A mother asked, “I have an ADHD daughter and whenever I mention to her in conversation that she is such a smart girl – she counteracts my compliment with “No I’m not, look at my grades, and look at all of my tutors.” I understand her, and this hurts me very deeply. How should I respond to her “proof” of not being very smart?


These feelings are so common in children and adults with ADHD. They are also one of the most destructive parts of this condition. In responding to her, begin with facts. Fact is that, so very often it is the people with this powerful ADHD brain that are the most intelligent. Albert Einstein is one of them. Bill Gates is another. Many doctors, lawyers and Rabbanim are included.

I like to give this explanation to my clients, to help them understand themselves better. I’ll say, “you have two friends with who, you could play with for one hour. ‘A’ has hundreds of toys ‘B’ has a few. Who will you choose to play with?” The usual answer is with ‘A’. I go on saying that when you go to ‘A’’s house and open the closet of toys hundreds of toys fall out and they are all over. It may take 45 minutes just to find her Rubix cube. You have 15 minutes left to play. When you go to ‘B’’s house you can play for the full hour. Why? Because her few toys are in an orderly fashion.

Because you are so smart you take in all the information – everything, even what the teacher didn’t say, just by the way she made some physical motion. It’s these bright children with ADHD and what I like to refer to as NPP (Neuro Powerful People or Normal Plus People) who hear the unspoken, see the invisible and feel the untouchable. It all translates into more information. But there is a small problem, it’s like little ‘A’’s closet of toys. They are all dumped in with no order no shelves or drawers. That creates a big challenge to find the word you are looking for or the answer to the question. You know you know, at the right time.

Reassure her she is smart and talented. Tell her “all we need to do is organize a bit, and learn how to develop these ‘drawers’”. [That you, mom will take care of with your ADHD coach]. Then you’ll get to use all of those ‘toys’. You may even decide you have so much, you’ll be happy to share with others who are not as lucky as you. That’s what happens when a person loves their ADHD –NPP, and learns to manage it. They are the contributors to the world at large.

In addition to the above, understanding the following may also help you. The way we experience anything in the world is decided by what we decide to focus on and then what we make out of that specific thing. In other words, it’s the way we interpret this situation to ourselves. And depending on our own interpretation – explanation is how we will feel, and what we will believe. Often we will pull up the fastest answer we can give ourselves, even if it’s really not true. Why? Because being in a place of uncertainty and doubt could be very unpleasant. Therefore on a subconscious level we’ll find an answer and we believe it. Now we can be more calm and at ease with ourselves.

It would be great if you could spend some time with your daughter even just 10, 15 minutes twice or three times a week [the more the better as long as it’s pleasant for the two of you]. Remind her of times where she did great jobs – in anything. Even in schoolwork there is the studying and trying and wanting to do well and then there’s the grade. If you magnify in your own mind and really appreciate her goodness her efforts. Then share your feelings with her, tell her, spell it out for her and make it clear that you are looking at the larger picture. Just like in a picture, a beautiful family portrait taken in the most beautiful background. What do you see? I don’t know, because it’s whatever part of the picture we focus on and zoom in on is what you’re going to see. For some it’s the family for others it may be the dirt they are standing on. Teach her and show her, her brain is her camera, and she could choose to use it in a way that truly and positively makes her feel good and even empowers her.

Make use of nicknames. What I mean is after you’ve had a positive conversation with her or about her, and you allow yourself purposely to be overheard by her saying a true compliment about her and then saying “that’s my sweet genius”, or “you are so bright, you are my bright star” or just “my smart one”. Just make sure that this nickname is backed with powerful positive emotion. Then from time to time use it with her. She will begin to relate to it as her real identity. You just helped her in an undemanding and an absolutely loving way to raise her own standard about herself.

Good luck