Last week I wrote about my ADHD son’s early morning exercise routine and the scientific reasons exercise helps improve ADHD symptoms. {If you missed it, check it out HERE}

However, beyond the physical and mental benefits I wrote about in that post, we have experienced two awesome bonus benefits – lessons that I get to teach my son at a young age and infuse into his personality.

I’ve found these bonus benefits to be JUST as important and impactful as the exercise itself, and wanted to share how you can overlap lessons of greatness throughout your ADHD child’s life.

Take a look.

Discipline

We do our running early. Like 6-in-the-morning early. Some of you may be thinking, “Why that early?! What about running after school or before dinner?”

I stick to this schedule because I know it works for my son and me. In the morning we have nothing better to do (well, other than sleep, which isn’t something to speak of lightly — see some great research on sleep and ADHD here).

At 2:45, or 5:30 or 7:00 at night, however, I guarantee you we’ve got plenty of excuses going on… homework, friends, a TV show, dinner, extra curricular activities, and on and on and on.

And besides, requiring ourselves to do this in the morning teaches my son a sense of discipline that very few kids learn this early and that will serve him well throughout his life.

Every one of us have at least two voices in our heads when we face something we know is good for us but that we really don’t want to do.

The first voice is saying, “I don’t wanna!” “That sounds too boring.” “Push snooze one more time.” “Just one cookie won’t hurt.” “Start it tomorrow.”

I don’t know about you, but for me this voice is loud, bossy, and almost always wins. I’ve come to aptly call it… Loud Bossy Voice (yes, I’m super creative).

What I tell my son about Loud Bossy Voice is that it doesn’t tell you what’s best for you. In fact, Loud Bossy Voice wants one thing only… what feels good right now. It doesn’t care what the long-term consequences are.

At 6 am when I am asking my son to get out of his warm bed to go running, Loud Bossy Voice is telling him to stay snug in your beds with his eyes closed.

But like I said, Loud Bossy Voice doesn’t look into the future, at all. And it certainly doesn’t care whether its short-sightedness helps his advance your goals or not. It’s a feel-good voice. That’s it. Lame.

There is another voice in your head. It’s small, weak and quiet at the beginning — especially after times we’ve let Loud Bossy Voice run rampant.

This voice is a little shy, but it’s wise. Hence, it’s name in our household… Quiet Wise Voice.

Quiet Wise Voice is saying “Get up! You know you’ll have a better day if you do! You know it will feel good shortly! You know you want to have a good day, so let’s do what we need to to make sure it happens!”

I tell my son to give Quiet Wise Voice a LOT of attention. When it speaks, he needs to listen. That’s the voice that knows what’s best for him.

In order to make that Quiet Wise Voice louder and stronger, we have to honor it and give it a stage.

Day after day, we have to build that little voice up, and we do that by listening obediently to it every single morning. Even when we don’t want to. We have to show Loud Bossy Voice the hand and pay attention to Quiet Wise Voice.

Over time, this exercise has resulted in my son understanding that he can not only tap into his Quiet Wise Voice whenever he wants, but also that he can trust it. He often refers to his Quiet Wise Voice when he’s trying to weigh options, and he’s come to like her a little more than he did in the beginning.

With Quiet Wise Voice by his side, my son can trust HIMSELF to make good decisions, even when his Loud Bossy Voice wants to self-sabotage.

Expecting Excellence of Yourself

The second life lesson we have learned from our morning exercise session is that we are all capable of excellence and whether or not you achieve excellence is a matter of your own expectations.

Many of your ADHD kids may operate in the “good enough” achievement zone. I know mine did (and, let’s face it… still does in many situations).

Some kids are too overwhelmed or unfocused with the size of a task to follow it through to the end. But other kids don’t have the self-esteem to understand their potential for excellence… and so they don’t have a reason to try to be excellent. This was the case with my son.

One of the first days my son ran on the treadmill, he had a goal of 10 minutes. He did a fine job for 9 minutes and 50 seconds, at which point he pushed the “Off” button.

I asked him, “That’s it?” He looked at me, confused. “What?! I did about 10 minutes! What is 10 more seconds? Wasn’t that good enough?!”

And so I explained to him: 10 more seconds is the difference between getting by as good enough (just as he said) and being excellent.

Cutting yourself short – even by 10 seconds – tells your brain that you don’t believe you are good enough to be excellent.

I asked him, “Are you physically able to run another 10 seconds?”

“Yes, of course I can,” he replied.

“Then you can choose excellence. What kind of life do you want to live? Do you want to be climbing mountains or watching other people do it? Do you want to be inventing things, or just wishing you did?” (The conversation was a little longer than this, but you get my drift).

My son thought about it for a second, and to my absolute astonishment he turned the treadmill back on. AND, instead of just finishing 10 seconds he chose to run 2 more minutes. He chose SUPER excellence! That morning I got to love up on him and tell him just how excellent he was and how amazing the choice he had just made was. And in return, he walked off the treadmill after those two minutes feeling proud and… well… excellent.

Since that day I always have him articulate a new goal when we start out for a run. It has to be something he’s going to challenge himself with. It doesn’t have to be super hard — just something he hasn’t done before. Maybe it’s running a little faster for a minute, or running to the next mailbox.

His goals don’t have to be big, and I always let him choose what they are. The most important thing is that he sets a goal, says it out loud, believes he can do it, and DOES.

Starting his morning having successfully challenged himself puts his shoulders back before he ever walks into the classroom. It gives him a confidence he cannot get from anything else and that calmness helps to quiet his typical self-doubting overwhelmed state of mind that so often results in trouble.

This goal-setting exercise has become one of the most effective tools in my ADHD arsenal.

Providing Tools and Life Lessons

As you can see, our morning routine is about so much more than just burning off some energy. What my son is learning at 6:30am is that his body and his brain are connected. He’s learning vital skills that he can use in real life for the rest of his life.

I’m not saying it’s for everyone, and I’m not saying your routine has to look just like ours, but I encourage you to create your own morning routine that encompasses movement, nature, or both. It just might make an incredible difference for your ADHD child.

It did for us.

Together, we’ve got this!

XoXoXo, Honestly Erin