A couple of years ago, I was visiting a friend when a tall, animated young man—maybe 19-20 years old—crossed the room and gave me a huge hug. “Thank you,” he said. I didn’t recognize him, but after learning his name, I did remember his story.
I first met Damien when he was about six years old, when his mother brought him to see me. He was in a special school, was taking multiple medications, and had been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and more. He was, in the words of every adult who cared for him, “a handful.”
Within a few minutes, it became obvious that Damien had learned to get what he wanted by screaming, hitting, lying on the floor while he pounded it with his fists, and so on. Within fifteen minutes he wasn’t doing that with me at all, and his mother was stunned. She’d never seen him behave so calmly.
Over a period of several months, I taught Mother how to love and teach Damien, using the principles found in the book Real Love in Parenting. Within a year, Damien was taking no medications, he was attending a “normal” school, and he had no behavioral diagnoses. When he hugged me as a young man all those years later, it was to express gratitude for his life and that he was on his way to officer training for the U.S. Marines. Think of it: this kid was doomed to a life of medication and feeling separated from everyone else, and now he’s an officer in the Marine Corps.
I am not suggesting that all children with behavioral disorders would respond a well as Damien, nor that all parents would be as diligent in loving and teaching as his mother was. I am strongly stating that:
- We diagnose behavioral disorders far too often, and we do it to avoid the often heavy and unspeakably time-consuming responsibility of loving and teaching a child.
- Until a child is loved and taught—until he has received the emotional and social equivalents of air and water—how could we possibly know that he has a “disorder?”
Let’s look at these statements individually. I will speak primarily of ADHD—of which ADD is a subset—rather than all the other possible disorders, mostly because I don’t want to write a multi-volume textbook on ADHD, ADD, autism, depression, self-mutilation (cutting), obsessive-compulsive disorder, and more.
1. We diagnose behavioral disorders far too often.
It is now estimated that as many as 15% of children will at some point suffer from ADHD, with one estimate of 50% within the next twenty years. This is flabbergasting. In about the year 2000, behavioral scientists were sufficiently concerned with the possible over-diagnosis of this disorder that they did a meticulous study of thousands of children in the eastern part of the United States. They found that 1-2% of children had sufficient evidence to warrant the diagnosis of ADHD, far below the incidence previously reported. There are counties in Virginia where as many as 35%—yes, you read that correctly—of white male children are being medicated for ADHD.
It would appear that parents and practitioners are EAGER to make this diagnosis and to prescribe medications. Why would we do this to our children? Because it’s much easier to give a misbehaving child a pill than it is to find Real Love for ourselves, learn to be loving, and to apply all the principles found in Real Love in Parenting. In vigorous defense of parents, there is no job on earth that is more important and challenging, and for which we receive less training, than parenting. In the state of Georgia, where I live, training and certification are required to get a hunting license, while nothing at all is required for two people to bring another human being into the world and complete distort the rest of his life.
I have personally spoken to many parents who were overjoyed that their child was diagnosed with ADHD, because then they didn’t have to feel guilty or responsible. They only had to administer the pills at home and require the school to give at least one dose during school time.
2. We have to love and teach a child before we can know they have a disorder that is unrelated to the critical lack of loving and teaching.
I was a surgeon for twenty years, and we went through often lengthy examinations and other assessments before performing major surgery, for example. We had to rule out problems that could be easily treated by diet, environment, and so on, before introducing hospitalization, medication, surgery, physical therapy, and so on.
Similarly, children require loving and teaching as much as they require air and water, so until we have loved and taught them, we have no idea what “problem” they have. We don’t assess whether children have been sufficiently loved and taught because almost none of us was ever unconditionally loved and taught, so how would we know to look for it or to give it to a child?
One pediatrician specializing in ADHD wrote an entire book maintaining that ADHD kids were not behaving abnormally at all, but were responding normally to abnormal environments—primarily at home. On the left-hand side of one page he listed all the behaviors of a child in pain—physical or emotional. On the right-hand side of the page he listed all the behaviors exhibited by a child with ADHD. The two lists were identical.
As we eliminate the emotional pain of children through loving and teaching, their symptoms decrease and sometimes disappear. Many of those children would have been—or were—diagnosed with ADHD, so we MUST love and teach children properly and sufficiently before we can consider this particular diagnosis, along with a great many others.
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