by Tina Phillips
March 26, 2011
One in ten children in America today is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
ADHD is characterized by problems paying attention, being hyperactivite, and behaving impulsively.
Also, six to eight percent of children are diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), which is characterized by disobedience, hostility, and defiant behaviors toward authority figures. Between 40 and 60 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD are also diagnosed with ODD.
Both of these disorders can have significant impacts on educational attainment and the emotional and psychological well-being of the children diagnosed with them.
The diagnosis of these disorders in children is sharply on the rise. Some argue that because there is more awareness about these disorders, there are more children diagnosed. But, this cannot account for the magnitude of the increase.
So then what is driving the rise in these disorders?
According to Dr. Gabor Maté, these impulse disorders are being driven by increased stress in a child’s environment, particularly due to their parents. Many parents who are stressed are also depressed and this has an impact on children too. When a child picks up stress and/or depression in his or her caretaker, they often internalize this stress, and it comes out in various behavioral issues.
Parents who do not have enough time to attune themselves to meeting their children’s various needs and work on building a strong attachment will often find their child acts out. If the parent blames the child for what looks like misbehavior and attempts to shame them or punish them, this can worsen the problem.
A child needs a nurturing and supportive environment, one in which there is quality time spent with parents. In addition, parents must have appropriate structure, limits, and boundaries with their children and use positive parenting techniques such as praise, rewards, and encouragement.
The attempt to control children has not proven to be successful, whether it is through consequences or through medications.
Giving children what they truly need to enrich their emotional development has proven elusive for many in our society. We need to invest in relationships, not behavioral control. Children are desperate to connect. Why don’t we connect with them?
The answer is “we don’t have time.” As busy individuals living in an increasingly more difficult society to survive in and make a living in, we barely have time to put food on the table to keep kids fed, let alone give them what they need on an emotional and developmental level.
One in eight people now collects food stamps and 21 percent of the children in one of the richest countries in the world lives in poverty. Many so-called “middle-class” families are struggling, and unemployment and underemployment still remain high, especially among ethnic minority.
We need to change our priorities as a nation and change how we relate to each other. This starts with switching from a fast-paced competitive society where we are pitted against each other to fight for crumbs, to one of cooperation and collaboration to fulfill mutual needs of an interdependent society.
Capitalism has created a society where parents often cannot be parents, where teachers cannot teach, and where, consequently, children often cannot be successful. Everything is about money instead of being about love, learning, growing, discovering, and connecting. Life should not be such a struggle. This is not an environment conducive to productivity, happiness, or raising healthy children.
It is as if the system is set against us. We are falling behind as a nation in so many ways. We are becoming more distressed and our children are being harmed in the process. Our children are manifesting the sickness in our society and are not able to thrive. Many are getting in trouble and are not able to graduate from high school. What kind of life will they have?
It is up to us to ensure they have a good quality of life. In order to do that we must change the way in which we live, work, and learn. If we are going to relate and connect to one another as the social beings we are, we need to decrease the hours we work each week, and get paid more.
We need to focus on building relationships, not teaching to standardized tests.It means taking money out of budgets for wars and prisons and investing them into our communities. It means stopping the redistribution of wealth upwards—no more tax breaks for the rich. It means increase the rich’s taxes and giving it to those in need. This is just the start of a formula for rebuilding our relationships and getting back in touch with what it means to be a human family. If we do not do this, we are facing the systematic destruction of our society one child at a time. It is already in progress. It is up to you to stop it.