I am crying and trying to make a decision

My husband has been diagnosed with ADD/Bipolar. We have four children, ages 1 to 8 years. There are characteristics that I recognize in our eldest three children that make me highly suspicious that they also have ADD (maybe bipolar) to varying degrees. We have never had them tested largely because we wanted to avoid doing so until it was necessary. They are homeschooled so the ADD-like symptoms have not been the serious issue they would be if they were schooled in the traditional setting.

However, I am overwhelmed with trying to determine how to parent, and specifically discipline, these kids. It really matters what the cause/motive of a behavior is when determining how to correct it. If it’s ADD rather than laziness or rebellion, I need to respond in a very different way.

I am so, so frustrated.

Despite researching and strategizing and working myself to exhaustion to minimize chaos in our home, I have failed. The kids are loud, very physical, messes being made every time I turn around, crying, screaming, fighting, complaining, throwing fits. I have to touch every child if I want to get their attention. I have to say things over and over and over….. Even the 8-year-old can only handle one instruction at a time. I have to hold their hands to walk them through nearly every chore and school assignment, otherwise 3 seconds later they will be way off task even when they had been promised their most favorite reward in the world when they were finished. Neither threats or rewards succeed at keeping them on task.

All this when trying run a household by myself, not to mention handle the chaos their father brings home. I cannot design for him a peaceful and orderly house to come home to because I am barely hanging on to my own sanity caring for our four children and compensating for all his struggles. (My secret, painful wondering is “are the kids overwhelming because they’re ADD or is it my own failing as mother?)

All this to ask, I guess, whether maybe we should have at least the 8- and 6-year-olds tested, just to clarify our parenting strategy. My husband is always challenging me on my suspicion that the kids are dealing with ADD like him. He’s accepting medication and counseling for himself and understands the high heritability of ADD, but he wants to discipline the kids like they’re being lazy or rebellious rather than giving them tools to succeed with ADD.

I just don’t know how to guide a child through an ADD diagnosis so that they do not feel labeled or like there’s something wrong with them. They are all aware that daddy struggles and that momma is not pleased with how he treats her. They know the term ADD and that it’s rarely discussed in a positive light when momma brings it up with daddy. How do we turn that around?