The Gratitude Box
Paula’s house was hectic, to say the least. With two children and a husband with ADHD, things rarely went smoothly. Her day started out trying to get lunches made, papers collected, keys found and everyone out the door on time. When everyone arrived home later, things weren’t much better. Someone was usually looking for something that was lost, there were notes from teachers to be addressed, homework to be done and dinner needed to be cooked. It was amazing that everything usually got accomplished by the end of the night – just in time for Paula to fall into bed exhausted.
It wasn’t the chaos that bothered Paula, but the negative attitudes. It seemed someone, herself included, was always complaining about something. “The teacher has it out for me,” “Do we need to have this for dinner again?” “We’re going to be late for dance class– we are always late – can’t you get ready any quicker?” were common themes at night.
Paula decided to do something about it. She placed two boxes on the table – one marked Complaints and one marked Gratitude. Each time someone made a complaint, they wrote it down and put it in the box, but, if they were going to complain about something, they also needed to write down two things they were grateful for and put them in the other box. Complaints alone were no longer allowed; you also had to think about something you appreciated. If you didn’t fill out a complaint all day, you still needed to write down two things you were grateful for at the end of the day.
Her children thought it was a silly idea but decided to go along with it to make Paula happy. At first, the slips in the Complaint box added up quickly – but so did the slips in the Gratitude box. For example, Paula’s daughter began complaining about her teacher – the one that didn’t seem to get ADHD. She wrote it down and put it in the box – and then wrote “I appreciate that most of my teachers understand ADHD” and “I appreciate the good dinner tonight.”
After a few weeks, everyone was surprised with the results. The complaint box didn’t get filled up near as often. But the Gratitude box was still being used. It wasn’t that anything had changed – mornings were still hectic, they still had chaos in the evenings, but everyone didn’t seem to mind as much. They laughed mistakes off more often than before and looked at the good in the situation.
Parenting a child with ADHD takes more work than parenting a child without ADHD – you attend more meetings with teachers and need to supervise your children more closely. . There are often misunderstandings, miscommunication and resentment in relationships. A marriage where one partner has ADHD is more likely to end in divorce than those where neither has ADHD. Life with ADHD isn’t easy and being grateful isn’t necessarily going to make the problems or chaos go away. But, it may make you see them in a different way.
Paula found that while she used to complain about the hectic mornings, she changed her thoughts to be appreciative every morning everyone got out of the house on time. Sometimes, it is a matter of changing your perspective.
Those with ADHD tend to focus on everything they did wrong, and while that list may be long, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Many tend to forget all the things that have gone right, all the accomplishments and all the good in their life. And, chances are, you have done a lot of things right and have achievements and accomplishments in your past.
This Thanksgiving, take the time to change your perspective and appreciate all the good in your life. Look around (and think back) at all the good things that have happened to you. Each time you find yourself complaining, think of two things you appreciate. Make the Gratitude box twice as filled as the Complaint box.