Authoritative Parenting When Mom Has ADHD Too


I recall as a teenager committing some infraction and being punished with a grounding and some type of lost privileges.

My grounding may or may not have had something to do with a boy.

At this point the details are fuzzy, but I was definitely in trouble for something.

Grounding worked on me because I was not the type of kid to sneak out or really fight back.

I recall discussing my loss of privileges with my Grandmother, whose response surprised me.  She said, “I wish your parents understood the difference between discipline and punishment.”

That moment between my grandmother and I really stuck with me.

I was punished on the regular because of my ADHD and associated lack of motivation and impulsivity quite a bit as a teenager. I just didn’t understand that my ADHD was the reason I was always getting in trouble.

If anything I was still in denial about my diagnosis.

authoritative parenting when mom has ADHD too

In the midst of my own parenting journey I still wonder: What is the difference between discipline and punishment?

You know how I am..I needed to find out the answers for myself.

Discipline v. Punishment

According to Michael Dyson in his New York Times article written in the aftermath of the Adrian Peterson scandal, the words “discipline” and “punishment” are actually vastly different, though many of us get them confused.

Dyson explains that there are socio-economic and even ethnic connections to how we parent our children. This is all fascinating to me. If you feel the same way check out his article HERE.

Discipline comes from the Latin word discipuli meaning student or disciple. This suggests a teacher – pupil relationship.

Punishment on the other hand comes from the Greek word poine a Latin derivative of poena, which means revenge, and forms the words pain and penalty.  Source

I don’t know about you but I have no desire to inflict pain upon my child, no matter how much psychic pain he may inflict upon me. And he does, pretty much every day. But that is parenting, right?

In my unending quest to become a better parent, I have read the original Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay. To this day, it is my #1 go –to for my parenting questions.

This is the one that I have. click here for my full disclosure policy.

Even though I do not always practice what Cline and Fay teach, I use this book to bring me around when I am having a bad parenting moment. Or week, as the case may be.

There are Love and Logic books available on a variety of parenting topics, I highly recommend you check them out.

Authoritative Parenting is finally getting some street cred.

The work of Diana Baumrind

There was a ton of information here, but I will simplify it for you. There are basically four styles of parenting: Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive and Neglectful.

Permissive and neglectful speak for themselves. These are the parents who are so overwhelmed by their own problems, or so checked-out that they barely acknowledge their children. Unfortunately, we see more of this parenting style in poverty situations.

I will save that subject for another day. Or another venue.

what is an Authoritarian parent?

Authoritarians “believe that children are strong-willed and self-indulgent…they value obedience. Authoritarians view their primary job as bending the will of the child and keeping him in his place…they favor punitive forceful measures.”

What is an authoritative Parent?

Baumrind describes this type of parent as, “Issue-oriented and pragmatic, they balance the needs of the child and his right to respect with their own needs. “ Authoritative parents, “goal is to teach children to value the same things that they do, with strict standards for conduct and verbal give and take.”


Bottom Line

what really stood out to me was the idea that children of Authoritarian parents didn’t do so well later in life. They were more prone to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. As were the children of absent or neglectful parents.

On the other hand, children raised by Authoritative parents were the most psychologically well adjusted. When parents are loving and responsive, their children naturally want to be aligned with them.

Also, the verbal give-and-take inherent to authoritative parenting teaches children how healthy relationships work.


At this point it occurs to me that I desperately want to be an authoritative parent, but I worry that my ADHD issues will conflict with my desire to be the kind of parent I want to be.

So how do we handle authoritative parenting when mom has ADHD too?

This is going to be tricky. How I plan to get started:

  1. Set Limits.

I am setting limits for my child so that he can grow into himself. If I don’t limit his television time he will watch it nonstop. If I don’t show him that the world is bigger than that tiny screen, how will he learn?

I also have a limit on how much screaming and verbal abuse I will tolerate. My son knows that if he is being unkind he will have to go to his room and work it out. He also knows that if he needs my help talking it out I am all ears.

Here’s to hoping he will start to set his own limits as he matures.

  1. Be firm but kind

There is nothing harder than saying “no” when my son is staring at me with his big, watery blue eyes. And that lip….gets me every time.

But no, we cannot read yet another book. No, we cannot camp out in the backyard tonight. No, we cannot buy that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Shell right now.

Why not? Because I love you.

  1. Practice Reflective Listening

Remember when I reviewed The Explosive Child? One of the main skills I took from that book was reflective listening.

For us, this involves me restating what my son says to me. Then I ask for clarification and invite him to come up with a solution. If that doesn’t work, I stay quiet and let him think.

Listening is such an important skill. Everyone wants to feel heard, understood and accepted.

  1. Model the behavior you want to see

As an authoritative parent I am mindful of the fact that my child is always watching. He is absorbing my way of relating to other people and my coping mechanisms. Or lack thereof.

If I want him to be a kind human being, then I have to reflect that. I cannot make disparaging remarks about politicians or people in our family no matter how much I want to. I have to be a role model of acceptance and caring.

I am modeling self-care as well. I do this by placing a high value on my physical and emotional health.

  1. Keep it real

Since I have ADHD myself, it is often hard for me to plan ahead and be consistent with my parenting. I acknowledge my faults to my son all the time. As evidenced by his willingness to tell me, “mom you are always a bad parker!”

My advice: Demonstrate through your words and actions that almost any problem can be solved if we listen to each other and work together. Disagreements are ok as long as you are respectful.



What type of parent are you?


What do you think of authoritative parenting?


What is the difference between discipline and punishment?







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  • This is interesting, and a different definition of authoritative parenting than I’ve seen before. I took it to be more focused on the parent as an authority figure, with a system of rewards and consequences. In other words, what I grew up with. When I broke the rules, I’d be punished, usually with grounding or removal of privileges.

    Grounding never worked that well for me, in that I didn’t reduce the problem behaviors to avoid future punishment. ADHD was probably largely to blame. I wasn’t being willfully defiant, and I actually crave rules and structures. What I did do was try harder not to get caught. I drove at seriously unsafe speeds once I realized I’d lost track of time because missing curfew meant being grounded for a week.

    Now that I’m a parent, that stuff scares the bejeezus out of me. I suppose I’d describe my style as collaborative. I focus on solving the problem. Of course, privileges are something my son earns, and something he can lose, but there’s always a logical connection.

    For example, last week he made a completely unacceptable, epic mess during quiet time. I told him it needed to be cleaned up before he came out of his room to play. He spent hours up there because he didn’t get down to work. He missed his swim lesson, which broke my heart.

    ADHD makes it so hard to hold to that “firm but kind” standard and model ideal behavior. I still struggle to control my own behavior! So some days are all about modeling heartfelt apologies.

  • Liz

    Hi Jaclyn!
    I grew up in a basically authoritarian house. I had no clue at the time that my ADHD was the reason why I got in trouble. I just thought my mom was a PITA. I was also in denial and on a cocktail of medications, which probably didn’t help.
    I struggle to control my own behavior, too. I apologize all the time.
    My son recently trashed his bedroom too, during a play date. I wish I would have made him clean it up that day. Instead it dragged on…and we are still working on it a little every day. Yesterday we picked up dress up clothes. Tonight we are cleaning up the cars and small toys.

    • I remember my dad apologizing to me once the entire time I was growing up. While I’m not proud of my temper sometimes, I’m glad to be creating new, better habits around apologies and mutual respect.

      Today my three-year-old actually said to me, “Mommy, I’m sorry for hurting your patience.”

      Since reading Duct Tape Parenting, we’re all about natural consequences in our house. I don’t punish, but I do make sure I’m not saving him from the effects of his behavior. I also let my kiddo take on as much independence and responsibility as he can handle. It has definitely helped limit (though not eliminate — who am I kidding?) the strife from the “terrible threes.” And I’m amazed at the things he does for himself that kids twice his age do not!

      • Liz

        My mom doesn’t apologize either. She was irritated with me about this article. Frankly, my mother was authoritarian because she didn’t know how to be anything else. She was alone and the only way she could “control” me was with intimidating behavior. If nothing else I learned that I would not criticize my child, I would criticize the action/behavior.

        I just got her other book, forget the name already!

        I have gotten better at watching my son struggle. He has poor frustration tolerance, but he is learning that if he works hard at something he will figure it out. Right now, he derives a lot of self-efficacy from being a helper. He helps me cook, washes some dishes, uses the swiffer.
        3-4 is a hard time period.

        • Is it Straight Talk on Parenting? If so, I found that very helpful as a follow-up to her first book. It has a template for a written problem-solving exercise that I love. I feel like it helps me organize my own thoughts, which isn’t always easy…