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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

ADD/ADHD & Discipline

05/18/1999

Question:

I have 3 step-sons ages 4, 6 & 8. The 6 year old has ADHD and the 8 year old has ADD. They are both on ritalin which has really helped alot except for their inherited behavior, by that i mean that before I met my wife which was 3 years ago the boys were spoiled rotten by her and their grandmother. Since we met we have been to 4 different child psycologists, we have tried 123 Magic, positive reinforcement, charts, and all the other new meathods that every psycologist has recomended and nothing has worked at all. From the minute they get up until the time they actually fall asleep our life is nothing but a living you know what. Please don`t get the wrong idea, we LOVE our children but my wife has been in the hospital a number of times for anxiety and depression because of their behavior. Of course every psycologist is saying do not spank, do not be strict with them, this is normal behavior for their age, they tell us we are expecting too much for 3 boys. When I was a child, my 2 brothers and I had to respect our parents and our home, we had to eat all our food and couldn`t play at the table, we couldn`t back talk our parents, we were taught to respect, be patience, be dicplined, and when we didn`t listen we got put over our parents knee, or actually got our mouth washed out with soap, or couldn`t go out to play after school for a week (not just a 5 min. time out). I am 36 years old and I love and very much respect my parents and am greatful for the way they brought me up, my brothers and I never felt we were abused, never suffered from depression, we all are succesfull in life and have nothing but good memories when we think of the past and WE NOW understand why our parents diciplined us the way they did and am greatfull they did. Why is everyone telling us that this won`t work with our children, that dicipline like that is child abuse and will cause more damage than good, etc. etc. etc. I`m not looking for permission to hit my children, I`m just looking for some explanations and something that WILL work. Thank you!

Answer:

You are clearly very frustrated, and for understandable reasons. Anyone would have difficulty with three young children who exhaust them so. I am not sure what you hoped I could tell you without knowing so much more about the situation, but it may help to know that physically disciplining kids has never been shown to help except in the very short-run---and then actually hurt in the long-run. Unfortunately for you, the skills you learned (which may have been quite appropriate to the times, and may have served you) are quite contrary to what our society currently understands to be appropriate care. In part because of the violence we see around us, many experts feel very strongly that we need to teach our children (i.e., model) the difficult skill of solving problems without violence or severity. For those of us brought up in homes that did not function that way, we are fish out of water. If you have not already gone this route, consider joining a parenting group with your spouse. Sometimes the combination of getting out our frustrations verbally with someone other than family, and hearing what others are going through, can do wonders. Good luck.

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Response by:

Susan Louisa Montauk, MD
Formerly Professor of Family Medicine
University of Cincinnati