Probably one of the most distinctive sea changes I have seen over the years in parenting is society’s attitude around ADD and ADHD. Kudos to us that there no longer is any stigma attached to this diagnosis; I clearly recall the guarded conversations and secretive dispensing of medications that once were the norm. But then, sometimes I wonder if perhaps today we are a little too quick to affix a label that explains away less than ideal behavior.
I’m not suggesting that ADD and ADHD don’t exist. What I am thinking is that sometimes we can be a little quick on the draw. Here’s an example: a 6-year-old camper was acting out consistently. When his supervisor asked him, “What does your Mommy do when you misbehave?” he responded without hesitation. “She just gives me another little yellow pill.”
Regardless of the diagnosis, might this parent have employed some parenting techniques either first and/or in conjunction with that pill? Debbie Phelps, mother of 14-gold-medal Olympian Michael, has been an advocate for parents of hyperactive children: she channeled her then 8-year-old’s excess energy by interesting him in swimming and off-loading some of that extra activity. The rest of the story, of course, is history!
“Shelley the Hyperactive Turtle” by Deborah Moss is a perfect illustration of one who has difficulty controlling that “wiggly feeling” but who learns that, with family love and support, he can succeed.
A recent study reveals that there has been a 40 percent increase in the diagnosis of ADHD. But identification doesn’t give license to abdicate parenting responsibilities. Regardless of the acronym, a child may have ADHD or OCD or PDD or ODD or… the list goes on and on. These are just descriptive categories of identified behaviors along the spectrum of disorders. I worry that one gets added to this directory, and I nickname it PPC – that stands for Poorly Parented Child.
Roughly one in 25 children or teens currently is taking medication for ADHD, according to a study published by the University of California at Berkeley. The US undeniably leads the world in spending on ADHD medications, the review also reports.
I am not a doctor, but I can tell you that I have seen these drugs counteract the symptoms of ADHD (poor concentration, distractibility, hyperactivity, impulsivity) to such an extreme that personalities virtually can disappear along with those behavioral suppressions.
Yes, the condition is more clearly defined and definitely more quickly diagnosed. And no, it is no longer thought to be the result of poor parenting. However, it doesn’t let us off the hook for holding our children, wiggly or not, accountable for their behaviors.
Here’s the really good news. Research has shown that ADHD symptoms tend to decline during a child’s adolescent years. All the more reason to invest in them early on, embracing their different learning styles while still committing to teaching them the right things to do, at the same time providing the backup they require.
As Debbie Phelps has said, “I knew that if I collaborated with Michael, he could achieve anything he set his mind to.” That’s the key; she didn’t just rely upon the little yellow pill to make everything all right.