different? Are you frustrated because your emotions are raw, your relationships are suffering and you just can't get done what you need to do to feel in control of your life? Are you looking to be able to understand who you are and to appreciate your authentic life? Do you want to feel happier?
Adjusting your inner voice to that of a loving, authoritative parent can help in any of these areas. Remember, we are talking about a parent who cares for you as an individual. That means, taking the time to learn about the challenges that come with ADHD and not measuring your successes or failures against a neurotypical brain. Let's start with some things a loving, authoritative parent doesn't ever say:
You're a failure.
Don't bother trying that, it won't work out.
You are a complete mess.
You just need to try harder.
Of course they don't like you, I don't like you either.
Maybe there are other things that you say to yourself that didn't make the list?
Here's an exercise to try:
1. Grab your journal, open a note in your phone or grab a post it note.
2. Think about your inner voice. Make a list of a few of the unkind things you say to yourself.
3. As you write these things , notice how you feel about those words
4.. Ask yourself, do I use these phrases to other people? If your don't, why not? Ask yourself why you say unkind things to yourself but not to others.
Over the next few days or weeks make it a point to notice when your inner voice is being unkind and lacking warmth. On the other hand, what are some words warm, loving parents might say to a struggling child?
I know you put a lot of effort into this.
This is really hard isn't it?
I love how creative you are!
I love that you care about others and try hard to be helpful.
That must be frustrating that you made that mistake.
We all make mistakes. Don't give up!
How often does your inner voice say kind, loving things to you? Could you encourage your inner voice to say more warm, kind things? Starting to recognize your inner voice and noting what it is saying to you may be a great start. At first you may have to force yourself to say kind things. You may feel silly doing so. Do it anyways. In time, it will start to retrain your natural habits.
At the same time, a loving parent does set limits for a child and provide support to help a child make good decisions. What could your inner voice say to help support good decisions? Here are some ideas:
I know I tend to scroll on my phone til 3 AM. That makes the morning really hard. Tonight, Ill put my phone across the room and try reading a magazine instead. Its worth a try?
I know sometimes I forget to eat when I'm hyperfocused. Then I don't feel so well. I'm going to set an alarm to remind me to eat. I may still turn it off. But, let's try.
I can see that I am feeling unproductive and anxious. What are some tools that have helped me to feel better in the past? Do I have a coping technique that may help me today?
I know I had a walk scheduled for today. I don't want to go. But, it might make me feel better. What if I do one block. If I still don't want to walk I can come home, but maybe I'll feel better and walk a little further.
I recently saw a post on Instagram that said "The word DISCIPLINE needs to be removed from the vocabulary of an individual with ADHD." Is that true? To discipline means to train, sometimes it refers to punishment but not always.
As an individual with ADHD we will have a happier life when we learn to optimize our strengths and appreciate our uniqueness. In a world designed with neurotypicals in mind this is no easy feat. And to accomplish it, well, its going to take some discipline and that starts with working on developing an inner voice that is kind, warm, loving and encourages us to make choices that are in our best interest.
Resources 4 types of parenting styles. and there effects on kids, Leslie De Jong.