Temperament and Parenting

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Inattentiveness ONE MOTHER'S STORY - The Difference between ADHD and Normal Difficult Temperament

I am a mother of three and two of my children are 'difficult'. One, our daughter, is clearly a normal child, but she has a 'difficult' temperament. Our son has mild ADD without hyperactivity. So I feel personally qualified to tell people what the differences like when you live with it. It's up to the professionals to figure out how to diagnose -- I'm just giving you a mother's perspective.

First of all, let me say that if we did not have our son I think we would be having a lot more trouble with our challenging daughter. It is through him, and learning about temperament, ADD and behavior management -- and with her, above all, learning how to listen reflectively -- that we find her an interesting and amusing girl and not a problem child.

Let's start with Kathy (not her real name). She was a Jekyll and Hyde baby and toddler. She could be cheerful one minute, miserable and next. She had quite a bad 'colic', but we got her sleeping through the night quite early. She had very definite likes and dislikes about food, and reacted to strangers very intensely, starting at the age of four months! She was incredibly bright and learned to talk very early. She puzzled us at times with the intensity of her emotions, but we put most of it down to her being so bright and precocious. She was fun, although exhausting, to parent.

I do not recall having many discipline problems with Kathy, except for a period when she 'hopped up' out of bed at bedtime. Eventually, we learned that we were putting her to bed too early, that we were over-stimulating her at bedtime, and that she needed flexible but firm handing over this. Even now, as a teenager, she tends to react to stress or excitement by having trouble falling asleep.

In her younger years, Kathy's emotional intensity caused her to need a lot of help figuring out relationships, responding to new teachers without being rude, and dealing with stress. She always sent out very clear signals when something was wrong -- oppositional behavior, talking back, sleep problems, migraines, and finally, asking to talk things over. I can see that another family could have had big trouble with the girl like her, but Kathy had a very good fit with both my husband and myself. I guess we really value her giftedness and her analytical nature. We tolerate a certain amount of feistiness from her as long as she doesn't break rules.