Parenting puzzle

A few months ago, I did a post about out-of-control children who seemed to be the product, not of biological pathology, but of boundary-free parenting.  A couple of weeks ago, I did a post about parents who were afraid to exert control over their children because of their fear of Child Protective Services.  And last night, I finally got around to watching a Frontline that’s been sitting on our TiVo, which discussed the huge increase in children diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (which is the new ADHD), after their parents and their teachers failed to control them.  These children are then given a whole pharmacopoeia of drugs.  The show’s focus was the fact that the drugs haven’t been tested on children, but I couldn’t help wondering whether many of these children were being mistreated by being given drugs in the first place.

As with the out-of-control children in the first mentioned post, where I freely admitted that I’m sure a number of them have genuine organic problems, I’m equally sure that many of the children diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder or ADHD have true organic disabilities.  But all of them?  The millions suddenly getting these diagnoses?  I do wonder whether, if one did a Venn diagram of the issues raised in my three posts, one would discover that there’s a substantial overlap between parents who are afraid to parent, parents who have children who are out-of-control because they have no boundaries, and parents who put their children on drugs, which is now a socially acceptable way to control otherwise wild children.


14 Responses

  1. There is a really good video on the drugging of our children. It is on Google Video.

    You should watch it.

  2. I’d only change one thing in your post….and that is the last sentence. As with every other characteristic of living things – “wildness” in children occurs in a pattern described by a normal curve. “Normal” wildness occupies a pretty wide range (or used to) under that curve.

    Yes, there *are* abnormally “wild” children – those who are totally unable to control their behavior. These may warrant treatment with drugs, but it appears to me that what we are seeing today is “defining ‘wildness’ down”. We are now drugging what would once have been recognized as normally “wild” children (those above average on the normal curve), because they are simply too big a bother for their teachers and/or parents.

    When I consider what my Mom and Dad (and probably his teachers, although I didn’t have to watch that) put up with from my little brother when he was a kid, I *know* that today there would have been a big push to get that kid on drugs.

  3. How did your little brother turn out, Earl?

  4. Well…..he’s a lawyer!


    Actually, he took a Masters in tax, so he could ALWAYS feel good about his clients….and he worked for a Big 8 accounting firm so he has ended up more a CPA than a lawyer. Still doing a lot of tax stuff, but now in a lower-profile job with a MUCH happier home life (second wife after the first simply left after 20 years).

    Vic is a lot more like my Dad, and I favor Mom’s side, so I’m not sure we’d be friends if we weren’t brothers….but since he came to S. America to help me finish my doctoral research, we’ve been very close. The time we spent together while his first marriage was breaking up also sealed the deal — a great guy.

  5. if one did a Venn diagram of the issues raised in my three posts, one would discover that there’s a substantial overlap between parents who are afraid to parent, parents who have children who are out-of-control because they have no boundaries, and parents who put their children on drugs, which is now a socially acceptable way to control otherwise wild children.

    It will soon be a socially acceptable way to get rid of old people and political deviants as well, Book.

  6. If you put the freaking kids on a decent exercise program, they wouldn’t have the energy to act up.

    Children are getting fat and crazy because the adults don’t value physical health in combination with mental and spiritual health.

  7. Y makes a point.

    I wonder if some of our excessive loopiness is simply due to a surfeit of spare time? Subsistence societies, to take the obvious example, didn’t produce many philosophers or writers – but they also didn’t produce many nuts. Everybody was too busy trying to get fed to have time for the fine arts, or to be crazy.

    I grew up in farm country, went to school as per usual, was occasionally an athlete after school – just like everyone I knew. And, no one I knew was incapable of being taught, or incapable of learning. We were all too busy to have time for that. School did half days in spring and fall, because the kids were expected to be home and on tractors during planting and harvest. (There’s a lot kids aren’t strong enough or coordinated enough to do, but a tractor levels the field quite nicely – and frees up an adult to do something requiring strength and coordination.)

    Everybody was busy: we were going all the time. No ADD. No ADHD. No autism. No one was bipolar to the point of requiring medication.

    I don’t know, but there could be a connection. Too busy to have time to be a little nuts? Maybe.

    A big difference too, though, is that the government hadn’t yet gotten involved with education. Teachers were expected to actually teach – and they did. Most teachers today are, by comparison with teachers in the late forties and early fifties, illiterate. And they seem to spend a hell of a lot of time looking for reasons to do anything but teach.

    If as many kids have problems as they’re telling us have problems, then I wonder how we got to the moon. We’re lucky we got past figuring out how to cook meat, and catch fish.

  8. Your recent postings have been right up my alley professionally. I always know a new diagnostic trend is afoot when every other kid I see who has been in prior treatment has the same diagnosis. It used to be ADD/ADHD. Now it is BPD. It is true that some of these children have true mental health issues, but not all. Many, many have behavior problems. They are oppositional, demanding, and rule their homes. They have parents who recognize in the rage, tantrums, angry demands, and slamming doors that something is not right. Choice One- send the child for individual therapy to be “fixed”. Choice Two- parent learns parenting techniques to gain control at home. Choice Three- a combo of the two.

    Which do you suppose is the most attractive option to many parents? :
    “I don’t have the problem. He does. He just needs to talk to someone. He has a lot of anger.”

    One problem with out of control children is that it becomes harder to make a true and accurate diagnosis. Is it a strong willed, determined child with ineffectual and insecure parents who will do whatever it takes to get his way, or is it a child with a true mental health disorder? The symptoms often overlap. One thing is clear, regardless of diagnosis, kids need structure and parents who teach values, make and enforce reasonable rules, give children room to play and exercise, and who are loving and positive presences in the lives of their kids. A lot of parents fail in quite a few of these areas, but they can learn to make changes that restore order and guide their kids to success. I have worked with families that have had children in individual therapy for years with minimal progress. The parent and child come to (the right kind of) parenting groups and within a few months the parent is empowered, the child becomes a child again, no longer the boss of the family, and rage and tantrums are over. And individual therapy is no longer needed. Did the child really have whatever he was diagnosed with?

    In my experience lots of mental health professional are uncomfortable with rules. They see them as cruelly enforcing someone’s will on another. They prefer to nurture and validate. Unfortunately, for many parents once they see their child as “disabled” (by ADHD or BPD, for example), they will cease to demand that the child follow rules or behave himself because they will see the child as unable to change.

    Sorry this is long-winded. I deal with these situations daily.

  9. Hear, Hear, Lulu! That’s exactly what I think. I see so many children at my kids’ school who are monsters — something that becomes utterly unsurprising when you see the parents (usually very nice people) kowtow to them. No 10 year old has the mental strength, personality, and morality to emerge “normal” if the parenting role has been reversed, with the 10 year old having the enormous burden of ruling the household. Add to that the fact that these kids are often extremely spoiled as well — and, I guess, you’ve got future bipolar diagnoses in the making.

  10. Frankly, I think that a big part of the problem is that the education system is trying to raise boys the same way as girls, pretending that differences between the two are only “cultural”. The perfect example of this is the stories provided by Book and others about schools trying to limit rough-housing during recess…or, to YM’s point, eliminating recess altogether.

    I have met many people who would have been considered ADHD, OCD or whatever and who, like Earl’s brother, went on to become enormously successful in life.

  11. jj–I think you make a good point. I would also add that the farm work you talk about was real. It had a demonstrable purpose, and it made kids identify with adults. The challenge today is to find meaningful activities for kids.
    Here’s the type of thing I mean. If they are on the net, let them do research about planned purchases. Let them find the pros and cons about options and give a recommendation. Then discuss things with them and explain why you agree or disagree. They will know when they have gained competence.

  12. In line with the farm work…I have to wonder if we don’t just have too much …
    how do you assign your kids chores? I live in an area that at least at one time was primarily agricultural. These days, while there is still much ag land, it has been been developed as a rural “subdivision” area. Minimum of 1/3 acre lots, most are 1acre or more. 4-H is still a fairly big deal, although the kids do short term – 4-month to 1 year – animal projects. Many of the more recent houses built are _huge_, but seem to have few children, making me wonder just _why_ they have such huge houses. One house that I know of is 12,000 (right, thousand) square feet, has 6 garages, and two children (they’re probably grown now, and out of the house) . So…granted that isn’t exactly your typical subdivision, but still – how do you require your kids to do chores? even in your typical subdi vision, how many kids are required to mow lawns, feed pets…I don’t know…anything that contributes to the household. Kids are the new leisure class, and seem to resent _anything_ that makes demands on _their_ free time. Parents are sort of like the servants that wait on the new royalty. One of the problems that “royalty” and the superwealthy seem to have in common is an ego that brooks no contradiction. Kim jong il comes to mind. The privilege of wealth. Even parents who aren’t especially wealthy seem to provide everything their kids want. And then wonder when their little princes and princesses aren’t ready to accommodate to discipline. I don’t know about the ADD, ADHD etc. I have a grandson who is autistic. I have a nephew who was hyperactive, on ritalin until his teen years but today is a father, and has a Phd. Is there an hereditary link? I suspect so, but nothing has been done on it as far as I know. My daughter is gluten intolerant…since we discovered it and she modified her diet, her emotional “drama” life has modified equally. Is it a factor in the others? I have no idea.
    I do agree that we have been doing boys – and society – a major disservice by treating them the same as girls. Anyone who has dealt with any mammals other than humans can tell you that there is significant difference between the sexes behaviorally. To deny it is ignorance in action.
    Part of the problem is that in the past, there was a real difference between men’s work and women’s work, based on physical differences and abilities. In today’s world, much of the work that needs to be done is mental, and the sexes are relatively equal in what they can accomplish. Physically though, we are still the same mammals we were, and to deny it is unwise.

  13. There are a couple of things that always seem to interest boys or girls.

    Fighting, taking care of bullies, and learning physical activities that require coordination and skills are big attention getters to boys. Sports is only one form of that. A kid with low confidence levels gains much confidence from learning how to break people apart like sticks, especially if they kept getting beat down early in the training. This prevents boys from picking fights to “prove themselves”. Since all that stuff is going into fighting their trainers to get better. Martial art takes care of that role, but it is not the same as fathers teaching sons.

    As for girls, the only one I know of is associated with verbosity or verbal skills, in conjunction with make up tricks. My knowledge of what interests young girls is pretty sparse, although sitting down in a desk while listening to lectures seem to be pretty much what gatherers in hunter-gatherer days did.

    Boys learn by doing since much of the positive feedback is in “doing something successful” while your peers and your superiors witness it. Hunter-gatherers, presumably, gathered in the cave, taught people what was poisonous and what, and then went out to gather. Having girls fumble around with spotting the right berries and avoiding poisons, while predators may be roaming about, human or otherwise, was probably not a risk gatherers liked.

    Since men are expendable, it wasn’t too much risk having them go out and learn by experience. Even though experience gives you wisdom, it also costs an arm or a head often.

    Women were the future of the tribe, so having them safe in the cave learning what was what, just like in the classroom, was tailored for genetic survival.

    Now a days we see no outlet for male aggression.

    I think one reason why engineering fields are dominated by men is the fact that book learning is not that useful in engineering. Going out and doing things, learning by hand, now that is useful in engineering. Men tend to gravitate towards fields that requires immediate feedback like that. Women tend to like the arts and the language stuff. Language was very useful in education and prevention of death in tribal days. It was what gave us an advantage over our enemies.

    Matt Furey, on another note, has his son exercising with him. The son is only a few years beyond toddler stage.

    or is it a child with a true mental health disorder

    The thing with mental health is that it is not entirely genetic. What might be classified as a mental health disorder now a days, might have been a survival advantage back in tribal days.

    Now in modern times, it is no longer of use and thus becomes “socially deviant”.

    I’m pretty sure a lot of the American pioneers suffered from anti-social tendencies too. Don’t like to be around people or working in teams.

  14. Of course, what Lulu left out of her description of the problem is that *drugs* are routinely and generously covered by insurance, whereas “(the right kind of) parenting groups” are not.

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