Tour de Force versus Tour de France: When Cheerleading Goes Wrong

The definition of tour de force in the Oxford dictionary is “an impressive performance or achievement that has been accomplished or managed with great skill.” Imagine your child or teen has written an essay with impressive skill and well-managed time, hitting the deadline with a fabulous finished product. Your child’s teacher might call the essay a tour de force, a great accomplishment worth celebrating!

Let’s switch gears (bike pun intended). The Tour de France is a famous cycling race that occurs in France and a few neighboring countries every year. The course is gruelling, happening in 21 stages, each a day long, and lasting 23 days. Last week in the competition, disaster struck. A fan, holding a sign on the sidelines, became overly zealous. As the cyclists rounded a corner, the fan leaned over the road—ever so slightly. That decision, even if well-intentioned, was catastrophic. A cyclist hit the sign, lost balance, and fell. What happened next, in an instant, was a massive domino effect. Cyclist after cyclist skidded, fell, and crashed. News outlets everywhere are sharing the photographs: mangled metal, multiple injuries, and heaping heartache among athletes who had trained relentlessly for the prestigious race.

So how is this moment of cheerleading gone wrong relevant for you? All loving parents are their child’s greatest cheerleaders. You spend your life building confidence, applauding success, and reassuring your child that setbacks are necessary when approaching new challenges. You also know that your role as parent changes over time. You lean in when your children are younger—a lot—because there is so much that young children can’t do alone. Leaning in fully as parents is essential for learning and survival. But as children and teens grow, you begin to lean out. You step back a bit and let independence bloom. This move is a necessary evolution in parenting. Sure, it’s tough watching your child or teen stumble, fall, and get back up without you rushing to the scene of  the heartache. But leaning out is how independence is born. The ultimate goal of parenthood is separation. Letting your child go for a spin, without training wheels, is key.

In theory, this evolution from leaning in to leaning out sounds simple. In practice, it’s not—especially if your child has challenges with attention and learning. Research shows that ADD, ADHD and Learning Disabilities are associated with lags—and differences—in the brain’s circuitry and availability of neurochemicals that support memory, attention, and learning. If your child struggles to get started on tasks and meet deadlines, you can predict with clarity the impending crash and burn: the last minute scramble, the panic, the missed deadline, the poor grades, the crumbling confidence. So you lean in—a lot—because you know your child needs support, even if classmates are much further along in their independence. You provide reminders, over and over. You sit beside your teen and review assignments. You suggest parsing up work to shorten the course. You offer rewards and ask your child to visualize the finish line.

The upside here is the work gets done—maybe. The downside is a crash and burn of another sort. Your teen resents your reminders. Your input feels intrusive. Your child wants to go it alone like other classmates. You feel frustrated and unappreciated. Being a parent and cheerleader is hard enough. Being a coach and tutor makes your role even harder, and your relationship with your child can suffer.

Research shows that coaching is an effective therapy for children, teens, and adults with ADD and ADHD and associated learning challenges that make work tough to start and finish. Coaching scaffolds the work getting done while building confidence and supporting mental health. Coaches with expertise in ADD and ADHD help their clients parse work into smaller pieces and set goals for moving systematically towards a specific finish line. Just to be clear—coaches are more than cheerleaders. Think of sports coaches. They are experts in their field who know how to build skills and to support the expressions of those skills over time. Some clients use ADHD Coaches continuously to navigate big and meaningful goals in their personal and professional lives across time. Others use coaches to get through exceedingly busy times at work, or to help their child or teen through the academic expectations of the school year.

If you are concerned about your child’s ability to get through summer school, or to stay on top of work once school starts into September, lean in and consider expert coaching at Possibilities. Our unique Doodle! Do! Done! Coaching Program, offered in 6-week blocks, combines art with brain science for students who love to doodle. Drawing options are also available for teens and adults who benefit from a sketchnoting and storyboarding approach for planning ahead and staying organized. If your child isn’t keen on drawing, our coaching programs are flexible. Speaking and writing are other ways to parse up work and keep kids on track. When your child meets with a coach regularly—every week or once every two weeks depending on your family’s needs—you’ll know that a plan is happening to get work done. That’s a huge upside! Here’s another one: you’ll have the freedom to cheer from a healthy distance while your child produces a tour de force project with expert support. Now that’s a win-win!

Please call to speak with our Care Coordinators at Tel: 1-833-482-5558, or Mailto: for more information. Advance booking in 6-week blocks for the 2021/2022 school year is available.

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