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ADHD Parents: Stop Blaming Yourselves

Me and my mother ...
Me and my mother …

I had a great childhood, but I had a rough time anyway.

When I was growing up, we didn’t know about ADHD. That was partly because we lived in a somewhat remote area, but mostly because ADHD had not been defined at that point as ADHD.

Back then, it was called Minimal Brain Dysfunction, and we certainly had never heard of that.

As with most things that are newly “discovered,” MBD was not on the radar in one room schools in rural, Southwestern Ontario.

We didn’t know about it, and if we’d heard of it by that name, we’d have said there was no such thing in our community. Everyone’s brain was functioning reasonably well. I certainly couldn’t imagine any part of my brain that felt dysfunctional.

And all that was needed of the few of us who might have fit the symptoms, had we been aware of what those symptoms were, was to pay more attention, to focus.

How is that dysfunction?

By the time this issue was relabeled ADD (and later ADHD), there was a lot of information and misinformation confusing the issue. There were those who were determined that the only way that ADHD could exist is if it had a cause that was visible, one that acted upon the individual directly. It had to be (fill in the blank: sugar, fluoride, white flour, bad parenting, lazy teachers)!

Before people start commenting from up on the anti fluoride bandwagon again, please be aware that, although ADHD has only been known as ADHD since the seventies, it has been around under other names for a long time. It has been documented well into the past and predates fluoridation of water.

So what does cause ADHD?

I don’t know, exactly. But neither do you. The truth is that the brain of a person with ADHD has simply developed this way.

What causes that development seems to be hereditary, mostly. There is still the possibility that it can occur spontaneously, although that might just be a recessive heritable trait being passed on by one or both parents and becoming the blueprint of the person in question.

So what about bad parenting?

There is no question that stress exacerbates ADHD symptoms. There is also no question that stress exacerbates bad parenting. And there is no question that bad parenting exists in this world, though I’m not pointing fingers at anyone. And there’s no question that being in the company of someone with ADHD every day, day in, day out, causes stress. It can be exasperating living with it in oneself, how could it not be so for one’s parent? Such stress might very well add to the causes of bad parenting.

Kids with ADHD who stress their parents, and those stressed parents starting out with less than good parenting skills who subsequently stress their kids, is a recipe for ADHD disaster.

Add to this the rest of the heredity factor, the understanding that ADHD came from somewhere, and you may well be adding stress to a parent with possibly undiagnosed ADHD.

This is no longer a mere disaster, this is a bomb with a whole bunch of fail-safe circuits that would take an entire bomb squad some time to defuse. Everything is wired to everything else. Cut the wrong wire and the thing goes up. And it’s a reusable bomb, just because it already exploded this morning, doesn’t mean it won’t go off again this afternoon.

Bad parenting does cause ADHD … to be more noticeable

So, the thing is that both the parent’s ADHD and the child’s ADHD impacts parenting.

I think I turned out okay.
I think I turned out okay.

And for those of you who are not bad parents, this is the kind of thing that could cause you to make the odd bad choice or decision. That’s got to make even the best parent question there abilities, right?

So, you might say that ADHD causes bad parenting. At the very least, it might cause it to look bad even if it isn’t, and cause it to be intensified if it is bad parenting.

But bad parenting doesn’t cause ADHD.

Don’t judge your parenting style on whether a child has ADHD. Judge it on whether your child grew up, or is growing up, to be an adult you respect, ADHD or not.

ADHD Parents: Stop Blaming Yourselves

Kelly Babcock

I was born in the city of Toronto in 1959, but moved when I was in my fourth year of life. I was raised and educated in a rural setting, growing up in a manner I like to refer to as free range. I live on the traditional lands of the Chippewas of Nawash in an area where my family history stretches back 6 or 7 generations and my First Nations friend's families go back hundreds of generations. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 50 and have been both struggling with the new reality and using my discoveries to make my life better. I am a freelance writer and I write two blogs here at Psych Central, one about living with ADHD and one that is a daily positive affirmation that acts as an example of finding the good in as much of my life as I possibly can.

Find out more about me on my website: writeofway.

email me at ADHD Man

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APA Reference
Babcock, K. (2014). ADHD Parents: Stop Blaming Yourselves. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 10, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Jun 2014
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