News from SCA March 2016
My Child Can't? or Won't?

My Child Can't? Or Won't?

My child can't listen and obey or he won't? This is the essential question for families raising children with ADHD, anxiety and mood disorders. In addition to wrestling with the typical dilemmas of families (Is my child old enough for this responsibility or to watch that movie?), they also have this fundamental question in the back of their minds. And often families look to those of us in the helping professions to help them answer the big question.

Unfortunately, short of omnipotence, there is no way to answer the question correctly every time. But we can offer parents some guidance and support as they navigate the difficult gauntlet of parenting a child with special needs.

First, it is helpful for the family to receive an accurate diagnosis for their child. This may require meeting with a pediatrician, psychotherapist, psychiatrist or occupational therapist, depending upon the concern. Second, families need help fully understanding the implications of the diagnosis. For instance, it is important both that a child is correctly diagnosed as having ADHD and also that the parents conceptualize how that diagnosis affects homework, class work, socialization, etc. It is difficult to ask a parent to know what a child can do until they fully grasp what the child is truly unable to do.

In addition to the child’s individual struggles, they encounter the same behavioral challenges as everyone else their age. They have opinions, test limits and have preferences, just as their peers do. Therefore, sometimes the explanation for a behavior is more age appropriate than parents might think.

We have the opportunity to encourage parents as they attempt to balance truth and grace. Nobody, including the child, expects a parent to get it right every time. What children are looking for is understanding.

When a child is repeatedly struggling, it is helpful to attempt to improve the situation together as a team. Once the child is calm and rational it is important to understand the situation from their perspective. Is this an uncomfortable situation for the child? How uncomfortable and why? Often this type of additional information gathering is required so parents have all they need to choose a parenting approach.

Helping the child and parent learn to communicate can be very helpful. If the child can learn to effectively communicate their level of discomfort or anxiety, it will help their parent support them (while nudging them forward to meet new challenges).

We don't want to push kids into situations they are not equipped to handle but we also do not want them to be paralyzed by their mental health issues. We want kids to move forward with the supports they need to stretch themselves. Balancing truth and grace is a lifelong struggle in general. Christ is the only one to walk the earth who got the balance just right. So we guide parents to look to Him as the ultimate guide. We offer grace to ourselves when we get it wrong and we gently nudge parents and children to do the same.

Amy M. Craig, LPC
Clinical staff member, Southwest Counseling Associates

Questions and Answers
What discipline approach is best to use with kids who have additional needs? Parenting the Strong Willed Child? Love and Logic?

There is no one best discipline style. Before choosing a parenting curriculum, it is best to start with basic parenting communication. It is helpful if all the family members are clear on the house rules. We simplify things when there are only three to five general house rules (i.e. we do not hurt ourselves, we do not hurt each other, we do not hurt property). Once everyone can verbalize the house rules and both parents are consistent in noticing infractions to the rules, then parents can look at changing their parenting approach if necessary. Often agreeing on the rules and being consistent as a parenting team yields the additional compliance parents desire.

What resources do you recommend for those parenting children who have mental health needs?

It depends on which needs the child has. But I will include Dr. Sears (my favorite parenting resource) as well as some books for specific concerns.

Parenting -
ADHD - Driven To Distraction by Hallowell & Ratey
ADHD - Taking Charge of ADHD by Barkley
Sensory - The Out-of-Sync Child by Kranowitz
Anxiety - Freeing Your Child From Anxiety by Chansky


Ministry Minute is a quarterly publication of Southwest Counseling Associates. If you know of someone who would benefit from this newsletter, please ask them to contact Doug Feil at:

Southwest Counseling Associates
141 West Davies Avenue, Littleton, CO 80120
Phone: 303-730-1717 | Fax: 303-730-1531 |