Tag Archives: discipline

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Ready

As soon as I read this week’s WordPress photo challenge theme, I knew what my picture would be. “Ready” is a challenge I face at our house every school day. Managing to get my kindergartener on time at school every morning is a feat requiring to move mountains. Well, maybe not, but I feel exhausted after I drop him off. He doesn’t start school until 8:15am (his little brother starts preschool 30 minutes later) so you’d think we have plenty of time to get ready by waking up at 6:45am. But that would mean forgetting his son is a master procrastinator with no sense of urgency.

We keep getting nasty letters from the school, listing the days he’s been tardy. And by “tardy”, they mean the days I get him in the line in the courtyard barely one minute after the bell rings. Give me a break! Well, apparently they don’t want to give me one. All he may miss is the beginning of the pledge of allegiance one or two days a week. Boo-hoo.

So every morning we follow the same routine, which the kids always seem to forget from one day to the next:
– Wake up at 6:45am
– Get out of bed / get pulled out of bed
– Pee
– Get dressed / have Mama dress you
– Go downstairs
– Sit down at the dining table
– Stay seated long enough to eat breakfast
– Only play with toys if there’s extra time (I said, only it’s there’s time!)
– Brush teeth
– Put shoes on
– Put suncreen on
– Put jackets on
– Go in the car and get strapped in

Of course this is only their part, not everything I have to do on my end to make it all happen. If you’re a parent, you know exactly what I go through in the morning. How did we do today? The boys were in the car at 8am sharp and we had plenty of time to make it to school. Ta-da!

Wordpress weekly photo challenge: Ready

Wordpress weekly photo challenge: Ready

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Diagnosing a four-year old with ADHD – really?

Child suffering from ADHDA couple of weeks ago, I ran across an article from NPR (National Public Radio) that almost made my eyeballs pop out of their sockets. It was titled “Kids As Young As 4 Can Be Diagnosed, Treated For ADHD“.

Say what??? As parents, we keep hearing of more and more cases of ADHD being diagnosed (and prescribed to) every year. Just like autism is being better diagnosed, ADHD is becoming more “common”. Or is it? Are kids suffering more from ADHD today than 30 years ago? Are doctors better at diagnosing it? Or is it easier to stick a label on children who may behave on the edge of the norm rather than the quieter middle?

Here’s what bugs me about the uphill trend of ADHD diagnoses in the USA. Pediatricians are starting to make the diagnosis on their own, without the help of a trained psychologist. Ask people who got diagnosed 20 years ago how many questions they had to answer and you’ll find out it took hours, even days. Today, a pediatrician may ask just about 10 questions and label your child with ADHD. As if it were that easy. And now it seems some pediatricians want to make it even easier by labeling kids as early as four years of age.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I completely agree that ADHD can be a debilitating condition that affects many aspects of a person’s life. If that person can’t function without psychological and/or medicinal help on a daily basis, of course they should seek help so they can have a “normal” life.

But here’s what irks me the most about this recent idea of diagnosing four-year-old children with ADHD. According to the pediatrician-led Healthy Children website (linked from the NPR article), here are the main symptoms of ADHD:

Symptom

How a child with this symptom may behave

Inattention

  • Often has a hard time paying attention, daydreams

  • Often does not seem to listen

  • Is easily distracted from work or play

  • Often does not seem to care about details, makes careless mistakes

  • Frequently does not follow through on instructions or finish tasks

  • Is disorganized

  • Frequently loses a lot of important things

  • Often forgets things

  • Frequently avoids doing things that require ongoing mental effort

Hyperactivity

  • Is in constant motion, as if “driven by a motor”

  • Cannot stay seated

  • Frequently squirms and fidgets

  • Talks too much

  • Often runs, jumps, and climbs when this is not permitted

  • Cannot play quietly

Impulsivity

  • Frequently acts and speaks without thinking

  • May run into the street without looking for traffic first

  • Frequently has trouble taking turns

  • Cannot wait for things

  • Often calls out answers before the question is complete

  • Frequently interrupts others

 
Now, let me think about this. I want to guess at least 80% of four-year olds display most of these behaviors on a regular, even daily, basis. Let me share a few examples:

Often has a hard time paying attention, daydreams? Well, that was me throughout my whole school experience. Most teachers left me alone because my grades were fine, but I was bored to death at school. My favorite activities were doodling and staring at the window, coming up with wild stories in my head. Oh wait, I still do that today!

Often does not seem to listen? Yeah, my kids consistently don’t listen when I ask them to do things they don’t want to do. That’s definitely a problem. I think most husbands are guilty of that too…

Is easily distracted from work or play? I’m guilty as charged, especially when working. So are about 90% of the people I have worked with so far in my career. Give them something better/more interesting to do with their time and they’ll jump on the opportunity.

Is in constant motion, as if “driven by a motor”? Hmm, isn’t that what young kids do with their excess energy? And then doctors complain kids are getting fat from sitting down for too long, go figure!

Talks too much? I have two chattering boxes competing at home. “Argh, stop cutting my words, I was talking first!”

Cannot play quietly? I think that’s called imaginary play. I sometimes join my kids on the spaceship ride, and yes, it’s quite loud during take-off.

Cannot wait for things? “Are we there yet?” “I want a cookie now!” “Is it Sunday/Halloween/Christmas already?”

Frequently interrupts others? Wait, I know lots of adults like that. They must all have ADHD.

You get my point. If you let a pediatrician diagnose a child using this list, the Ritalin manufacturers would be ecstatic. Who knows what effects Ritalin and other ADHD drugs have on a brain that’s still developing? No studies have been led on this subject. And what happened to using behavior modification before popping pills down a child’s throat?

What do I read through this article? I read that our society wants children to sit down and be quiet. Listen to us and do as we tell them. Not think for themselves and just agree with us. It makes them good little students in school and compliants workers later in life.

What is society missing when it trains children to become quiet peons? No more creativity, no more imagination. This means no more design engineers, architects, artists, graphic and web designers, people thinking outside the box, you name it. There’s a creative drain in the US, which is great for foreigners willing to fill the void, but it can make for quite a boring society and no ideas to create new jobs.

What is your take of such an early diagnosis for ADHD? Would you let doctors label your child at such a young age or use behavior modification and see if things get better or worse down the road?

As a follow-up to this post, I wrote Follow-up thoughts on ADHD and divergent thinking a couple of weeks later, with a very interesting video speech from Sir Ken Robinson discussing how school systems around the world are really getting it wrong with our kids when it comes to preparing them for the 21th century. A very inspiring, yet depressing speech, well worth listening to!
 
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Practice and perseverance

xylophone

“When you practice and practice and practice, you get better and better and better.” This accurate observation came out of my five-year-old son’s mouth earlier this week. He’d been practicing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on his xylophone with the goal of playing it error-free. After a couple of days, he did. And he was proud of his persistence and hard work. Case in point.

It seems to me perseverance is not a strong trait of human nature and you can observe this early in life. How many toddlers give up on a task, just because they can’t get it right? How many young kids will stop an activity because “they can’t” and “it’s too hard”? How many school-age children will give up on math because “they don’t get it”? How many young adults will refuse to draw anything, even if they drew well in their childhood, because “they’re not good at drawing”? How many adults will stick to the same career path even if they don’t enjoy it, just because “it’d be too much work to learn something new”?

We give up too easily. Why? Because it’s the painless, easy road to take – the path of least resistance. And because we lack the confidence to go all the way. Because we don’t want to work hard at it and end up “wasting” our time, in case things don’t work out as expected. Why do so many of us act that way? I believe it has a lot to do with parents, teachers and other influencers teaching us it’s OK to stop trying. At least at some point.

My mother raised me, most of the time as a single parent. She didn’t let me get away with anything. Once I started something (of my own choice or required, such as school), she expected me to finish it. Failing was an option (although frowned upon) but giving up wasn’t. It was tough, painful, frustrating at times. It led me to obtain a highly respected baccalaureate in biology/math/science when I knew I never wanted a career in those fields. But it also taught me I could accomplish a task even if I didn’t like doing it.

This no-can’t-do attitude gave me the strength almost 20 years ago to leave the nest and travel by myself 3000 miles away from my home in France after accepting a teaching assistantship in Connecticut. I gave me the courage to move another 3000 miles to San Diego, California when I couldn’t take anymore of the snow, the ice and the cold. It helped me explore a career in marketing communications at a time when I had no clue what marketing was about. And today it’s helping me explore a new career path, with things lining up pretty nicely at this point. I believe perseverance pays off, as long as you stick to it.

As a parent, I’ve now taken a mentor role with my own kids. Just like my mom, I don’t put up with their use of “I can’t”, “it’s too hard”, “it won’t work”. I simply don’t allow these words in the house. If my kids say they can’t, I remind them they just mean “they don’t want to”. But I also remind them that if they keep trying, they’ll succeed. And it works. Every time. And they’re starting to figure it out. So today I hear less of “I can’t” and more of “I can do it by myself” and “let me see, how can I do this?”. I hover stand back and provide encouragement along the way (I believe in praising the effort rather than the result). The grin on their faces as they accomplish something difficult on their own is priceless.  They get it, they really get it!

How do you handle fear of failure with your kids? What have you used to motivate your kids to accomplish difficult tasks? Do you think the way your parents raised you influenced your attitude towards accomplishments?

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Please sit down and eat!

Jumping boys by Madaise - Flicker Creative Commons license

Jumping boys by Madaise - Flicker Creative Commons license

Please sit down and eat. I must repeat this sentence 20 to 30 times a day. And no, this is not an overstatement on my part. Every meal at our house starts with the same prompt: “please sit down and eat”. After the kids have gotten up a few times, it turns into “come here and sit down to eat”. It’s all downhill from there and I usually end up barking “SIT DOWN ALREADY!”. And we’re not even halfway through the meal.

I have a problem. A meal eating problem. A serious and exhausting problem. My kids won’t sit down to eat. If they’re hungry, they’ll cooperate and get to the table when prompted. Their buttocks will touch the seat of the chair for just a few minutes when they decide to take off with some mind of their own. I swear the buttocks control their bodies, because my kids will walk aimlessly around the room until I remind them to come back to the table. It was never a problem while we used high chairs and boosters we could strap the kids in. But let’s be realistic, no five-year-old will fall for this trick again!

I’ve mostly solved this problem at dinnertime. We don’t have cable TV so the kids can’t plop themselves in front of the idiot box hours on end. Instead they get to watch DVDs during dinner. Curious George, Elmo, Blue’s Clues and Charlie & Lola help them stay seated long enough to eat their meal. I usually sit down with them and have dinner too, and we get to discuss the video we’re watching. I know all the experts advise children to not eat and watch TV at the same time, but they clearly don’t have to feed my kids every night. I draw the line of video watching at dinner, so breakfast and lunch are still no-sitting zones.

I’m not sure what my kids’ problem is. My youngest is often the hungry one so he’ll sit down promptly. His temporary state of hunger will entice him to make a dent in his meal but as he gets satisfied, he’ll often get up to “get something”. If my oldest could survive without ever eating anything, he probably wouldn’t put any food in his mouth, except to enjoy the taste of it. Although he’s an adventurous eater and likes good food, he’s rarely inspired enough to sit down for more than a few minutes. Unless I remind him he’s supposed to eat, he’ll go through the whole meal without putting a forkful in his mouth.

I’ve tried it all, the easy way, the hard way. I’ve put the food away when they weren’t interested, ending up with hungry, cranky, whiney kids an hour later. I’ve allowed toys and books at the table if it will help them stay in their seats. Unfortunately they always want something else to play with, something else to read… I can read books to them during the meal, but it means I don’t get to eat. And clearly my conversation topics are not interesting enough to keep them at the table long enough.

So I turn to you, parents of younger and older children. Have you experienced the “ants-in-the-pants” behavior at the dining table? How have you dealt with it? What has worked for you? Thank you so much for sharing your successful parenting tips.

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