Is ADHD Nothing More than Poor Parenting Strategies?


John Rosemond, in his book, The Diseasing of America's Children, makes a pretty strong case that ADHD is nothing more than the result of poor parenting advice. Is he right?

Let's look at some of the symptoms listed in Rosemond's book that constitute the three most commonly diagnosed disorders, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), ODD (oppositional defiance disorder) and EOPD (early-onset bipolar disorder) and see how they compare to the behavior of a two-year-old:

  • Short attention span
  • Impulsive (lacking self-control)
  • Frequent periods of high, unfocused activity
  • Difficulty staying on a task until completion
  • Easily distracted
  • Unwilling to engage in tasks requiring sustained effort
  • Easily frustrated
  • Vehemently denies responsibility for wrongdoing
  • Impatient, demands instant gratification, difficulty waiting his or her turn
  • Oppositional and/or defiant toward adult authority, often belligerently so
  • Highly attention-seeking, intrusive (lack of respect for boundaries)
  • Unpredictable mood swings
  • Frequent rages and explosive tantrums when thwarted, denied, or frustrated

Sounds like two-year-old behavior to me.

Keep in mind that immature behavior can be present in adults too (how nice t'would be if in growing old we grew more civil), so age is irrelevant. 

The point is that uncivil behavior beyond the age of two is inappropriate and instead of acknowledging it as such, we have been pasting fancy labels on our children and medicating them. We know that the above list of behaviors, once relegated to two-year-olds, is now very common in school-age children too. 

A number of parents have reported to me that clinicians have diagnosed their three-and four-year-old children with Asperger’s syndrome largely on the basis of preschool teacher reports that they are shy, prefer to play alone rather than in groups, or don’t make eye contact when adults are talking to them. The fact is that most kids who are shy and retiring at age four eventually grow our of their social awkwardness.
— John Rosemond

The other scenario I see frequently is children who are struggling in school because they are too young to be in school (under the age of seven), or they were enrolled when they were too young and developed learning problems as a result. 

Before a child is ready to learn how to read, both sides of his brain need to be communicating with one another, because true reading is both a right and left brain activity. 

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Sensory motor integration needs to be complete so the child can perform actions automatically such as sitting up straight in a chair, following the lines in a book, holding a pencil properly; his or her mind needs to be free from the constraints of the body so it can focus on the intellectual work at hand. 

With a wholesome childhood, which would include plenty of play, exploration, and movement this development will naturally take place during the first seven years of life.

But with the push for early education and the deluge of technology in children's lives today, they aren't experiencing wholesome childhoods, and consequently, their sensory motor integration is underdeveloped. 

What this means is that when children are sent to school, they have not experienced the developmental growth required before academic work can successfully begin. This puts children at risk for learning difficulties and for becoming victims of a system far too eager to label a child with a learning disorder before the child has been given a fair chance to prove otherwise.

And, as Rosemond makes his case, the early years are also the time when children need to be trained in the ways of civil behavior including paying attention and having self-control.  

Respecting adults, paying attention when an adult speaks to them, finishing a task before moving on to another, not interrupting other people when they're talking, and not behaving in ways that disturb others are all attitudes and habits that were expected of school age children  prior to the 1970s. And they arrived to school at older ages than they do today. These two differences alone made all the difference.

If we aren't teaching our children good habits, then they are arriving at school or even at a homeschool without understanding basic principles of civil conduct like listening to your teacher, doing what she asks you to do, not speaking back to her and doing your very best work.   

The first question you have to ask yourself, if you are facing the decision to have your child tested for a behavioral disorder, is whether or not your child may have started school too soon?  

The second question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you and your spouse are parents who guide their children from a place of love and leadership or have you fallen prey to the myriad of parenting theories that are confusing so many parents today? 

The proper discipline of a child is not accomplished by manipulating reward and punishment. It is accomplished through the conveyance of proper leadership. Leaders act like they know what to do and that what they are doing is right and proper. They act with dignity, grace, bearing, and confidence.
— John Rosemond

Before you make the decision to have your child tested, it would be prudent to read Rosemond's book, The Diseasing of America's Children, which is an expose on the fictitious world of biomedical explanations and excuses for what used to be seen as nothing more than uncivil behavior but can now also include school induced learning difficulties. 

As for uncivil behavior, we are our children's first role models. We are either taking responsibility for our lives, and the choices we make, or we are going through life erroneously believing we are victims of bad genes, biochemical imbalances, lousy parents, and unfortunate turns in life. 

The path of any spiritual or religious or moral teaching is the path of personal responsibility and the perfection of character, not excuses that warrant medication. It's also the path that parents who lead with love and authority provide for their children. 

No amount of book smarts will make your child a person of any value or worth and no amount of book smarts will bring meaning to your child's life. 

Homeschooling without having your sights on the higher purposes for an education as understood and recorded as far back as the early Greeks—to gain self-knowledge in pursuit of the highest Knowledge, and to improve if not perfect one's character— is to miss the point. 

Rather than medicate our children, we should begin by giving them wholesome childhoods and by training them in the ways of moral responsibility and civil behavior. 

And whether you homeschool or not, please resist the temptation to introduce academic learning to your children too soon. 

As Benjamin Franklin noted, "early ripe, early rotten."

If you would like to become the best homeschooler you can be, please join the waiting list for my upcoming course: How to Homeschool the Smart Way.

If you enjoyed this, you might like my free download Ten Books Every Well-Educated Child Should Read.

If you need help with your homeschooling, please schedule a one-hour consultation with me (that's usually all you'll need)