The title of this new book screams for attention: ADHD Does Not Exist: The Truth About Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s so sensational that it turned me off at first. But once I dig into the author, Richard Saul, M.D.‘s arguments, I see he’s completely serious and legit.
As a behavioral neurologist who is certified in pediatrics, Saul has been seeing children and adults who think they have ADHD for 50 years. He believes that they do not have this disease. Instead, they have symptoms that can be treated. It’s a huge mistake to pop pills like Adderoll and Ritalin. People want a magic solution to get their kids–or themselves–to sit down and shut up. But these drugs are stimulants, and Saul says they lead to dangerous addictions.
He urges health care professionals and patients to dig deeper. One adult man complained that he could not turn off his television, computer and games, and he was going crazy. He was sure he had ADHD. Saul discovered he was only sleeping 4 to 5 hours a night and diagnosed him with sleep deprivation. Saul prescribed black out shades, a noise machine and a program that turns off all devices at midnight. The patient’s health dramatically improved.
The real conditions and disorders he diagnoses include vision and hearing problems, substance abuse, mood disorder, giftedness (kids need more challenge sometimes!), seizure disorders OCD, Tourette’s and Aspberger’s. He digs in and treats what is really wrong.
ADHD Does Not Exists is a wake-up call to get patients and professions off the Adderall and Ritalin. Saul acknowledges that attention and hyperactivity do exist. But there are so many better ways to tackle them than what we mostly see used today.
What do you think? Is ADHD a real disease or a catch-all excuse to put people on pills?
When I’m not writing this blog, I teach yoga classes. A woman fell out of her half-moon pose the other day and said, “Falling is very, very bad!” I said, “Falling is excellent! How else will you learn half-moon if you don’t fall 50 times? That’s exactly how all of us learned to get balanced and get strong.” She was so devastated to fail, but why? Failing is the key to success.
KK: My kids get trophies just for playing soccer or participating in gymnastics class. Is giving out rewards like this good for our kids? How can it hurt them? What should our schools—and we as parents—be doing differently to prepare our kids for life? MM: Failure doesn’t feel good. We probably all remember how bad it felt to be the kid who got picked last for the team or tried as hard as we could to win a prize but still fell short. It’s natural that we should want to shield our kids from that bad feeling by setting up games where “everybody wins.” But one of the most important lessons we learn in life is how to pick ourselves up after we try something—and flop. From babies learning to walk, to scientists figuring out how to split an atom, learning is a process of trial and error. A whole lot of error. The greatest successes are people who have failed again and again, learning along the way what doesn’t work . . . and from that, what does. When we shield our kids from failure, we’re teaching them that failure isn’t just unpleasant, but unimaginably horrible. They are sometimes completely derailed. Learning to cope with failure is one of the most important things anyone can teach. Kids who never confront failure won’t be equipped to dodge the curveballs that life inevitably sends you way, and will flounder once they hit the workforce.
KK: In what ways does the United States view failure and risk taking differently than other countries? Why is it easy to get rich in America and hard in Zimbabwe (or France)?
MM: America is a nation founded on failure. Why did our ancestors come here? By and large, because things weren’t working out back home. That heritage can be seen in our attitude towards failure. We admire people who don’t succeed at first but try, try again. We have higher rates of entrepreneurship, and we are more forgiving toward people who have tried to start a business and failed. We’re also more forgiving of people who have failed in other ways—our bankruptcy laws are the most generous in the world. When you make it easy for people to take risks, you also make it easy to get ahead. The more forgiving your culture is towards failure, the more welcoming it is of success.
KK: Which is better, frequent small failures or an occasional big failure? How can we encourage our kids to fail? MM: “Fail fast to succeed soon.” That’s the motto of a lot of startups, for good reason. Small failures are easy to recover from. Big failures that build for a long time are much more likely to be catastrophic. Businesses, governments and parents should encourage people to fail early and often—but also to recognize their failures and cut their losses quickly.
KK: Why is consistency so key to changing bad habits, from toddler tantrums to self-destructive behavior?
MM: I said earlier that people are obsessive pattern-makers. We learn how to behave by observing what happens when we do certain things. If we like what happens, we do it again, and if we don’t, we try to avoid whatever we did to trigger it. That means that if you want to teach a kid—or an adult—how to behave, you need to have absolutely consistent rules. That allows them to successfully predict what results their behavior will produce. Small punishments that are doled out for every single transgression are much more likely to produce behavior change than larger punishments that are delivered inconsistently—and the same is true of rewards. So if you want to raise well-behaved kids, or help adult prisoners rehabilitate themselves, the most important thing you can do is focus on making sure that the same behavior gets punished or rewarded the same way every single time.
Need some inspiration to get back up, try again, and smile? Check out this video, Epic Animal Fails.
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Try seeing things differently, and your whole day can be tons better. Family therapist Jude Bijou believes this so much that she’s written a book called Attitude Reconstruction. This works especially when you’re dealing with your kids–what if their most annoying behaviors were good for them? Well, they are! According to Bijou: “Kids test parents’ patience all the time. They whine, bargain, cry, mope and dawdle. They yell and scream and make themselves the center of attention. Sometimes they dig their heels in and simply refuse to budge.
While we may wish our kids would be compliant, cooperative and sunny in temperament, the reality is that they are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. They are learning how to manage their emotions–whether it’s sadness, anger or fear. Kids do this by expressing themselves in the moment. Unlike adults, most young children don’t hold in what they are feeling. They release pent-up emotions right when they feel them, if we let them, and then they move on!
This is so healthy. As a parent, the lesson is to learn patience, rather than being ashamed and rushing children out of what they are doing. Letting children express their emotions constructively and physically helps them develop into happy, normal, full-functioning kids, teens and adults.
Here are 6 annoying things children do that are actually very healthy behaviors:
1. Have temper tantrums. When toddlers have meltdowns, they’re expressing their anger at injustices and violations. They release the hot, aggressive energy of anger by screaming, crying, pounding their fists, and kicking. After a full-blown tantrum, small children quickly return to their sweet and joyful selves. The best thing parents can do is to allow the child do it–safely. For older children as well as adults, parents can set up an “OK Room” where anyone can pound, stomp, yell or cry constructively when upset. Anger, sadness, and fear will quickly pass and calm will be naturally restored.
2. Cry easily. In generations past, children were told not to cry. Boys who cried were “sissies” and girls who cried were “babies.” In reality, tears are very healing. Research shows that crying almost immediately reduces the level of stress hormones in the body. Letting a child wail after she’s fallen down actually helps her feel better. Crying allows kids to resolve and self-heal their physical, emotional, and psychological hurts and losses.
3. Act scared. Many young kids are afraid of the dark, get scared by lightning and thunder, and feel anxious when they’re in a new place with strangers, especially without their parents. Rather than telling them “Don’t be a scaredy cat,” validate their fear. They are feeling what they feel because their sense of safety is threatened. Fear is normal and healthy. In fact, it can be life-saving. Offer reassurances, and give them permission to shiver and quiver (kids love to do this–and they soon dissolve into laughter). Letting kids express their fear helps them stay present, rather than feeling anxious, overwhelmed and ashamed of being weak.
4. Dawdle.For parents who are focused on getting kids bathed, dressed, fed, and ready for school, there’s almost nothing more irritating than a child who seems to be moving at a snail’s pace. Children have to learn how family schedules operate and how to gain mastery over new skills–and that takes time. Moving like molasses can also be a child’s way of expressing his or her discomfort with transitions. If you have a child who’s always one step behind everyone else in the family, instead of getting angry at him for holding up the show, give him extra time by letting him eat in the car, for example, or by waking him up earlier. This will honor his individuality and help him adjust at his own pace.
5. Plead and whine. Children and teens are geniuses at getting what they want and need. They plead and nag and whine until their parents toss up their hands in surrender. What they’re doing is important. They’re learning to test limits–theirs and yours–and they’re working hard to negotiate their side and be heard. It’s important that children feel their position is taken into consideration, so listen a bit to understand and validate them. It’s equally important to lovingly set and enforce reasonable limits so children learn that they’re not always going to get what they want.
6. Be resistant. When a child stomps her feet and yells “No, I won’t do it!” she’s expressing a spontaneous emotion. Anger. Outrage. Injustice. Violation. It’s as essential that children are allowed to assert themselves as it is for adults to do this. It’s just that we’ve been programmed as parents to expect our kids to obey us. If it’s inappropriate to the situation, parents should explain to the child that she needs to help and be part of the team right now, but tell her when you will be able to listen to her side. If a child is adamant in her resistance, pause. She is telling you what emotions she needs to express in order to feel happy. Help her find a safe place at an appropriate time and let her do that.
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Jude Bijou MA MFT is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, and workshop leader. Her theory of Attitude Reconstruction® evolved over the course of more than 30 years as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is the subject of her multi-award-winning book, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life.
I am anti-Valentine’s Day even though I have a wonderful husband and happy life. Why? Because one or two bad experiences with Cupid are stuck in my mind and heart and determined to torment me forever. I’ll never get over it. I’ve been married for almost 10 years, and now the nice Valentine’s Days outnumber the bad ones. So I’m listing a few of my favorite love stories below to get me in the mood for this romantic day. It’s working. I just think about Eleanor and Park’s first kiss or how much Scarlett really loved Rhett but couldn’t show it. Below is an eclectic mix of new and old, young adult and literary. Don’t just wait for Valentine’s Day to get sappy–these books are great for all year round.
What are your favorite love stories? Here are mine:
Put your phone down! That’s the message of the popular book and blog called Hands Free Mama: Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters. Author Rachel Macy Stafford wants us to power down and pay attention, and her awesome new book tells us how to do it, step-by-step. She says: “Our children are learning how to navigate life in a digital world by watching us. Through mindful technology use, children can learn there is a time and place for our devices. On the flip side, if we constantly have a device in our hand or our face in a screen, they will learn that the device takes priority over human beings and real life experiences. Their tech use is likely to resemble our tech use–so what we do with our device at the dinner table, while driving, or while waiting at a restaurants is likely what they will do.
One of my most effective strategies for maintaining healthy boundaries between real life and technology is to envision what will make my children feel fulfilled in the future. And it comes down to this:
If I want my children to be awed by sunsets in the future, I must take time to be awed by sights in nature now.
If I want my children to appreciate the joy of a screen-free Saturday afternoon in the future, I must take time to show them the joys of screen-free Saturday now.
It is my ultimate hope that my children’s childhood memories include me participating in their lives with open hands and attentive eyes. This means doing what I can now to be a hands-free parent as they grow.
Go Hands Free for a Specific Time Period Each Day
Living Hands Free does not mean giving up technology altogether, and it does not mean ignoring your job responsibilities, volunteer obligations or home duties. Living Hands Free means making a conscious decision to temporarily push aside distractions and give your undivided attention to someone or something meaningful in your life.
I started my journey by designating time periods when I unplugged from my devices and connected to my loved ones. Because I was so dependent on technology, I had to start with short, 10-minute increments. Although that doesn’t seem like much, the results were profound. Here are some of the revelations I experienced during my initial Hands Free periods:
A feeling of peace and contentment came over me when I was fully engaged with a loved one. I felt assured that I was exactly where I needed to be at that moment.
Within minutes of spending time in meaningful connection, online activities and household duties suddenly lost their urgency. Emails, phone calls, dirty laundry and scrolling newsfeeds would still be there after I finished nurturing my relationships. But time with my loved ones was fleeting.
Opportunities to connect to loved ones became more apparent. My Hands Free inner voice began to grab me and gently encourage me by saying, ‘Come on, put the phone down. Turn off the computer. You’re missing your life!” I realized that even in the midst of a busy day, there are countless opportunities to pause and connect with the people who matter most. I had just been to distracted to notice.
Being constantly available to people outside my family and trying to stay current on all of the latest online happenings was sabotaging my ability to live and love. The only person who could protect my time was me. And to do so, I had to create boundaries between technology and life.
As a result of these positive effects, I was motivated to increase the duration of my distraction-free time increments. With each experience of loving connection, my ties to daily distraction weakened.
This week, incorporate a designated Hands Free Time Period into your daily routine. Turn off your electronics—phone, tablet, laptop, or whatever—and then put them in a drawer or lock them in your car if you have to. Do whatever it takes to disconnect from devices and initiate meaningful connection with a loved one at least once a day. Here are a few examples of distraction-free timeframes:
First thing in the morning
Right before naptime or bedtime
When children arrive home from school
From dinner time until bedtime
As you make room for these Hands Free Time Periods, pay attention to the positive results. What emotions do you experience when you step away from your devices to spend time with a loved one? Do you notice anything special about your loved one that you failed to notice before? Does the importance of your online activities decrease when you are engaged in a moment of loving human connection? Are you beginning to notice more opportunities to connect to what matters to you?
By shutting down your devices periodically each day, you are able to protect your time, strengthen your relationships and nurture your own health and well-being. Giving yourself a chance to notice the details that make life worth living is time well spent.”
Can you do it? Do you have any hands free rules in your house–for yourself or your kids?