NEW YORK TIMES COLUMN: FAMILIES TODAY
ALWAYS THE NAUGHTY BOY
By: T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., and Joshua Sparrow, M.D.
Q. My 4-year-old son is very active, though he can concentrate for a long time on a task and complete it well.
His teachers always tell him to sit. His aunts tell him to stop jumping.
We tell him to be careful. We encourage athletics, at which he excels, and we have him work on blocks and art.
He rises early and just keeps going. Will he be diagnosed with ADHD? How can I help him to be accepted by teachers so he isn’t always the “naughty” boy?
His pediatrician says he is normal. Teachers say he is too active.
A. When I was a boy in Texas, I never would have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – it hadn’t been invented yet. But “mischievous” sure was a popular term.
What helped me stay out of trouble – when I did – was finding out what I liked to do and what I was good at. I only had one brother, but I had a busload of cousins, and I was the oldest. They looked up to me and I liked taking care of them.
When I was only a few years older than your son, my grandmother told me, “Berry, you’re so good with children.” Her encouragement helped calm me down and probably had something to do with my calling.
Let your son’s teachers know you need their help. People enjoy rising to the occasion.
You’ve got an active boy, but he’s still young. Maybe someone would diagnose him with ADHD; I can’t say without getting a glimpse of him. Some children with ADHD can concentrate for long periods on activities that interest them, especially in a quiet setting. And many 4-year-olds without ADHD are very active.
Let the teachers know that you want to help him stay out of trouble, and that both you and he want them to like him. Their acceptance will go a long way toward improving his behavior. Ask them whether the “straight and narrow” for a 4-year-old isn’t a bit wider and a lot more crooked.
Perhaps you can tell the teachers a story like the one about my grandmother – or about a person who helped you find your own talents and direction.
Ask them, “Can you help my little boy find out what is good about him? Maybe even something he is good at? Can you help him remember these things when he is being bad or feeling bad? Can you help him find his own ways of helping others? I’d so appreciate it, and so will he.”
Responses to questions are not intended to constitute or to take the place of medical or psychiatric evaluation, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a question about your child’s health or well-being, consult your child’s health-care provider.
Dr. Brazelton, prior to his passing, was the founder and head of the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, which promotes and supports community initiatives that are collaborative, strength-based, prevention-focused sources of support for families raising children in our increasingly stressful world. Dr. Sparrow, a child psychiatrist, is currently the Director of the Brazelton Touchpoints Center. Learn more about the Center at www.touchpoints.org.
Reprinted with permission from the authors.