Friday, December 31, 2004

A Question on Natural Medicines for ADHD

I received the following letter today. I hear rhis type of complaint a lot. I wanted to publish my response to it.


My son is add. We tried for two years the Natural Path way, which we were not seeing any change for the better.
We do not like the side effects that any drug besides the Natural way does to a child. I have friends who children are on these drugs (not natural). The side effects are unreal, should not be given to any child.

What do you do when your at a stand still to do something for the better of your child. We have read books to no end results. VHS tapes we have watch put no results. Counselling with other parents and no real results. What do we really do that does not greated Health problems later in there lives. Please let us know of any answers you know of thats positive.

Sincerely -

Here is my answer.

Hi -

I share your concern. Drugs do cause side effects, and these side effects can be a problem. As physicians, it often is upon us to make an unpleasant choice. We have to choose between the side effects that certain medications cause and their beneficial effects. This is not always easy.

With drugs like Ritalin, the side effects are mostly nuisances. With other psychiatric medications, the side effects of the drugs can be serious health risks.

The long term effects are also a concern. Again, Ritalin has few known long term side effects. Other drugs can cause serious and permanent damage.

So it is not always easy to decide whether or not a child should take medication. Often we have to weigh unpleasant alternatives.

For example, when considering giving Ritalin we have to judge which is worse for the child, loss of appetite and rebound effects of Ritalin or the years of ridicule and social failure that an untreated child experiences. Now I admit that it is my opinion, but usually I feel that condemning a child to be labeled as a failure and a "discipline problem" during his formative years in school, not to mention setting him up to be a social outcast, which has life time
ramifications, is much worse for the child than the side effects of Ritalin, which for the most part can be eliminated if the treating psychiatrist is someone with experience.

Doctors have to make the same choices when recommending mood stabilizers for conditions like Bipolar disorder. These drugs are not like Ritalin. They have known long term common and sometimes very serious side effects. But untreated, Bipolar disorder has about a 20% suicide rate. This death rate is higher than it is for some forms of childhood cancer. Yet no one questions using chemotherapy, which is basically a regimen of selective poisons, for a child with cancer. So even though we are quite aware that we will very likely be causing the child serious long term problems by placing him on a regimen of mood stabilizers, we may be saving his life.

I do share your concerns about medication. This is one of the reasons I researched natural alternatives. I wrote my findings in How to Help the Child You Love. In it I discuss the 35 or so treatments that have evidence to support that they work. I want to point out that there are probably over 100 things being pushed on the market today for treating ADHD naturally. Most are completely worthless, but some are actually harmful. Just because something is natural doesn't mean that it is harmless. (Go here if you want to know more about How to Help the Child You Love or you want to know more about ADD ADHD child treatment).

Without knowing your son or his specific problem, it is impossible for me to make a recommendation. However, if my child had been failing the "natural approach", then I would try a more conventional approach to treatment. That does not mean I would give up on a natural solution. I would still pursue the treatments mentioned in How to Help the Child You Love, since there is a very good change that once I find the right one it would partially or even completely take care of his symptoms. However, I would start him on medication. I would not allow my child to suffer while I was searching for the right natural treatment.

I hope this helps you. If you would like a more specific recommendation I will need to know more about your son. If you give me more information, I would be very happy to offer you advice about natural treatments that might be suitable for him.

Have a great New Year.


Anthony Kane, MD

ADD ADHD Advances

How to Help the Child You Love

"The Authoritative Guide on How to Manage Your ADHD Child
and Give Your Child the Best Possible Future"

Go here for help with ADD ADHD Child treatment

How to Improve Your Child's Behavior

“The definitive online course to help you to teach your child better
behavior and to help you become a more effective parent.”

Go here for child behavior help

Anthony Kane, MD

ADD ADHD Advances

Anthony Kane, MD is a physician and international lecturer. Get ADD ADHD Child Behavior and Treatment Help for your ADHD child, including child behavior advice and information on the latest ADHD treatment. Sign up for the free ADD ADHD Advances online journal
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Thursday, December 30, 2004

How to Criticize Your Child

How to Criticize Your Child


We have an obligation to teach our children how to conduct themselves properly in the world. Part of this duty requires us to correct their mistakes in behavior. One of the ways we do this is through giving our children constructive criticism.

First we need to stress that to give this criticism to our children is an option, it is an obligation. As parents we have a duty to redirect our children. It is not in our children’s best interests nor do we do them any favors if we do not guide them properly. When we see things that come up in their daily lives that they do wrong, we must correct this behave. How can we as parents redirect our children’s behavior in such a way that it does not get in the way of the healthy parent child relationship?

How to Give Criticism Constructively

There are a number of things we should remember when redirecting our children that will make our criticism more accepted and more effective.

1- Children Have Feelings

This is probably the most important thing to remember when criticizing our children.
It is obvious to everyone that children have feelings. Yet very often it is something that we as parents forget.

Children, particularly when they are small, are completely in our control. It is easy to forget that they are little people. They have feelings that can be hurt and self-esteem that can be crushed if we criticize them in a non-constructive belittling way. We must try to relate to them as we would like others to relate to us.

2- Have Your Message Clear

The goal of proper criticism is to get your message across to your child. That means you have to have a message. If you don’t have an idea you are trying to convey, then all you are doing by criticizing your child is venting your own anger and frustration. You will do nothing positive for your child, and your child will not change his behavior in the future. Remember, your goal with criticism is to educate, not to punish or embarrass or to seek revenge against the child. When you criticize you must have something you are trying to teach.

3- Deliver Your Message Properly
You must give rebuke. It is your obligation as a parent. You have an obligation to raise your child properly. The point is that it should be given in a positive manner. To do this you must satisfy a number of conditions.

a. Criticize the behavior not your child

This is critical. Direct your criticism toward your child’s behavior. It has to be clear to your child that it is the behavior that upsets you, not him.

b. Don’t label your child

Children get their sense of whom they are from what others tell them. When a parent gives a child a label, this label will eventually stick, with sometimes disastrous consequences.

c. Give your rebuke privately

It will be hard enough on your child to have to bear your criticism. You should do everything you can to spare him the embarrassment of having you rebuke him in front of others.

d. Don’t dwell upon the past

The only valid criticism is for the future. What the child did is over. You should acknowledge the mistake but make it clear that the reason you are speaking to your child is so that he can improve in the future.

4- Offer an Opportunity to Correct the Wrong

Your child has to know what he did was wrong. He should also be given the opportunity to redeem himself by correcting his mistake. You should have suggestions how the child can correct the wrong. This will give your child the message that he can’t hurt others and just walk away. He must say he’s sorry or do the victim a favor. It gives him a chance to take responsibility for his actions. It also allows him to put the misdeed behind him and go on.

5- Deliver the Criticism with Love

This is vital. Criticism is a gift. It is a gift of knowledge, it is a gift of values. But it is an unwanted gift. Still, it is a gift nevertheless. No one wants to hear criticism. Our goal when we give criticism is to do it as painlessly as possible so it will be received properly.

It must be clear when you deliver your message that you are doing it for your child’s sake. If your child knows that what you are saying is because you love him, the message will be better received.

If you are angry, all the child will hear is the anger. What the child will hear is “You don’t like me.” Nothing else will be heard. You must make it clear to your child that you are criticizing because you care about him. You cannot let the message get blurred out by the static of your emotions.

This is not easy. It is easy to write about it and to read this when no one is around and things are calm. It is much harder to apply this idea when there is a tumult going on and the tensions are high. Still we have to acknowledge at least the proper way to do things. Or else we will never be successful.

6- Try to See Your Child’s Point of View

We as parents are not faced with the same challenges as our children. This leads to a very reasonable response, at least in the mind of the child, to think, “Who are you to criticize me? How do you know what I am going through? You don’t understand me.”

This is a legitimate response. Your child doesn’t see you as a former child. Your child sees you as a stable adult. Now, you may understand your child perfectly, but your child doesn’t know that. It helps when you give criticism to visualize things from your child’s perspective and couch your words is such a way that your child knows clearly you understand him.

7- Sometimes it is Better to Delay the Criticism

We have a knee jerk reaction to respond immediately when we see our children do something that we don’t like. This is a normal reaction. However, you should always try to think if this is the best time and place to rebuke your child.

When your child does something wrong he will be expecting the criticism right away. When the child is expecting the reaction, his guard is up he will react by defending himself and fighting back. He will not hear what you say and he will be defending himself.

Sometimes it is better to wait until things quiet down. Then you can discuss with the child rationally and the child will hear it. You will also be calmer and be able to deliver a better message to your child.

8- Sometimes no Criticism is the Best

The purpose of criticism is to correct future behavior. If it is clear to the child that he did something wrong and if the child feels bad about what was done and he is not likely to repeat it, there is nothing added by acknowledging his misdeed.


I want to point out that the principals that we have discussed apply when you need to rebuke anybody. The difference is that for anyone else we usually can choose whether or not to get involved. As a parent we do not have that option. We are automatically involved.

We have an obligation to correct our children’s behavior. Our children need our guidance. It is a terrible example when parents let their children do what they want without direction. The children may act like they like the freedom, but these are the children who grow up not knowing right from wrong and not realizing that there are consequences for bad actions. Eventually these children feel that their parents really don’t care about them. Often they are right.

It is hard to be a parent. But the more effort you put into steering your child on the proper path to adulthood, the more happiness you will have when you share in your child’s successes through his life.

Anthony Kane, MD

ADD ADHD Advances

Anthony Kane, MD is a physician and international lecturer. Get ADD ADHD Child Behavior and Treatment Help for your ADHD child, including child behavior advice and information on the latest ADHD treatment. Sign up for the free ADD ADHD Advances online journal
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