Brain chemistry, genetic influences and neurological development contribute strongly to who we are as children and what we become as adults.
Each child grows in his or her own special and unique way. Children display different traits and moods that seem to be inborn, a traits that parents have little or no control over.
Certainly, disruptive and restless children have always been around. The best of parents can have a child that is difficult.
But why are certain children so much more difficult and challenging to raise? The number of children who are experiencing serious behavioral problems is on the increase.
Generally, it is agreed among clinicians and researchers that from 5 to 10 Percent of all children exhibit extreme restlessness and that the inability of these children to pay attention, concentrate, follow rules, and control impulses creates numerous difficulties for them and for their family, their peers and their teachers.
One of the key problems why some children are so difficult is the inherited disturbances in certain chemicals in the brain’s neurotransmitter systems, which regulate brain cell function and facilitate how the brain regulates behavior.
Whatever makes the child difficult to raise, the parent’s priority should be to become adept at effectively managing their youngster’s behavior, providing encouragement and support rather than criticism and disapproval.
It is the parents’ God-given responsibility to provide discipline and training for their children.
Despite their busy schedule, parents should meet a child’s needs, especially reacting in a positive way to negative behavior.
Inasmuch as many of the behavioral problems seen in pediatric practice today involve children who are impulsive, or inattentive, hypertensive, a discussion of ADD and ADHD as factors in hard-to-raise children may be helpful.
In the 1950’s, these disorders were called “minimal brain dysfunction”. A pediatric neurologist discovers that “ADD is not brain damage at all”.
We are still not sure of the precise neurochemical problems involved, but we do feel that there is involvement with a chemical in the brain called dopamine. It’s probably not one single chemical, but a relationship among several chemicals.
School Present a Real Challenge
School is usually very difficult for children who are chronically inattentive, impulsive, distractible or overly active since the demands on concentration and for staying quiet increase tremendously in the schoolroom setting.
Since children find it so difficult to stay focused on anything for very long, what else is there for them to do but be maddeningly overactive?
For some, their lack of attention is so severe that they cannot keep up normal learning, whether at home or at school. Their receiving discipline for being either the class terror or the class clown is not unusual, since they have difficulty controlling their behavior and evaluating the consequences of their actions.
Ultimately, they develop a poor self-image, perhaps labeling themselves “bad” and “stupid” and acting accordingly. Getting failing grades no matter how hard they try, these children are susceptible to chronic self-perpetuating failure.
Most parents are anxious and confused by their child’s disruptive behavior. At times marital discord results, each parent blaming the other for the situation.
Many parents spend a good deal of time angrily harping on the bad and forgetting the good. Therefore, their responses to negative behavior patterns cause more negative interaction.
However, the family, and to some extent others who interact with the child, become locked in a power struggle that is the result of their not understanding and not managing the behavior of a difficult child-a child with, or without Attention Deficit Disorder.
A Mother’s Personal Experience With Ronnie
From the moment Ronnie came into the world, he was never happy but was constantly irritable and crying. Allergic, he had skin rashes, constant diarrhea and ear infections.
Ronnie’s early motor skills developed well, though, and he was quick to sit up, stand, and then walk-or should I say run?
I hurried to do all my housework during his nap times because when my little ‘tornado’ woke up, I would be busy trying to keep him from damaging himself and the house he raced around getting into anything that struck his fancy, and most things did!
Ronnie had a very short attention span. Nothing occupied him for long. He hated to sit still. Of course, this was a problem when we took him any place where he was expected to sit still. Many well-meaning people complained or gave us advice, but nothing worked.
Ronnie was bright, so when he was about the age of three, we started a daily short-session reading program with him. By the time he was five, he could read quite well. Then he went to school. After a month, I received a request to come in and talk to the teacher.
The teacher told me that when she first saw Ronnie, she thought he looked like an angel, but after having him in her class for a month, she now thought he was from the other place! She informed me that he was always jumping, tripping other kids, or pulling on them. He wouldn’t be quiet or sit still, and he disturbed the entire class. He lacked self control.
The teacher noted that a rebellious attitude was developing. It was recommended that he be put in a special education class and that we take him to a doctor to get a prescription for a drug to call him down. We were devastated.
Medicine was not the appropriate choice for Ronnie, but the pediatrician gave us some practical suggestions. It was his opinion that Ronnie was bright and bored; he therefore suggested that we keep Ronnie busy, that we give him love and more love, and that we be patient and positive. He thought Ronnie would become less of a problem with age and a change of diet.
We realized that our son needed to be worked with carefully, that he needed to be helped to learn to channel his energy in a positive way.
This would take lots of time; therefore we changed our daily schedules, spending many hours working with him on schoolwork, patiently teaching and explaining things to him. We ceased using negative words or blaming him for his thoughtlessness and mischief. Our aim was to build up his low self-esteem.
We discussed rather than demanded. If there were any decisions that involved him, we asked for his opinion.
Some things that come naturally to other children did not come easily to Ronnie. For instance, he had to learn how to be patient, how to be calm, how to sir still, and how to control his exaggerated physical activity. But it was controllable.
Once he understood that he had to make a conscious effort to slow down and think about what was doing, or going to do, he began to get it all together.
By age 13, his behavior was normal. Happily, everything went smoothly from then on, even during the usually rebellious teenage years.
The dividends from giving lots of love, and equal amounts of time and patience, have paid handsomely.