Parenting And ADHD With Pat Murray And Melissa Foley

Kathleen Mills

Kathleen is a creative and gifted therapist who has extensive experience in helping children, adolescents, and adults with a variety of issues.

SUMMARY: Pat Murray and Melissa Foley discuss parenting and ADHD.

Episode #39 | Pat Murray and Melissa Foley talk with Kathleen Mills and Phillip Crum.

Kathleen Mills-Proprietor, Counselor at Life Tree Counseling
Phillip Crum-The Content Marketing Coach
Pat Murray-retired Life Tree Counselor
Melissa Foley-Life Tree Counseling


Phillip Crum: Do you know what time it is?

Kathleen Mills: I do.

PC: It is time for another edition, number 39 I believe, edition 39 of It’s Just Coffee –

KM: Very nice.

PC: – which is a weekly show, on-demand radio show, by Kathleen Mills of Life Tree counseling.

KM: And?

PC: Produced by Phillip Crum who would be me, About the –

KM: – things –

PC: – that –

KM: – mental health professionals would want to know or need to know or –

PC: – to run their business.

KM: Yeah, to run their business.

PC: So, for young ‘uns in school and post-graduate school or just recently out that know what they’re doing but didn’t get any learning about the business side.

KM: Or additional resources.

PC: You’re in the right place.

KM: I’m glad they’re here.

PC: Yep, yep. So, without further ado, tell me who we have in the house today and give me a little intro and let’s go.

KM: Well, these are probably my two favorite people in the world, in here, not kidding. And they’re very special to me. We have Pat Murray, our newly retired from Life Tree Counseling Center, and Melissa Foley, who is one of my – well both sons – had got to know her when they went through school and stuff like that. And both of these ladies were very instrumental in my son’s upbringing and management of their ADD and ADHD, respectively. And I couldn’t think of two more perfect people to talk about what we’re going to talk about today. Mellissa, let’s start with you. Melissa Foley, give us kind of a 30-second snippet of who you are, what you do. Tell me a little bit about you so our listeners can be properly introduced.

Melissa Foley: Okay. I am a teacher. My background was in special education. I think it’s called something different now. And I taught school for many years and the last few years that I was in school, I coordinated a program for high school kids with ADHD and learning differences. And three years ago I started working on my own and I’m in private practice now working with kids who need help navigating through school. And I recently became a professional educational therapist and I enjoy this population of kids. I love working with them and trying to figure out what I can do to help their school experience be better.

KM: That’s awesome. Pat Murray – hello, honey.

Pat Murray: Hello.

KM: How are you?

PM: I’m good.

KM: How’s your retirement working out?

PM: Retirement is good.

KM: Good. We miss you, but we know you’re having fun.

PM: Well, thank you.

PC: You’re still working, aren’t you?

PM: Well you know, it’s hard to let go.

PC: You just get to sleep in now.

KM: Sneaking in the office in the middle of the day.

PM: Yes, I do. I still have a few ongoing things that, yes, it is such a great experience to be involved with other people on a personal level. And so it is really hard to walk away. So I kind of don’t walk away.

KM: Tell the listeners about you a little bit. LPC, other background information.

PM: I am an LPC and have been for many, many years, although I was working in school systems for quite a period of time. At that point, my role was different, but always have been engaged with young people. That’s the population I love because they’re still, even though they have attitudes as teenagers, they’re still really pure of heart and so I love being in that group. But as I went into private practice with Life Tree and my experience broadened and I began to do more martial counseling, I began to see that conditions that existed for young people and teenagers in particular that dealt with ADHD had a very serious impact on relationships and especially on marriage. And began to realize that there is this whole adult population of either diagnosed or undiagnosed ADHD and even though they may have the diagnoses, they do not understand how that impacts their behavior, their attitudes, their emotional life, and of course their relationships. So that’s where I am now.

KM: Tell me about how you know each other, Melissa and Pat. Who wants to go first? You’ve teamed up over the years but you’ve known each other for a really long time and you’re a great team together doing what you do.

MF: Well, Pat was a parent. Our children went to the same school and we became friends many years before that just on a personal level. And then the high school where I worked with the kids with learning differences, she was the counselor. And so, since my kids often needed help from the counselor, she and I had many opportunities to conference together about various issues that came along.

KM: Commiserate. Anguish.

PM: That is really kind of how we decided to work together, to move the relationship from just parents and friends. But working together and seeing the struggles of high school students, both educationally and then how that resulted in the kind of emotional, behavioral aspects of their lives. So we teamed up to try and provide for these students – both aspects – and then we realized that it’s not just teenagers that need this. And so, that’s where we came together and formed our company, MetaCognition Partners, where we are trying to work with adults, teenagers, and adolescents, and then also we are working with parents because many times when we have these children, we didn’t get the instruction manual on how you help your child with ADHD. And so, what we’re seeing is there is an absence of information that is available to parents on, “What do I do now? I have a diagnoses. They have their medication. Now what?”

KM: It’s frustrating for both sides – student and parent – isn’t it?

PM: Absolutely.

KM: You know, we just started a new school year at the time that we’re recording this, and we’re probably like three weeks into the school year. And the thing that I would like to have both of you guys be talking about is how does a parent support their ADH student at school? The first rung of testing is coming out, the conferences are starting – performance, that kind of stuff – and parents are not beginning to freak out and get concerned and all that kind of stuff. Just talk about that for a little bit.

MF: Well I think, first of all, starting the year that since it’s a new beginning, it’s a good time for parents to sit back and think about how they’re going to allot the time they have for their children. And to be very aware that overscheduling generally does not work well for kids with ADHD. One of the things that most people with ADHD struggle with – children and adults – is the inability to manage time very well. They don’t have an internal sense of time that some people do. And so therefore, they need support and help in learning how to navigate through their week. And parents, there are so many good things for kids to be involved these days, but you can’t – even though you have a choice of lots of good things – you can’t choose all of those good things. So you have to be careful that they are going to have time to, for school, and of course that’s going to vary from school to school. But one thing that is just a real practical thing that I have parents do is to build into their routines at home a meeting early in the week – Sunday evening is a great time to do that – where you sit down as a family and you talk about what is going to be happening that week. And keeping a family calendar is a good idea. But some people are not inclined to do that. It’s certainly great to have the visual up that you can just get one of those at the office supply store – not an expensive thing. And on that, everyone’s activities are put up on that, including mom and dad. Children need to feel that they are an important part of the family, but they are not the center of the universe in the family. That what mom dad is important, what dad is doing is important, and what my brother and my sister are doing are important as well. And so, when you sit down and talk about that week, then it becomes more of a team effort. And a kid with ADHD many times feels very much out of control, and that helps them to number one, see what is coming up to anticipate and therefore beginning to start to plan. But also, they feel that there are people supporting them.

KM: Not being so isolated, because I think a lot of families get very isolated in all of their individual activities and it compartmentalizes and it really is not a family builder at all.

MF: Exactly. Right. And it helps parents so much as well, because there are many kids who have ADHD have one or both parents who are also ADHD – that happens quite often. And doing this is a- helps to identify the train wrecks before they happen. And the last minute trips to Wal-Mart to get supplies, and realizing that somebody’s got a doctor’s appointment and a ball game scheduled simultaneously – those kids of things can be… and you can work out a solution if you know it ahead of time.

KM: Well it’s that big, cleansing breath before the week starts, which is very helpful.

MF: Exactly.

PC: We just call that, “Get you hmm together” in my house.

KM: There you go. Get it together!

PC: Same thing?

KM: Well, sort of. Kind of. Pat – what can parents do to help students make good decisions? When there’s ADHD and there’s a lot of school activities, tests, and all that – talk about that. I think we tend to micromanage.

PM: Absolutely. I mean, that’s where we come into those things where we talk about the funny term, “The Helicopter Parent.” And at times, even though we don’t intend to be that, we don’t intend to dictate a person’s life, because of timing that Melissa mentioned, people as parents we tend to just take over because we don’t- our time is less and we feel pressured and we feel tight and so we want all of our children just to march in line so we can get everything accomplished. Unfortunately, when we do that, the emotional message that a child receives from that is, “I’m not capable. My parent doesn’t feel like I am capable of making these choices or making these decisions.” In our work, we’ve worked with executive functions, which are in that pre-frontal cortex, and that’s just the front part of our brain, and that’s –

PC: There we go. There’s some big words again.

KM: Settle down, Phillip. It’s okay.

PC: I know. I’m sorry.

KM: Take a cleansing breath.

PC: (Takes a breath)

PM: Well, let me just say that part behind our forehead.

PC: I think that hurt my pre-frontal cortex. It hurt.

PM: But that is the part of our brain that is our control center. And so it directs the activity of the brain, and that is slowly developing in children and fully developed when we are 25 to 30 years old. So as parents we tend to, it’s our job really, to loan our reasoning skills and our past experiences as teachers and guides to our children. But we have kind of over-exercised that to the point that we are not promoting that in our children. So they need that opportunity to work on developing those skills themselves.

KM: So parents are reasoning for their child without involving the child and talking through it.

PM: Exactly. We dictate a decision.

KM: Melissa, you were –

MF: Well I was just going to say that one tendency that parents have, especially when they’ve had a child who has struggled, is that at the beginning of the school year you have this idea that you should go into the teacher ahead of time and define the child to the teacher.

KM: Right.

MF: Now I’m not saying that the teacher does not need to have vital information like whether or not the child has a learning difference, or is ADHD. But many times parents will do far more than that. And so, instead of letting that teacher get to know that child for the two of them to have a relationship, and for the teacher to determine what she thinks about the child without these pre-conceived notions that have been planted by a parent. Parents do that very well meaning, but it doesn’t really help the child become an independent person.

KM: So you’re encouraging parents to just step aside on the sidewalk, allow that relationship to be cultivated between the student and the teacher.

MF: Absolutely.

KM: And let that be the fundamental relationship right there.

MF: Yes. Exactly. And as the year progress and a little bit into the school year, then to have a conversation with the teacher. And of course if things come up along the way, you might have to speak with the teacher. But to do that ahead of time –

KM: You’re discouraging that.

MF: Yes, I do discourage that.

PM: I would say that in addition to preparing your child for the beginning of the school year, is a conversation with your children about how do you start out a good school year with your teacher. Because I truly do not believe that there is any young person that does not want to be regarded positively by their parents, their teacher, their friends.

MF: Absolutely.

PM: Sometimes we just assume that they know how to do that. And what we’re realizing is, no they don’t automatically know how to engage in a positive way. And so a conversation where we sit down and say, “You know, what do you think? Tell me your ideas about how you can start a good relationship.” Rather than giving that dictation that we do: “Now sit up in class and pay attention and don’t doodle on your paper.” But make them participate and own some of that.

KM: When do you encourage that – what age do you begin to encourage that?

MF: I would say right away that you would start.

PM: Four, five years old. And one thing that I tell my students, I don’t want to overuse sports analogies here, but if you go to football practice, for instance, and you don’t have your cleats tied and your shirttail is not tucked in and your pad is hanging out and you’re walking in a couple of minutes late, the impression that your coach has is that you are not ready and you’re not- you didn’t make this a priority because you’re not ready. It’s a little bit the same with the teacher. You’re not asking a child to phony, but there is a certain behavior and decorum that they should learn about pretty early on to show the teacher that they are ready to engage and that they’re interested and that it’s okay for a kid to know that that is going to help that relationship.

KM: Talk about parents being too afraid for their children to fail, with the component of maybe a learning difference such as ADD or ADHD. I think that there’s a fear of failure, and how that can impact later. You know, the failure to launch, for instance.

PM: That is… we see that, and it creates a large emotional fallout. And unfortunately, it creates an attitude that remains with them throughout their life. And so, we see it kind of manifested as teenagers and young adults on into adulthood, sometimes as a little bit of an obsessive compulsive behavior, meaning I’m trying to do everything just right so I’m very rigid and it has to be done this way every time, little inflexibility. But I think because we, as adults and parents, we understand that there are consequences to behaviors. And so many times we try to fashion their world so that they will not fail, so they will not suffer the consequences of not feeling good about themselves. And certainly, for many students with ADHD, they feel like they’ve had many failures. And so as a compassionate parent, you think you are shielding them.

KM: Despite the overcompensation.

PM: Yes. Despite the effort, because that’s part of the frustration of the ADHD: My intention and my outcome do not always line up and I don’t understand why. So what we rob them of, if we model their world where there is no failure, is the learning experience. And that’s a key part – it goes back to that executive function of understanding time – going back and remembering what I did in the past, how it turned out, and then making that choice: do I want to continue in that way or do something different?

KM: The development of the skill set or not.

PM: Correct.

KM: Melissa, you were going to comment.

MF: Well I was just going to say that we really want our children to develop wisdom and discernment. And if we’re constantly stepping in, we are robbing them of the little steps along the way to develop that.

KM: It’s okay for our children to fall on their face.

MF: And we do it because we’re fearful.

KM: Well, I remember when – and you remember when your kids were learning how to walk, and how cute we thought it was when they would take a couple steps and they’d fall flat on their face, but they get up and they would just brush it off. Somehow, somewhere, as parents, we have forgotten to allow that particular scenario, if you will, to continue. I mean, in chunks, not all the time.

PM: I think, too, that we have to be careful that failing is living. And as adults, we know that we’ve encountered and suffered many times that we did not succeed or we failed. And so it’s a normal thing. It is not a catastrophic, bad event. It is a normal part of life. So why would we – we don’t want to take joy away from our children. We don’t want to take success away from them – so we have to be careful that we allow them to live and experience their life.

KM: Like how many failures did Thomas Edison have?

PC: All of them. All of them up until the one that worked.

KM: Right. But I mean, he didn’t stop. He just kept working a puzzle.

PC: And learned from it each time.

KM: Absolutely.

PC: You can’t keep duplicating your mistakes.

MF: And that is what learning is. What we do know through neuroscience, and we’re understanding more and more about learning as they study the brain, that the first encounter with new information – it creates confusion in our mind. And so it’s working through that confusion that is the learning. So we are constantly going to be at times in our life where we are going to be confused about the outcome and what resulted from our choice. And then that’s how we learn. That’s how we then make a new choice.

PC: Well, I have learned that there’s probably a lot more to this topic than we’ve covered. So why don’t you schedule them to come back and let’s do this again before too terribly long?

KM: I would love to. Okay.

PC: And we need to wrap up because we are out of time, but before we do that, we want to know where we can find Pat Foley – excuse me, Melissa Foley, that would be you, and Pat Murray is the other one over here. All right? So, where can we find Pat Murray?

KM: (Laughs)

PM: That is a hard question.

KM: She’s at the beach – she’s retired!

PC: Oh, find her down at the beach.

PM: I’m at the beach! I’m sorry to say, I’m really not accessible because I have gone into retirement. Melissa and I still will be working as partners in the MetaCognition Partnership where we address the executive function and aid for ADHD.

PC: That’s kind of what I meant. So.

KM: Yeah so is there a number for that?

PM: 214-538-3062.

PC: Okay, which one of you drove over here? No, nevermind. Nevermind. Okay, one more time with the number.

PM: 214-538-3062.

PC: Is there a website, or not? Not yet?

KM: MetaCognition. Melissa Foley and Pat Murray.

PC: Okay.

KM: The best two people ever.

PC: And where can we find you, miss Kathleen?

KM: Just down the street – or you can email me. or you can call me 972-234-6634. My extension is 104. And how about you, sir?

PC: I can be found at and my phone number is on it. So take a look. And before we leave, for you that are listening, you have an opportunity here to get the inside story. As soon as we’re done, we’re going to do a little talking afterwards and you can gain access to that if you would like. And all you have to do, in fact we’re going to be talking… miss Melissa is going to share a case study with us and introduce us to aunt Odele. You don’t want to miss that.

KM: (Laughs) Aunt Odele!

PC: You’ll be like that guy who missed the first episode of Seinfeld or something. Oh I wish I hadn’t! So all you need to do to access this private information is text the word auntieo to this number: 442-333-7363 and we’ll send you a link whereby you can access that information. The number is 442-333-7363. Text the word auntieo and we’ll fix you up. So this has been fun, ladies.

KM: Thank you, ladies, very much.

PC: We appreciate it. And thanks everybody for listening. Say goodbye, Kathleen.

KM: Goodbye, Kathleen. Say goodbye, Phillip.

PC: We’ll see you later. Thank you very much for listening, everybody, and we’ll see you next week. And on we go.


PC: Now, miss Melissa.

MF: I left out the most important thing.

PC: Did you, now? Let’s hear it.

KM: Well, let’s hear it.

MF: Well, the homework – what can parents do as far as homework.

KM: Let’s do it. What can they do?

MF: Well, to provide a place at home where it is free from distraction as possible, to make sure they have supplies that are theirs so we’re not searching around the house to get the supplies. And then also having time to do their work.

KM: Quiet time. Same space. Zero clutter.

MF: Exactly. Exactly.

KM: All tools equipped.

MF: And also just to remember that the one thing that the child does have more control over than anything else is their effort. And so, to be just cognizant of that and to be training yourself to praise the effort rather than the grade, because they oftentimes don’t have control over the grade. The process is what’s important.

KM: Right. You know, oftentimes with my two children, C was for celebrate.

MF: That’s right.

KM: It was the effort. It wasn’t their favorite thing, but C was for celebrate and we knew that that was a good thing.

MF: Right. The process is really the most important thing. Learning how to learn.

KM: Right. And letting the parent back off and let that child learn.

MF: Yes. Absolutely.

PC: That’s interesting. Process has got to be first. And then the information follows. Who’da thunk it?

MF: Because that’s what you can take with you into other situations in life.

PC: The process. Teach them how to fish.

MF: Not necessarily the dates and the things you memorize, but the process.

PC: Because I’ve forgotten most of what I memorized.

PM: It’s the reason math is so important.

KM: That’s right. Pat, what are just three takeaways I’m just going to say/ask. What can parents, how can parents be a good parent with their teachers?

PC: Where do I start? Give me an action plan.

KM: Just what do parents need to know that would be helpful in order to be a good parent with their teacher and student during the school year?

PM: I think one of the things is just having the conversations with your child and letting them do the talking. Because it is the process, and what we want for our children is for them to learn to use their mind – whatever form it takes. But for them to use their mind. So to ask them the questions, “What do you think about this? What do you think the teacher might think about you if you do this? What would you like for this person to interact with you in this way? What do you think you could do to promote that?” And not always provide the answer, but allow them to think through it.

KM: And if they say, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.” Just back off, but you’ve planted the seed of that self-reliant problem solving, I’m putting it in your corner, giving you permission to kind of, this is your thing to own?

PM: Well, one of the things that we do know about people with ADHD is that many of them do not like that immediate having to respond immediately. So often, if you just say to them, “Let’s think on this and we’ll talk about it maybe later tonight before you go to bed,” and not demand an immediate response.

KM: It’s the anticipatory set that is crucial – at least in my mind – that really worked very well with my boys growing up, is doing that anticipatory set, give some massive time in between, and then follow up.

PM: And often, that is what I encourage teenagers in particular to do, is you think through something but then you need to share those thoughts with your parents. You need to do kind of some pre-information. If you have a plan for getting that project completed on time, you need to then go to your parents and say, “This is what I have planned out.” Because much of the conflict between parent and child is they don’t know each other’s plans or thoughts or ideas. And often a parent doesn’t always encourage that.

KM: Melissa, tell me about your case study that you were mentioning about.

PC: The young fella. The student.

MF: Right. Well, I have a student – a seventh grader – who’s ADHD and just started school last week. And one of the requirements in his English class is to write an essay every week. Now, the topic will be given, but he is really worried about this. And that is so common –

KM: He’s overwhelmed.

MF: Yes, because that I’m sure what the teacher means is that I’m going to give you an interesting topic and you’re just going to write down your thoughts and that’s what we’re going to do. He’s practicing getting their words and ideas down on paper. But for a kid with ADHD who has a very difficult time organizing their world and certainly their ideas and oftentimes their stuff as well, this can be kind of a daunting assignment. And so I was just thinking that what my role with him is going to be to give him a definite process – some think steps – that he is going to use every week when we write these essays. And I’m going to be using a graphic organizer and I think that we’ll just have a notebook full of those and then we will have, we’ll discuss ways to generate good words by using the thesaurus. So that will be-

KM: You’re sequencing it in to steps and breaking it down so it’s not so daunting.

MF: Yes. Exactly. So that every week he has a process that he will go through in order to write this essay.

KM: Which will make it much more manageable for him I hope.

PC: Okay, so boil that down for the lay guy here. What’s the process? Step one, step two, step three.

MF: Well, the process would be is that the first thing we will do is we will have a statement, a thesis statement, about what he is going to talk about. And the teacher is pretty much going to provide that. So then we will have to provide some details, and so I was think we probably will have three details. And then we will have, for each detail, we will have a certain number of descriptive words that we will use. And then in the end we will have a conclusion. And so that is-

PC: So you’re helping him organize his thought process.

MF: Organizing his thoughts on paper.

PC: So all he has to do is remember where in the hell they put the paper.

MF: Right. And this child is… does not have a difficult time talking with you about just about anything. But he doesn’t realize is that since he does articulate ideas very well when he’s speaking, that he can also do that on paper. And so there will be a-

PC: All right. I’m curious since there are microphones in front of our face right now – if he doesn’t have problem talking, why not record him while he’s talking answering these questions, basically get him to write it in an audio file, and then there are inexpensive transcription softwares, you know what I’m saying? It’s 2014, and just because they didn’t used to use these tools doesn’t mean you can’t do it now.

MF: Yes. Yes, you could do that. You certainly could. In this particular-

PC: I just made that up, so if you use it, mail me 20 bucks, okay?

MF: No, there are some great technologies available now for kids who have problems with that. Dragon Speak and you know. In his particular case, I believe that it is more of a fear than it is of just an inability to learn how to do this.

KM: Well, it’s one of those areas where you haven’t been successful and you dread it. I remember the days where there were certain classes my boys didn’t like because it really challenged their struggles with their learning differences and it was just, it was a beating in their minds.

MF: Right. Right.

PC: I’m wondering a couple things. Where do you do this… you’re working with this young fella. Are you doing it on the school property somewhere, or are they coming to you off property?

MF: I have one school that I go on campus and work with kids during their study halls during the day. But I work in an office that is down at Lovers and the toll way. There is a diagnostician who I’ve known for many years that is allowing me to rent an office there and so I work with kids after school.

PC: Are there clothes hanging up in this office, and shoes on the floor? Oh, it’s bigger than a – okay. So do you, my other thought was, all right. You’ve got the kiddo all set up with a plan and you taught his mom or dad what you’re doing so they’re in on it. Is there any interaction between you and the kiddo’s teacher so the teacher’s in on it?

MF: There might be. I am available to do that.

PC: Who lines that up?

MF: Parents. That would be with the permission of the parents. But yes, I often conference with teachers. And I attend school conferences if I’m asked to.

PC: What’s your reception from the teachers? How are you received when you call them and tell them – not tell them – but ask them that you want to talk to them about little Johnny and you’ve got a plan with him and you wanted to clue him in. Are they receptive or do they hackle up and –

MF: Well, of course that depends on the personality of the teacher. I can’t say that that’s a perfect process, but I always try to present myself as someone who wants to support what they are doing in the classroom. I would never go in and suggest that something that I was doing needed to take precedent over their goals for that student for that year, because I see my role – I am in a support role entirely. It’s just I want my students to be successful in their teacher’s classroom because that relationship with their teacher is so important. And I want them to learn. My whole goal is for them to become better learners. Sometimes in the process they also make better grades. But sometimes maybe not. But I feel like the things that I am teaching are things that they can take with them in other situations in life.

PC: Process. Process. I like that.

MF: In the workplace.

PC: I’m a process guy. Well, this is interesting. Now, we could go on all day, and I would really like to, but we’re not going to. So, if somebody wants to know more about this topic then you can find Pat and Melissa at what number, Melissa?

MF: 214-538-3062.

PC: All right. And you won’t get Pat because she’s running incognito these days.

KM: Incognito.

PC: She’s running the retirement program, but still working. Not sure how that works, but I want one of those.

KM: Me, too!

PC: I want one of those. And if you can’t find either one of them, then call Kathleen because she knows how to find them. And we can find Kathleen at:


PC: Before we go, we’ve all been waiting for an introduction to Aunt Odele. Melissa, tell me a little bit about Aunt Odele.

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