ADHD And Ritalin

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If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

Ronit Baras wrote an article in Family Matters in September of 2011 which started with the following image:

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The basic thesis of her article was that Ritalin was a cop-out to replace real parenting. She’s swimming against the current in this. Diagnosing kids as having ADHD and then prescribing them Ritalin has become as normal as taking aspirin to get rid of a headache. But is it right?

A little over twenty years ago, I took custody and responsibility for raising by high school-age nephew. He was a poor student and paid little attention in class. My own daughter was grown and had never presented me with a situation like I faced with him. I didn’t know what to do, but I was surrounded by people with the quick diagnosis of ADHD who urged me to get him on Ritalin. Not knowing any better, I acceded to their suggestions. And I’ve been sorry ever since.

Despite everything, my nephew grew up to be a productive member of society. I take little credit for that. I think he has succeeded in spite of, rather than because of, his raising.

Through the years since then, I have become more and more convinced that we have made up the diagnosis of ADHD to avoid parenting. Kids have trouble paying attention in class. Is that new? When I was in school, kids had trouble paying attention in class. There was a solution available back then that didn’t involve subjecting the kids to addictive drugs—a paddle hanging on the wall of the boiler room. Very effective.

In our enlightened society today, we don’t want our poor little kids to suffer the indignity and temporary pain of a paddling. We’d rather subject them to the possibility of addiction to dangerous drugs.

That same article quotes the Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights as saying, “Emergency room visits by kids aged 10 to 14 involving Ritalin intoxication or overdoses have now reached the same level of those visiting for use of cocaine.”

Okay, David, so how does this rant relate to Christianity, which is the subject of our Tuesday blogs? Very simply. Hebrews 12:5-8 says:

. . . you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

If we are going to parent our children, we must accept our responsibility to give them discipline. We can’t just leave them to do whatever they want without expecting consequences. We can’t leave them to develop bad behavior and then expect some medication to straighten them up for us. God says if we don’t discipline our children we treat them as illegitimate.

Isn’t it time to replace Ritalin with honest parenting?

What experiences have you had with ADHD and Ritalin? Have you tried letting your child know what behavior is expected and what the consequences are of not meeting that behavior standard?

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For more information about David N. Walker, click the “About” tab above.

For more information about his books, click on “Books” above.

Contact him at dnwalkertx (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.

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About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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15 Responses to ADHD And Ritalin

  1. Tremendous things here. I am very glad to see your article.
    Thanks a lot and I am taking a look ahead to contact you.
    Will you kindly drop me a mail?

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  2. Paula says:

    David this makes me so mad and sad at the same time. I adopted a little boy at two years old. I hadn’t been a parent before. I didn’t know what to expect especially raising a child who had come through a neglected home life and through foster care. They tell you the worst to expect, you have no idea what’s normal. Right from the start others could see that something was’t quite right. He was so hyperactive, outgoing and very loud. They would say things like, Why did they match him with you? You are totally opposites! Have you had him assessed for ADHD? I would not believe that anything was wrong. I did everything I could to discipline him, to reason with him. Nothing worked but I carried on doing what I thought was right. Our relationship began to suffer at the cost of constant disclipline and as he thought; always nagging. People were praying for us, I cried many tears. I felt a failure as a Mum. Eventually last year I realised that I had lost my love for him. I had been reading a book called ‘ Keep your love on’ by Danny Silk (Highly Reccomend it). I had begun to resent him. This thing had attempted to tear our relationship apart. I went to a cafe and saw a book on the shelf about ADHD. I picked it up and started to read it. I even asked if I could borrow it. My son had all the symptoms of ADHD. So I started on our journey of seeking help. Three weeks ago he started high school. He is still struggling with all the symptoms and I cannot see how he will get through high school without help. So after 9 years of perseverence no-one can tell me that I haven’t tried with my son. I am desperate to get our relationship back as God intended it. The enemy comes to kill steal and destroy. He doesn’t want our relationship to succeed so you could say this is a spiritual battle as well as a physical challenge. On Wednesday this week we got a diagnosis of ADHD. I can tell you, I was so relieved I cried. I wanted more than anything to understand and now we have to make the hardest decision on whether to allow him to be medicated. Making that decision is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I keep going back and forth with the information. I know this that God understands. He knows my intentions and my hearts desire. I trust him to help me make the right decision for my son. If I choose to go ahead with the medication I trust that God will protect him from any harmful effects and help him t reach his full potential into adulthood. I don’t mean this to sound like a rant on your post, but right now my heart is aching. I have some understanding now of what he is experiencing and it must be horrendous for him.

    God Bless David

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  3. I’ve seen so many children diagnosed improperly and now that label will follow them the remainder of their lives. A psychiatrist wanted to diagnose our grandson as bipolar at age 3. He also wanted him to take an anti-psychotic drug. Can you imagine what that would have done to his developing mind. I’ve also seen parents convince doctors to prescribe Ritalin for their children and then the parent takes it so they can function. Thanks for addressing this important topic.

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  4. Laura Hedgecock says:

    David, I really think you’ve gotten off base on this one. (Though I agree Ritalin and Adderall is over-prescribe and ADHD is perhaps over- or misdiagnosed.)
    I am a parent of two boys with ADHD. Their medication has never gotten me out of parenting them, disciplining them, helping them, or advocating for them. It addresses their ability to focus and by extension, their ability to learn. They are not on it to relieve me ,or their teachers, from any responsibilities.
    I am a loving, caring, intelligent, and educated parent. My husband and I have prayerfully and thoughtfully decided to provide our boys with medication based on advice of our pediatrician, psychologist, and psychiatrist with input from teachers and therapists.
    Further, I think you don’t have a full understanding of what ADHD is. ADHD affects an individual’s executive function, which includes the ability to connect actions with consequences. When medicated, individuals with ADHD are better able, from a brain-chemical standpoint, to respond to discipline.
    Studies also show that kids with ADHD who go unmedicated are more likely to become addicted to drugs (impulsivity, self-medicating, low self-esteem) as well as to be involved in car accidents when they learn to drive.
    I also believe your premise needs re-thinking from a Christian ethics standpoint. We as Christians should be building one another up and supporting each other, not passing judgment on each other. You’re not only assuming that the entire medical and psychiatric community are incapable of assessing brain disorders, you are assuming that parents have not reached their decisions on how to raise their children with God’s guidance. (Reflect t on the two most important commandments according to Christ.) Living in a faith community which is condemning of both parents and kids can be far more detrimental to families than medication.

    I am a mother of two boys with ADHD. There has not been a single day that I haven’t disciplined them, helped them, loved them and advocated for them. Medication doesn’t relieve me from parenting. It does help them focus and in the case of my older son, addresses his impulsivity.

    I am a loving, intelligent parent who has thoughtfully and prayerfully with the advice of their pediatrician, psychiatrists, and therapist, provided them with medication. The doctors that prescribe and the psychologists who test kids don’t simply dream up diagnoses to relieve parents from parenting. In addition, scientific studies show that kids with ADHD that are unmedicated are much more likely to be involved in drugs (impulsivity + low self esteem).

    ADHD affects an individual’s executive function often resulting in a reduced ability to learn from consequences. Medicating helps kids understand and respond to discipline. Believe me, it does not turn them into angels.

    I also believe you should re-think your premise from a Christian ethics standpoint. We as Christians need to be building each other and supporting each other, not sitting in judgement of parents that are honestly doing the best they can. Living in a faith community w

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    • Laura, I realized after I posted this – actually it was brought to my attention by my daughter – that I used too wide a brush in painting this picture. I should have pointed out that there are people who legitimately need such medication. However, I still believe it’s greatly overprescribed and the diagnosis is much too broadly applied. My apologies to those to whom it legitimately applies.

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    • Paula says:

      Thankyou so much for your comment Laura x

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  5. I agree that children have been over diagnosed with ADHD in the U.S., and that too many people want a magic pill to fix everything. But that’s far different from saying ADHD is made up. I’m an adult with ADHD and I was diagnosed at age 40. Ritalin is part of my therapy. I’ve done plenty of self-loathing over the years due to the idea that I was merely a bad person because I couldn’t follow through on things or meet my potential. When you say ADHD is made up or due to bad parenting, you’re oversimplifying a complex disorder. For someone with clinical ADHD, by saying what you do you’re contributing to that person’s lowering self esteem (or doing the same to a good parent with an ADHD child).

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    • Jonathan, my apologies to you and others with legitimate ADHD diagnoses. My daughter pointed out that I didn’t leave room for those who legitimately need help.

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      • Thanks for the reply to my comment. Deciding who does and does not need meds is not an easy question. I was fortunate to have the resources for thorough diagnosis. Ritalin is a stimulant but not in the way many people think: for people with ADHD it stimulates the executive functioning part of the brain. It helps me focus and prioritize and is actually calming. For people without ADHD it is a means of getting high. The effect is completely different. I’ve tried everything else from time management training to meditation, and only Ritalin helps me focus and work, and only as part of a comprehensive plan which includes diet, exercise, creative output, supplements, yoga, and “body doubles” (working along side people). If it were simply a matter of trying harder I would have overcome that by now.

        I appreciate that you address the issue with questions that you actually want addressed; lots of people post similar questions that are really subtle criticisms or judgements.

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  6. Thankfully, I have never had to consider Ritalin or deal with an ADHD diagnosis, but I can confirm that discipline is totally lacking these days. My husband helps coach many of our kid’s sporting teams. You would be amazed by the amount of children that cry every time them are critiqued, even in the kindest way. Give them the slightest constructive criticism, and they fall apart.

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  7. Sharon Walker says:

    In some cases, I think medication is necessary, but I concur with you that it’s widely over-prescribed.

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