How to Raise a Happy, Cooperative Child

Parenting Strategies for All Ages

Medicating Children for Academic Success

Use medicine only after a thorough exploration

The recent furor over children receiving Aderall to cope with inadequate school conditions underscores a crisis that has been going on for years. When children exhibit difficult behavior they are being diagnosed and medicated too quickly in an attempt to find a quick fix and make them fit in.

As a psychotherapist for over 20 years, I have found this approach rampant and unfortunate. If a child is impulsive, aggressive, or unable to achieve in school, an in-depth analysis is the best way to fix the problem. Behavior is only a symptom of an underlying problem. If you identify this often hidden cause you can really help the child. If your child is having problems it is important to check into the following issues before agreeing to medication.

1.Make sure to have a thorough physical check-up including a hearing and vision exam. A child who has a physical problem can exhibit symptomatic negative behaviors. Then make sure he gets adequate medical attention for these difficulties and your child's behavior is likely to improve.

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2. Psychological evaluations can be helpful in detecting problems. They can reveal learning issues such as dyslexia, receptive language problems or emotional issues. Often a reading or learning specialist or a child therapist can then address these issues.

3.Check into your child's school environment. Is the school dangerous and causing your child anxiety? Are the teacher's or the school's demands too high and causing your child stress? Does your child have any friends at school? Is he being bullied? Talk with your child's teachers to get information about his life at school. Involve the school guidance counselor to monitor your child and talk with him to ensure that he is not having a major problem. Ascertain if the school is appropriate for your child and make a change when you feel the need to.

4.Analyze your family situation. Has any major event occurred in the family such as a divorce, a death or a new baby that might cause your child to react strongly. It is important to be aware of the connection between these events and your child's behavior.

Examine all your family relationships, too. Sometimes children react negatively to an aggressive sibling, competition with a sibling, a demanding parent or from the lack of attention. Children carry strong emotions from these relationships and can act them out at school.

5.It is wise to explore your child's behavior with a child or family therapist. Professionals can help you to pinpoint any family issues that are causing a child problems and teach you important parenting skills to make needed changes.

Once you get to the core of your child's problem, and give him the skills and support he needs, your child is likely to change his negative behaviors and succeed at school. There are times, however, when medication is truly needed and helpful but it should be considered only after a thorough exploration.

Meri Wallace, LCSW, is a parenting expert and child and family therapist.

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