No, Your Kids Aren’t Supposed to Sit Still and Study at Three Years Old

Most parents/caretakers of kids with ADHD do a fair amount of reading of research and studies as part of the territory. We’re always looking for new developments in behavioral therapy and updated information about the medications we take. We’re also highly sensitive to perceptions of what it means to have ADHD.

Even though we are a medicated family, it bothers me a bit to know that kids as early as three are being prescribed stimulant medication. If a little kid isn’t free to bounce off the walls, during the only time when it may be socially acceptable to do so, is the problem really the kids behavior? Or, are we thrusting unrealistic expectations on the vast majority of kids and, for those who struggle, using medication to force what likely isn’t natural?

It seems that the approach to raising our kids to a competitive level academically in this country is to start them early and pin them down to an academic regimen that’s unnatural. Three-year-olds are supposed to be hyper and exploitative and impulsive. They aren’t supposed to sit still for hours on end. That the Pumpkin is stuck in a chair for all but 20 minutes of her 6+ hour school day seems unreasonable for an 11 year-old, let alone a preschooler. Giving kids medication to force them into this structure worries many mental health professionals as well. See: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/24/opinion/expand-pre-k-not-adhd.html.

Installing a love of the learning process should start with parents from birth and evolve slowly through the school years. Resources have to be available to all parents regardless of economic status. Once in school, if I could design a program for kids, it would involve a holistic approach to learning on every level focusing on how everything is connected; art to math to music to science. Experiences would be hands-on, a balance of repetition and experimentation. Balance of physical presence through mindfulness and activity, along with learning a place in society. Alas, I am not in education.

We know first hand that medication is very helpful for calming the ADHD brain. Having ADHD is already a super-power. We can accomplish amazing things if we can pin down our brain for a bit and filter out what’s not needed. Medication makes us more present. It does have to be the right amount, though, because too much or too little doesn’t work, as I discovered this week. Too often, when meds don’t work, increasing the dosage seems to be the answer and sometimes, this just makes it worse. Thankfully, for the Pumpkin, her parents have inside knowledge. Not every kid is as lucky.

What the medication shouldn’t do is diminish what’s best about ADHD people – our energy. Meds or not, we’re not going to want to sit still for hours, at any age. We’re going to push the envelope/button no matter what. But it’s that tenacity that means we can work at a problem for 1,000s of hours always trying the slightest, ever so small change until we resolve the issue. Our minds don’t work the same way unaffected people’s do but we see and feel things they never will. Of course, this is more, or maybe different, work for parents and teachers when ADHD people are young, but when done right, the results are astounding.

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