When I got to my 8-year-old Clayton’s report, I looked over his grades then paused at the comments section. This is what I read:
Clayton excels in everything he attempts. You can always depend on him to follow my exact instructions and use the specific strategies he was taught to incorporate in his work. I use him as an example to the other pupils in class. He is a very insightful reader, writer, and thinker. He makes wonderful contributions to our class.
A tear came to my eye. It wasn’t because my son was doing well in school and I was proud (although those things are certainly true) but because not long ago, I was receiving very different comments about his behavior and academic performance in school.
I remember picking Clayton up from kindergarten one day. He’d been getting in trouble for his lack of self-control on a very regular basis. As Clay hopped into my car, I asked him, “Did you have a good day today? Did you get in trouble for anything?”
He responded, “Nope, I was good today.”
Before I could pull away from the car rider loop, I eyed Clay’s teacher walking out to my car. “Uh, Clay? If you had a good day then why is your teacher walking out to the car?”
Clay ducked down in the back seat and implored, “I don’t know, drive, drive, DRIVE!”
Now, my kids and I look back on that memory and laugh. At the time, however, I was frustrated. I didn’t know how to deal with the situation. I mean, I’d raised my 8-year-old the same way I’d raised all my other kids. I continued to teach him right from wrong. He wasn’t a “bad” kid. So, why was he always getting in trouble? Why was he so impulsive? He seemed to lack the mechanism in his brain that makes one stop and think before acting. He would run out into the street to chase a ball without looking for cars. He knew better than to do that, but in the heat of the moment, he seemed to forget everything he’d ever learned and he simply acted on impulse.
He got in trouble for poking other kids while standing in line. He got in trouble for flinging food across the table at his friends. He got in trouble for hanging from the partitions separating the stalls in the bathroom. He got in trouble for speaking out of turn in class. When another kid would instigate, instead of walking away and telling the teacher, Clay would deck the kid. And get in trouble.
Always present in the back of my mind was the question of whether or not I should look into ADHD meds for him. I knew he was a naturally bright kid and I absolutely believed he could do very well in school. But his impulsivity was holding him back. Still, I didn’t want to put him on medication unless I felt the benefits would truly outweigh the risks and side effects.
I remember exactly when I made the decision to use medication to help my son. One day, toward the end of first grade, Clay came home in tears and said, “No one likes me. I’m a bad kid.” That was it. Decision made.
Now, a couple years later and my son is getting all As. As you can see from the comments above, he’s not only not a behavior problem in class, but he’s a role model.
It’s especially tough for parents to decide because there’s still such a stigma attached to using medication to treat ADD/ADHD. Unlike other conditions, like diabetes for example, the symptoms of ADD/ADHD are behavior related. No parent would hestitate to give insulin to their child with diabetes and no one would question that mother’s or father’s ability to parent. But because, as we all know, our children’s behavior is a direct reflection on our worth as a parent (tongue in cheek), conditions like ADHD are a little trickier. Although a child’s brain with ADHD is wired a little differently and medication could help him to function better, so many parents hesitate to use medication because then they feel like a failure for not being able to “control” their child’s behavior. I’m not saying you should use medication or your shouldn’t use it. I’m just saying that you should be free to choose based on your child’s and your family’s needs, and you shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed or inadequate whatever your choice.
I’m not going to get into a whole lecture about ADD/ADHD, but I would like to give you my two cents’ worth of advice for parents considering medication for their child. How do you know if you should use medication to your help your child with ADHD? Consider these 10 things:
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Whether you opt to medicate your child or not is a personal decision that should be based on research, information about your child, and a knowledgeable doctor’s recommendations. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. We all make the best decisions we can for our children based on our knowledge and abilities, then we hope and pray for a progress report that states our child is a role model (or at least that he’s not the kid who flings corn across the table at his peers)!
Dawn is a mother to six kids (three of whom have ADD or ADHD) and a program assistant who works with low-performing kids at a middle school. To read more from Dawn, check out her hilarious books Because I Said So (and other tales from a less-than-perfect parent) and You’ll Lose the Baby Weight (and other lies about pregnancy and childbirth) here!
If you liked this, here are some more favorites from Dawn.