I found out recently that a young child we know is now being medicated for an attention deficit issue.
I really object to that. Medication in anyone under the age of at least 12 should, in my uninformed opinion, be an absolute last resort. We don't know the long-term effects of this stuff. It's still very much being studied. The results down the road are a mystery. Meds can change a child's personality completely; they're far too available to kids today, and they're being pushed by everyone from school officials to therapists to counselors to doctors. Medicine in general seems to be pushed. I've already touched on that issue here; I am pretty positive that advertising any medication, period, is wrong—let alone advertising in family magazines for childrens' meds. Sick. In a bad way.
There are ways around attention deficits. Here's a thought: turn off the tube. Yep, it does not help. Super-short commercials, fast-paced and brightly colored cartoons, eye-popping special effects set to the tune of booming soundtracks... None of those things will help your child learn to focus and concentrate better. The real world does not even remotely resemble Sesame Street, nor a video game.
Even if there is a genuine learning disability present, I am honestly pretty certain that any of those problems would be lessened if the parent(s) involved would give a better example of how to slow down and think about something instead of buying some new distraction. For the kid or the parent? It doesn't matter, honestly. The lesson is internalized equally by both. Sad? Bored? Feeling unappreciated? Buy something new! Waste money on a temporary pleasure! Which, truly, seems to be what medicine has become: a new distraction, a temporary escape from the reality.
There are teaching methods devoted to helping kids learn how to train their brains. The first lesson that would help, though, is simple discipline. Do a chore, even if you don't want to. Go to bed on time, and get up at a decent hour—the same hour each day. Eat meals at roughly the same times each day. And oh, by the way, if the food is prepared at home, and eaten at a table with the family, that might help. Oops, there goes that whole "setting a good example" problem... because we're all so stinkin' busy keeping up with technology and cars and toys that we don't have time to cook and eat together, do we? It's so uncool.
When we medicate children who, for the most part, need to be told "No" and have a few boundaries established, we are doing those children a huge disservice. We are training them up in the American Way: take pills if life isn't easy. Don't try to forge a better path, don't try to alter lazy behaviors, don't change anything—just get a pill and take it until you feel better. There will always be a new pill, right? Why should we seek a long-lasting, permanent fix for our problems? Just pop a capsule and go distract yourself with meaningless diversions.
Even better if the child carries that lesson into adulthood, because when this same method is employed by grown-ups, there are far more profits. In a recent talk with a relative, she informed me that most of her comfortable, well-to-do friends are popping some sort of anti-depressant; she, alone, is the unmedicated one. What is wrong with this picture? Is self-medication the only way our spoiled, overly comfortable culture can stand itself? Is this the answer instead of work, self-control, and humility?
There are very few days anymore when I don't daydream about leaving the whole mess and going to hide in the mountains. I know there would still be problems. Still, I think I'd prefer problems that can be solved by effort, common sense, and faith. I know there are some exceptions to the rule, some genuine cases where medication can really change the life of a child, or an adult, with a serious issue that impedes his or her ability to function. However, I stand firm in my belief that we've brought many of these problems on ourselves. The kid and I went to the public library today, and that visit pretty much underlined my concern about today's lackluster parents and their unwillingness to lay down rules and consequences for their kids. The children ran wild, yelled, threw things, stepped on books instead of reading them*, and there sat the moms and dads, on their overweight cans, offering lukewarm disciplinary suggestions from a distance instead of kicking backsides as needed. That would have been too much trouble, you see: real parenting requires relentless effort, paying attention, and self-discipline. That isn't going to happen.
I ponder the start of kindergarten in a few weeks. I pray it will look different from today's scene at the library. But in my heart, I know; those same kids, those same parents, will likely bring about many of those same pathetic results. Why are we so afraid of our children? Of saying no? Of cracking down? Why?
And when will people realize that pills will never take the proper place of parenting?
* The really sad part is that every time my boy and I sit and actually read a book in the library, at least one other child wanders over and peers over our shoulders, listening in, stealing the book experience. How sad is that? In a library, home of the "libre," no one is actually reading books. What the hell is going on here?