ADHD & Dads: Creating the Fatherhood You Crave
with Larry Hagner
I talk a lot about motherhood on this podcast, because that’s the world I know. On this episode, we get a father’s perspective. Larry Hagner, founder of the Good Dad Project, joins me to discuss growing up with ADHD, raising a child with ADHD, and being an intentional man and dad to better connect with your kids and support their journey to success. Connection is the key — “without connection you have no influence.”
LARRY HAGNERLarry Hagner is the creator of the Dad Edge Podcast. Featured as one of the top dad podcasts on iTunes. The show has reached nearly 10 million downloads. Larry is the author of 2 bestselling books. He has featured some of the most elite humans on the planet. He is the father of 4 boys and married to an amazing woman, Jessica, for the past 17 years. He loves to do anything active or adventurous.
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Penny Williams (00:01): Welcome back to the Parenting ADHD Podcast. I'm so excited today to be talking to Larry Hagner of the Dad Edge Podcast. And we're going to talk about his story and raising a child with ADHD and all about dads and how to better engage and understand what our kids are going through, who have ADHD, and better connections with family and all sorts of really valuable insights and information for dads. Thanks so much for being here, Larry. I'm so honored to have you on the podcast and to talk about dads today.
Larry Hagner (00:40): Yeah, let's do it. Let's talk about that. Absolutely. Good to be here. Thank you so much for coming on. And you came on my show as well, and that was fun. We had a really good time.
Penny Williams (00:50): Yes. We always have good conversations, so I'm really looking forward to it. Do you want to start just by introducing yourself, let everyone know who you are and what you do?
Larry Hagner (00:58): Sure. So my name is Larry Hagner. I am the host and founder of the, as you were saying, the Dad Edge Podcast, I'm also the founder of Good Dad Project, which is basically just our umbrella organization. Dad Edge is really more of the brand and what we do. And I'm married. I've been married for 17 years. I have four boys, which are 14, 12, six, and four. And if you ever want to know what it's like raising four boys, just imagine a drunk fraternity party that you never leave, that everyone wants to eat your food, pee on the walls, and never go to sleep.
Penny Williams (01:37): Yeah. Wow. Your wife's a saint.
Larry Hagner (01:42): She is a martyr without a doubt. She's a martyr. There's a special place in heaven.
Penny Williams (01:47): Absolutely. How did you get started in doing this work?
Larry Hagner (01:53): So it really comes down to my own struggle as a father. And just some of the things that I went through as a kid growing up, I didn't really know my biological father, even though my parents were married for about five years. He got divorced when I was about one. And then my mom got remarried when I was five. And then my dad and I got reunited when I was 12 and we hung out for about six months and then we drifted apart again and I didn't meet him again until I was 30. And that was by total accident. I was in a Starbucks with a friend, 30 years old, and who came walking in the Starbucks to get his morning coffee. It was my father and we had a conversation and that was 15 years ago. And we've had a relationship ever since.
Larry Hagner (02:40): But my mom was married three times. She dated men in between. So I spent half of my childhood with out a father figure. And then the other half with whatever man was involved in my mom's life usually there was some sort of toxicity. There was some sort of alcoholism, drug use abuse. So it was a bit crazy. And I really started Good Dad Project because of my own struggles as a father. And I was just headed down a really dark path and was able to turn things around just more or less blessed, starting the podcast and the blog and just being a student of fatherhood. And I never would have thought in a million years it would be where it's at today, but I thank God that it is.
Penny Williams (03:28): You were being intentional. That's when the good stuff happens when we're really focused and going forward with intention. You decided to be really intentional about your fatherhood. And that's amazing. It's amazing what just taking a second to think about what we're doing and to move forward with purpose, how much different that really makes things.
Larry Hagner (03:52): It does make a huge difference when you're intentional and purposeful. And I mean, that makes all the difference in the world.
Penny Williams (03:59): Yeah. And not just in our parenting, but for our own lives, they're more rewarding and fulfilling when we feel like we're achieving what we want to achieve, not just in the sense of goals and financial stability and those sorts of things, but just in general, achieving real connection with our families is really not only valuable and empowering but it gives that warm, fuzzy, right? It provides that really good, happy, fulfilled feeling. Why don't you start by telling us a little bit about your journey with ADHD?
Larry Hagner (04:42): So I have a personal journey myself, and then my oldest has it as well. So my own personal journey, I am 45. So back when I was younger, I struggled in school terribly, absolutely terribly, so much so that I actually failed the eighth grade and had to repeat. And so, that was really tough. It's one thing to be held back when you're really, really young, but it's another thing to be held back when you're older and especially that transition from eighth grade to high school, it was really, really crazy. And what I can tell you is that I definitely had issues with, with just focusing on school. It was like, there was just so much information coming at me. I mean, I went to a private grade school, so we had a lot of work, a lot of homework and I could not focus on really anything.
Larry Hagner (05:38): It was really, really tough. And I struggled, like I said, in school until probably junior year of high school, like no kidding around my grades really struggled. I was never medicated. I never had an IEP. I did have some tutoring here and there that helped me. But one thing that I realized when I was in high school is that I just learned information differently. So if I looked at the teacher and watched him or her teach, I would lose focus. If I looked around the room, what I did learn is that I was a more auditory learner. So what I would do was, and some teachers didn't really realize it, but then my grades were fine. So I didn't really get any slack about it, but I would literally keep my head down and I would put my hand kind of over my eyes, like right around my eyebrows.
Larry Hagner (06:32): And then I would listen to the words that the teacher would say, and then I would write, I would take meticulous notes. So if I heard it, heard it reflected and then wrote it, I was able to learn it better. And I was also one of those people where test taking was really, really tough for me. So what I did is I went above and beyond when it came to studying, I studied long hours because that's how I was able to memorize material. And I did flashcards a lot because what I realized, I don't know if it was an ADHD brain or what it was, but I can remember writing things down. So I would write questions down, put the answers on the back. And then the flashcards would allow me to see the question. And then I would memorize what it looked like on the back. So that's what actually helped me memorize information. I did that all the way up until I graduated college and I graduated with honors, but it took a while to really understand like how I learned, because I learned very differently than people around me.
Penny Williams (07:28): Yeah. And it's amazing that you had the motivation to do it. So many kids with ADHD in school, they get really discouraged by the time they hit 10th or 11th grade and they start feeling like, no matter how hard they try, they're not going to succeed because they do learn differently. And the expectation is outside of really what they're capable of. And just in a difference, not in a way that they're not intelligent or not capable, they just have to do it differently. And so, a lot, I see so many and my own son included. The beginning of junior year he just quit. He quit trying, he just gave up. He was like, "I've tried so hard. Nobody even acknowledges how hard I've tried. I still barely pass. And I'm so done," you know? And so it's been a real battle. It's amazing that you were able to really fight for it. I mean, you really did. You fought for yourself and you really achieved because of it. And I think too, it had to have been great for your self-confidence and self-esteem to finally figure out how to do for yourself and learn and succeed in that way.
Larry Hagner (08:44): It was, it took forever cause they didn't really have the resources that they do today. You were just pretty much labeled as an idiot, you know? Like, "Oh, like he's dumb. he he doesn't really understand it. He really doesn't get it. He's behind... He's this he's that." So, yeah, kinda crazy.
Penny Williams (09:07): That's awesome though. It's a good motivational story for a lot of other kids who are struggling in school that there is a way for you to succeed. You just have to figure it out. And I'll say it's a very different culture in school now as far as special education and learning differently, but we still have an unbelievable amount to go to really understanding kids with learning differences and providing what they need. My son's struggle has always been that he has a really high IQ. He's super intelligent, but he can't focus. His working memory is terrible. His processing speed is a third of his IQ equivalency and he has dysgraphia. So he can't write anything that's legible. And so he was just so wildly misunderstood because it's such a dichotomy to have a kid who's almost brilliant and who can't do a simple worksheet, right?
Penny Williams (10:09): Do it successfully. And it's just really hard to figure out how to navigate that for kids, for teens and even younger kids who are going through it. It's always easier to give up. And they fall into that trap so often. So it's such a great thing for you to share your story and for them to have these stories that really show that if you fight for yourself, you really can succeed, but it's kind of up to you. Again, we need schools on board. We need teachers who understand, we need some of those accommodations and so forth, but it is up to you to decide if you are willing to do the work, if you're willing to fight for it. So it's an amazing story. Yeah. That's true for all of us. We all have to figure out what we want to fight for and what we're willing to put the work into. How much are you willing to share about your son? Is there anything you want to share with everyone about what his ADHD experience has been like so far and what your experience has been like as his dad?
Larry Hagner (11:18): Yeah, for sure. So my son, my oldest son is the one who's been officially diagnosed. And literally we are exactly alike, I mean, we are literally two peas in a pod. So he doesn't have an intelligence issue at all. I mean, he has a processing issue. So what I can tell you is, and he has an IEP and I love the fact that these school systems, now they have extra help available that I didn't have growing up. So, he does get pulled out and he does have extra help in math and reading, which is great. And, he gets to take some extra time on tests and that kind of thing. And he's at that age now, right now he's 14. So he's very, very attuned to the fact that he gets pulled out of class and before it wasn't really a big deal.
Larry Hagner (12:11): He's like, "wow, am I dumb?" And I'm like, "no, not at all." And what I can tell you is that he gets overwhelmed with information just like I used to. So the cool thing about having a son who struggled with the same things that I did, and he also actually had to repeat first grade. So we held him back from first grade. He just was struggling really bad. So we're like, you know what? Let's hold him back now, instead of later, give it another shot. And now he's pretty much all caught up. His grades are actually fine, but I do see that he gets very frustrated and stressed out when there's a lot of things to do. So my job with him is number one, the first thing I do is empathy.
Larry Hagner (12:56): I don't get upset with him. I don't get mad at him. When he wants to get angry, what I do with him is like, "I can see you're upset and you're frustrated. And to be honest, I remember being in your shoes. So I understand what it's like to want to lose your mind, throw your book out the window cause you're so frustrated. Would you have any objection to me showing you some tips and tricks that have helped me over the years, but just took me a long time to learn?" So empathy, kind of meeting him where he's at, that calms him down just to know that like, "Hey, my dad and my parents, they understand where I'm at." With reading, if he has to do reading comprehension and he reads an entire passage and then he gets to the question, he's like, I have no idea what the answer to this question is.
Larry Hagner (13:45): So what I usually do is I'll just say, "Hey, listen, let's read the questions first and just kind of get an idea of what information you're going to need to get from reading this passage." Then the other thing I do too, is I'm like, "Ethan, Hey, there's like three or four or five key words in this question that you can go find these three, three or five key words that are in the passage. So instead of reading it all again and going through everything again, maybe find a subtitle or maybe find these words in a paragraph. And then that's where you're going to find your answer. Instead of like looking at three pages of words, look for the three to five keywords that you can remember. And that's probably where you're going to find your answer." Things like that I can tell have really helped him like lower the amount of stress, lower the amount of like, "Oh my gosh, this is so much work."
Larry Hagner (14:37): So that's really helped him a ton is just being able to break things down and not be so overwhelmed by the volume of work that he has. And then the other thing too, is as far as a confidence thing goes, I have pounded this into his head. And I always say, "Ethan grades are not the end-all-be-all measure of how smart you are. They're a piece, like actually a small piece. If you look at some of the most successful minds on the planet, they were average students, and that's okay, so you can go out and be successful." The example I used with him is I was like, "dude, the smartest people that were in my high school, the smartest people that were in my grade school that grades just came super easy. I can name several of them that are not successful in life. They're not out there creating things, they're out there doing a regular job, like even though they're quote unquote smart and brilliant compared to their grades, but that's not a measure of how successful you're going to be or how smart you are." So I, I constantly reinforce: please don't base your level of intellect on your grades, because that's not the measure. It's not the end-all-be-all.
Penny Williams (15:56): Yeah. Some kids just aren't good at school because it's not the right fit. Not because they're not intelligent, not even because they're not learning. If my son had been quizzed verbally, instead of given written tests, he would have monumentally better grades because he's verbally fluent off the charts. His verbal fluency is up there with his intelligence, but once you start putting it on paper and you have writing and you have working memory and you have all these other skills that he struggles with, it's a completely different ball game. And then he feels incapable. So really finding the ways that celebrate who our kids are and allow them to succeed. I tell parents all the time, "You have to give your kids opportunities to succeed. And if you have a child who's different, who struggles with learning or social skills or anything like that, you have to be very intentional with crafting these opportunities."
Penny Williams (17:04): Whether it's getting that IEP, doing tutoring, finding an ally in the school. Or even for activities outside of school like Scouts, for instance, maybe your child is behind socially. Maybe it would be better, and they would be more able to succeed in that environment if they were with a scout troop that was younger instead of being the youngest one in an older troop, things like that. You just have to really understand who your child is. Like you said, really meet them where they are to help them to have these opportunities to succeed. And even the neuroscience now is backing that the more positive experiences we have, that's the way our brain is making neural connections. The more negative experiences we have, it's wiring to that negative. It's monumentally important, not just for their self esteem and self confidence, but kind of for the way that they move through the world, whether they're going to move through on a more positive stance or more negative stance. So super valuable that you're really able to understand what he's going through. So many kids with ADHD don't necessarily have a parent who gets it. I don't have ADHD. I've kind of made it my life's work to understand as much as I can to help my child, but to actually have that experience, to have that insight of actually living a similar path is amazing for your son. I think it makes your connection to him stronger too.
Larry Hagner (18:51): It totally does. I mean, just the fact that we understand each other, that he has someone who supports him, who is empathetic. I remember my mom getting so angry with me when I wasn't making grades or getting frustrated, but the thing is, I don't blame her for that because back when I was a kid — you're talking like 35 years ago when I was really struggling — we didn't have the awareness. We didn't have the resources. Parents didn't really, they had no idea what to do. They were just like, wow, my kid just isn't smart. How defeating is that? And as a parent, I mean, even with the whole COVID thing going on, and now suddenly every parent out there is thrusted into homeschooling. And now you're a teacher. Trying to even teach seventh grade math to my kid I was like, Oh my gosh. I would tell my kids all the time, "I know how to do this, but I don't know how to teach you how to do this because we're not really taught how to teach it. We're just taught how to do it. And that's a totally different animal." So I can't even imagine being a parent when I was a kid trying to help these kids figure out homework because it was totally different. We didn't have the resources we do now.
Penny Williams (20:07): Yeah. Yeah. They were really kind of swept under the rug almost. And, I think back to when I was in high school and I had some sort of volunteer credit class or something where I worked in the special ed department in the middle school next door, and I think back now, and all the kids who were identified, who were in those programs were much more obviously disabled, right? So the kids with ADHD, the kids who are more sort of "high functioning," which I hate that term, but they were probably, I'm sure this was your experience just in class with everybody else trying to figure it out. And nobody noticing that it was a whole lot harder for them.
Larry Hagner (20:56): Totally agree. Kind of going back to what we had then and what we have now, I think parents can really do a really good job of educating themselves on resources and tactics and techniques and just understanding how these kids' brains work just a little bit differently. I know in your show that you constantly hit home "look, your kid is not dumb. Okay. Your kid is most likely brilliant. Their brains just work differently. And that's okay." I mean, that's totally okay. I don't want to get on a tirade about the school system, but if you look at one area of life and history, look at all the things that have evolved over the years, technology has evolved. Parenting has evolved. The workforce has evolved.
Larry Hagner (21:54): And the one thing that hasn't really evolved in years is the way we teach kids in school. It is still the same way, pretty much the same way it was when I was a kid. It's pretty much the same way it was when my parents were kids. It's one thing that we just haven't evolved. Now, I will say this, I think public school systems have gotten better about identifying kids who need extra help. And then you usually have state support behind you when it comes to identifying and recording what exactly is necessary. You can get advocates now, which is great. There's a whole host of different resources now that we didn't have, but still overall, we haven't really evolved the school system to really match what maybe kids need these days, even the kids that quote unquote fit in that box. And they do well in the system. They could still probably do a better job if you asked me.
Penny Williams (22:51): I could totally jump on that tirade with you. We have not changed the way we teach in a hundred years. It was started as creating workers who did what they were told and all did the same thing, for assembly lines and factories and things like that. And it's really still completely a system of conformity. We're still not teaching kids to think for themselves, to think outside the box, to do things differently. It's all, "this is the one way you do this and these are the things you have to learn." And it's a real struggle, especially for kids who don't get really interested or excited, unless it's a topic that's of interest. We've really struggled with that too. In sophomore math last year, he was struggling so much with it and he was like, "I'm never going to do this ever. I'm never going to do this again. The three things on my list that I might want to have as a job or a career in my life, none of them require this math. So why do I have to do it now?" It's hard. It's really hard. And our education system definitely needs to evolve. We need to start teaching individuals instead of just a system of conformity. But yeah, we could, I'm sure, both go on for days about that.
Larry Hagner (24:18): Oh yeah, I'm sure we could.
Penny Williams (24:20): Let's shift gears a little bit and talk about fatherhood. The only experience that I know, of course, is motherhood. And I think fatherhood is a completely different experience. And sometimes fathers aren't as involved in the day-to-day kind of ADHD management, like doctor's appointments and medication checkups and therapy appointments and things like that. Maybe not even IEP meetings or school meetings. And so I think it's really important. Again, we're going to talk about this intention and purpose to really go forward, making an effort to be really connected to what's going on, even if you're not necessarily part of that day-to-day machine of managing ADHD.
Larry Hagner (25:07): Yeah. So -where would you like to start? How can I best serve the fatherhood voice out there? I'm probably talking to an audience full of moms, maybe.
Penny Williams (25:15): No, I think we have dads for sure. And I'm seeing a lot more dads in our community, which is amazing. And I find that a lot of moms who listen or participate or even take my courses will then get dad involved. "Oh, look, Oh, you've got to hear this." Or, they are passing it on so to speak. So I think connection is the most powerful thing we have as human beings for a multitude of things, not just fulfillment and happiness, but also it calms our autonomic nervous system, which helps our brains function better. It's really powerful stuff. And so how do dads really genuinely connect with their kids and make sure that they're kind of maintaining that?
Larry Hagner (26:05): Yeah. So luckily I've been in this dad space for years, we've got almost 600 episodes on Dad Edge podcasts we've done. What I always say is I'm no fatherhood expert, but I've got a front row seat to an amazing education. And we've had experts from all walks of life, anything from parenting to Navy seals, to pro athletes, to experts like yourself who share knowledge on ADHD, anxiety, depression, all kinds of different things. And here's what can tell you, a couple of quotes that I think really resonate with fathers is, "You have no influence without connection." You have no influence. So what does that mean? You can really do a disservice to the connection with your kid by getting in the weeds of frustration and anger when it comes to schoolwork.
Larry Hagner (27:04): Now there's a caveat. Every kid is different. Not every kid fits in a box. And to be honest, I don't know how to raise a kid who's given up on school, because I haven't faced that yet. So I'm not speaking to the fathers of the parents who are like, "Hey, I can't even get my kid to do anything." Luckily with our kids, they still have drive and motivation to do well in school, even when they get frustrated with it. So here's what I'll say when it comes to fatherhood and fathers and that kind of thing: Get your hands dirty. Number one, get in the weeds of these IEP meetings, ask good questions, come to the table asking for more help from these teachers during these IEP meetings, force yourself to understand what exactly is needed because ADHD can be a variety of different things.
Larry Hagner (27:55): So understand, What exactly does my kids struggle with? I understand that Mike, my son, has a problem with processing. And here's the cool thing. I mean, if you're a dad listening to this, I think it's safe to say again, you would probably know better than me, but ADHD affects more men, more males than it does females. So being a father, the chances of you growing up with ADHD and then having a child with ADHD is pretty high. So allow your own experiences to use empathy with your kids and know, what does that look like? What does tactical empathy look like? Tactical empathy is not sympathy. "I'm so sorry you feel that way. I'm so sorry you're having problems in school." That's pity and your kids don't want pity. They want to be understood.
Larry Hagner (28:47): They want to be heard. They want to be connected. Men need a map. We need guidance. I talk about this individual all the time, because literally he's changed my life. If you ever want to pick up a fascinating, amazing book on communication, it will help you in your marriage, work, even dealing with a kid who has ADHD, pick up the book, "Never Split the Difference," by Chris Voss. Chris Voss was the chief hostage negotiator for the FBI. And his book is a crash course, like PhD, in communication. One chapter in particular is tactical empathy. And I love that word. Those two words, tactical empathy. Cause it sounds cool. It sounds massive. It sounds like a dad thing. Right? Tactical empathy. So, what does that look like?
Larry Hagner (29:31): Tactical empathy is when someone is acting in a certain way and you're like, "wow, there's a lot of emotion here. There's a lot of things going on." And one thing that I will tell you, no matter if it's your kid, if it's your wife, it's your coworker, whatever, how someone is reacting, responding or behaving, it makes total sense to them in that moment. So the fact that my kid is getting irate with the fact that he can't finish his homework, and there's so many words on this page and he's overwhelmed and he has literally used the words, "I want to throw my computer out the window, dad." So instead of being like, "dude, don't get so upset. Why are you getting so upset? This is easy. You can read through, this is seventh grade stuff, man. All you gotta worry about is school.
Larry Hagner (30:10): Wait until you get a full time job." Right? That's how we talk to these kids. So if you can use the words, sounds like, feels like, looks like, any one of those three phrases sounds like, looks like, feels like, fill in whatever emotion you might see that your kid is displaying and then allow them to talk. So, for instance, if I see my son getting irate, if I get my feathers ruffled, sure, "I'm like, man, I just want you to calm down." But I don't say that. Ethan feels like you're really overwhelmed right now. Is that accurate? Yeah. It's accurate. I'm really overwhelmed. Dad. I'm really, really stressed out brother. I understand exactly where you're coming from. When I was your age in seventh grade, I thought I was going to lose my mind when I was trying to do reading comprehension.
Larry Hagner (31:00): So many words on the page and then trying to go back to the questions and I'm just like, Oh, I just want to pull my hair out. Is that where you're at? Yeah. That's where I'm at. Okay. Now that we know where you're at, how can dad best help you right now? What feels right to you? And sometimes he's in that head space of, I don't know. I just don't know. I don't know what you can do. Okay. Do you mind if I share some things that have worked for me, they took me a long time to learn and it worked for me? And perhaps maybe if I go over some tips and tricks that have worked for me and I've had to learn it the hard way, maybe we can shorten your learning curve and you're not as frustrated as dad was growing up.
Larry Hagner (31:38): So what do you say? Yeah, that'd be great. Okay. And then I'll go into here's how we can go through this. But when you start with that, it sounds, like it looks like, feels like, seems like, whatever, "It seems like you're really overwhelmed right now," what that does is your kid is now connected to you. Wow. Dad sees me, dad understands me. I feel safe displaying whatever emotion is going on in my head. And I don't feel shame and guilt. They already feel stupid. And getting mad at them, not only makes them feel stupid, but now discouraged. So don't do that. They want to feel connected to you. So if you can use tactical empathy to connect with your kid and then start asking really good questions, how can I best help you right now?
Larry Hagner (32:26): What feels right to you? I mean, the chances are, they might be so escalated that they won't be able to tell you, but then you'll be able to go through some suggestions. But I think tactical empathy is a really, really big one. I also think that here's a big one, Penny, and I know you probably already know this. I never, and I don't care what kid it is.,I don't care if it's my 14 year old who struggles with ADHD, I don't care if I'm a 12 year old who, by the way, school comes so easy to him it's not even funny, Or if it's my other kids, I will never, ever, ever, ever congratulate them on their grade. Ever. Even if they got an A+ on a test, I will never say "you are so smart. Good job on that."
Larry Hagner (33:08): A plus. No, never. And let me explain why. When you do that, you're praising your kid for a result. You're not praising them for work. You're not praising them for studying. You're not praising them for how much time it took for them to put in to get that grade. What I say is, "wow, you must have worked so hard to get that. Tell me what you did, that this result happened. That you got an A+ on that test. What kind of work went into that? Because I'm sure you probably put in some hours to do that." And then, that kid definitely will articulate, "Yeah, here's what I did. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom." Versus like, "Oh, you're so smart. A plus. You're so smart." I don't do that.
Penny Williams (33:53): Yeah. Yeah. Always praise effort and the work that's put in, not the result, for sure. Yeah. And you're doing a lot of reflective listening and by asking, tell me what you did that helped you to get that result., you're reinforcing that work in their minds, you're pointing it out again. So that later, when they come to a similar situation, they can pull from that. They're going to remember, "Oh yeah, I did this and this. I worked really hard. I really fought my disinterest," or whatever it was to do well with this thing. And the more experiences they have that are positive, the more we focus on the action, the better able they are in later circumstances to pull from that, to maybe repeat that. And I'm a huge proponent of empathy. I think it's the number one parenting tool: validation, empathy.
Penny Williams (34:59): I never knew there was a term for it called tactical empathy, but I love it. And it is really easy for us to react in the way that you said, and that's the key, it's reacting instead of really responding with intention. Our kids often look like they are overreacting, they often look like they're making a mountain out of a molehill. And what we have to understand is that's true for them in that moment. That is a true, honest feeling. That is what they are going through. That is what they are internalizing, what they're experiencing and acknowledging that is super, super powerful because it shows that they can trust us. It shows that we understand what is going on with them, where they are, what they're struggling with. It's monumentally powerful really, in the world in general, but definitely with our kids.
Penny Williams (35:59): I call the phrase, "how can I help you?" the magic phrase for ADHD and autism. Because we're saying, "okay, I see where you are. I understand how you're feeling, or at least acknowledge how you're feeling. What can I do? I want to help you." I don't want to tell you to behave better or just stop whining about something that is important, I want to show you that I get it and I want to help. And I've learned recently that we really have to take that a step further to, "how can I help you help yourself?" Because now our kids are teens, they're working toward independence and we need to be furthering that ability for them to step back in those moments and be able to figure out what they need for themselves as well, because someday they're going to have to use that. So again, I agree. Empathy is the number one, most powerful parenting tool, strategy. It's amazing.
Larry Hagner (37:05): It is. Because at the end of the day our kids need guidance. We have to guide them, but sometimes shaming them. Well, not sometimes shaming them into a behavior, I think is a temporary fix. Am I guilty of that? Oh my God. Yeah. When it comes to some things, but I can honestly say without a shadow of a doubt that I don't do that with school. I did do that once. And to be honest, I wish I could erase this off my son's hard drive of his mind, of his brain. So my son was in fourth grade. And this is a really vulnerable story and full transparency of how our own fears can literally just wreck a moment.
Larry Hagner (38:05): And this was before I was really podcasting, I had just gotten started. I didn't know much about ADHD. And I looked at my son more through the eyes of, he was lazy and more through the eyes of like, why don't you understand this? And he was in fourth grade, he brought home homework. He was throwing a fit that he didn't want to do it. And I looked at him and I banged my fist on the table. And I said, "you better do your homework, because you cannot to do another grade over again. Do you understand me?" And I could tell by look on his face, it got to him, but I didn't realize how much it got to him. And he would say every now and again, "Hey dad, do you remember that time?"
Larry Hagner (38:51): And I'm like, "man, I wish I could take that back. I wouldn't have said that if I would have been better educated on what was going on for you, that was me looking through the lens of my own past and how horrible it was for me to repeat a grade. And that was my own fear coming out in anger to yell at you, to motivate you, because I didn't want you to experience what I experienced, which is doing a grade over again. And that was my stuff. That was my own baggage, not yours." But I wish I could take that all over again but, unfortunately I just can't and it just really sucks, but it is what it is.
Penny Williams (39:39): And all you can do is what you know, and when you know better, you do better. I think it's so important for our kids to see us make mistakes. They need to understand that everybody makes mistakes. In our traditional culture of parenting, we're supposed to look perfect. We're never supposed to let our kids see us make mistakes, but it's so valuable for them to know that everybody makes mistakes. No one is perfect. And to see you handle that in the best way that you could to make an apology to express that you wish you could take it back, that shows him what real life is. We all say things we wish we could take back. At times, we all make mistakes. We all do the wrong things. I tell my kids all the time about the really stupid things I did when I was a teenager and in college, because I don't want to see them repeat those things, you know?
Penny Williams (40:48): And I want them to know that we're real people. We were in their shoes once or in similar shoes. We were their age and we made mistakes just like they're going to make mistakes. It's so important. And I think even having that conversation more than once about that one thing that happened, because it hurt you so deeply is important for him to really understand that you're human, I think he realizes that you didn't mean it in the way that it felt at this point, because you've had that conversation. And again, all you can do is what you knew. I talked to so many parents with so many regrets and if you are doing the best that you could do, how can you fault yourself for that? We have to give ourselves grace, and dads too. It's just amazing to me that we still try so hard to look perfect for our kids. And it's totally culturally ingrained in us to do it. And yet it's so much more helpful to our kids if we don't look perfect to them, which seems a little counterintuitive, but it's really not. Anything else that you want to make sure that we talk about for our dads listening before we close the show?
Larry Hagner (42:17): Yeah, for sure. The last thing I'll say about dads is men in general are notorious about living life on their own. In other words, we're surrounded physically by people all day long, yet mentally and emotionally, we sort of live on our own isolated island. Every question that you ask us, we usually respond with good or fine. How's life? Fine. How's work? Good. How's the family? Fine. So it's like the older men get, we have relationships, what Stephen Mansfield, New York times bestselling author of "Building a Band of Brothers" talks about what's called rust relationships, which it's kinda like your college buddies or high school buddies, or maybe even people you work with where you talk about the same five things, same shallow five things that you always talk about.
Larry Hagner (43:16): And it's always over a beer because we don't know how to even interact, unless we've got some sort of, and don't get me wrong, I like to drink every now and again too, but it's almost like men don't know how to relate unless they are drinking. So what I'll tell you is that one of the best things you can do as a man is to create a tribe, a band of brothers that will support you that not only know you, but man, they are in your life. They're asking you questions like, "Hey man, how are you and Jessica doing? Like, how's communication, are you guys dating? Dating each other? Are you, are you having good conversations? Are you being intimate? Like how, how are your finances? Like, how are those things going? How's your stress level? How your patience with your kids are you connecting with them?"
Larry Hagner (44:01): Men need to be challenged and men need to have deeper conversations. Men need to be authentic and vulnerable with each other. And I think a lot of men view that as like, "Oh wow, that's a very feminine, emotional thing to do to be authentic and vulnerable with a man." That's not the case. In fact, the strongest and most courageous thing you'll do is to interact like that with a man. And let me clarify real quick, what authentic and vulnerable really means. It is not weak. It's not you weeping and crying, and like, I just want to talk about my feelings. It is not that way at all, being authentic and vulnerable is like, "Hey man I really want to elevate my marriage with Jessica. And I see you and Penny really communicating, well, you guys seem like you're so in love, help a brother out, man.
Larry Hagner (44:49): Like what are y'all doing? Give me a day in the life. So I understand and what I can do in my marriage, what do you got?" What you're doing is when you're asking for help or you're asking for assistance, you've just complemented the heck out of that guy. And you did it in a very masculine way. And you've opened up. Now that relationship to what I like to call an authentic relationship that isn't talking about, what Trump just tweeted out or what, what you did on the weekend or what sport your kid is in. Like, those are real conversations and every guy, shoulder to shoulder, face to face with you. We want these conversations. So build your tribe, build those people around you. It is so essential. It's so much easier and better to navigate life when you do it as a team. And when you do it as a tribe, we were not meant to live isolated. So that's one thing I want to say to men out there is never, ever be afraid to ask for help and go arm and arm with a man who wants to do life with you or a group of men who want to do life with you.
Penny Williams (45:51): Yeah. That tribe is so valuable. We all need someone that we can go to who understands a little bit, who gets where you're coming from and can support you in that way and connect much more deeply than I think men in our culture do. Typically, it reminds me of actually a Friends episode where they talk about how the girls share everything with each other. And so the guys decided they are going to share everything. And it ended up backfiring on them because, of course, it was a comedy. It was not real connection sharing. But it always reminds me of that when people talk about guys opening up and not typically sharing, and it's so important. And again, I can only speak from the mother, female perspective, but we have built a mom tribe of moms who have kids with neuro behavioral and neurodevelopmental disorders.
Penny Williams (46:57): And it's everything. It is everything to have a group of women who understand at least 70, 80% of what our parenthood is like, of what the struggle is like some days. And you just need that support. You really do need that support to be able to be vulnerable and to grow because if we're not vulnerable, we can't grow in our relationships.Super good stuff, so much good stuff. And I definitely encourage all the dads out there to listen to the Dad Edge Podcast. I will have links of many different ways that you can connect with Larry and his work in the show notes. His website is goodadproject.com. You will have a link to your Alliance as well and other ways to connect. Those show notes are going to be at parentingadhdandautism.com/099. I want to thank you again, Larry, such a great conversation. So glad to have someone on the podcast representing the dads out there.
Larry Hagner (48:15): Well, I so appreciate you being a voice out there for us parents out there who are raising kids with ADHD and ADD.
Penny Williams (48:25): Thank you. It's valuable work for sure. Both of us. And so with that, we will conclude this episode. I'll see everyone next time.
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