The case against labeling and medicating children, and effective alternatives for treating them
” In the United States, at least 9% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5%. How come the epidemic of ADHD—which has become firmly established in the United States—has almost completely passed over children in France?
Is ADHD a biological-neurological disorder? Surprisingly, the answer to this question depends on whether you live in France or in the United States. In the United States, child psychiatrists consider ADHD to be a biological disorder with biological causes. The preferred treatment is also biological–psycho stimulant medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.
French child psychiatrists, on the other hand, view ADHD as a medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes. Instead of treating children’s focusing and behavioral problems with drugs, French doctors prefer to look for the underlying issue that is causing the child distress—not in the child’s brain but in the child’s social context. They then choose to treat the underlying social context problem with psychotherapy or family counseling. This is a very different way of seeing things from the American tendency to attribute all symptoms to a biological dysfunction such as a chemical imbalance in the child’s brain.”
For the second time today we find ourselves praising the French approach to a very serious issue . You’ll note that we didn’t classify it as a serious “problem” but as a serious issue . That is because we tend to see the whole topic in terms of neither a biological ailment nor a psychological one , but as more of a behavioral issue and as such remain somewhat skeptical of both the US and the French methods .
That being said there is ample reason to commend the French approach as it does involve dealing with the people and their lives in an unobtrusive way . There is nothing to be said for the American way of doping our kids into compliance at all costs and in the process robbing them of their individuality while bloating Big Pharma bottom lines .
As far as we are concerned the whole ADHD phenomenon is more an issue of poor parenting than poor behavior on the child’s part . The habitual American Rx of medicating the problem away is just laziness and an unwillingness to accept responsibility on the part of the parents for not setting the ground rules early enough and not inculcating in their children the normal expectations of civil behavior. We are a coarsened society and it shows in our children . Where “you’re welcome” becomes “no problem” you know there’s a problem .
” From the time their children are born, French parents provide them with a firm cadre—the word means “frame” or “structure.” Children are not allowed, for example, to snack whenever they want. Mealtimes are at four specific times of the day. French children learn to wait patiently for meals, rather than eating snack foods whenever they feel like it. French babies, too, are expected to conform to limits set by parents and not by their crying selves. French parents let their babies “cry it out” if they are not sleeping through the night at the age of four months.
French parents, Druckerman observes, love their children just as much as American parents. They give them piano lessons, take them to sportspractice, and encourage them to make the most of their talents. But French parents have a different philosophy of discipline. Consistently enforced limits, in the French view, make children feel safe and secure. Clear limits, they believe, actually make a child feel happier and safer—something that is congruent with my own experience as both a therapist and a parent. Finally, French parents believe that hearing the word “no” rescues children from the “tyranny of their own desires.” And spanking, when used judiciously, is not considered child abuse in France.”