Friday, March 9, 2012


As you, my readers, may be aware I am currently reading 'Bringing Up Bebe' by Pamela Druckerman. I came across this article today on psychology today suggesting that French children have limited ADHD. Apparently in the United States child psychiatrists consider ADHD to be a biological disorder with biological causes and can be treated with psycho stimulant drugs to help adjust the behaviour which is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

I have always been interested in child psychology and just had to share this article and add my thoughts. I know we all think and act differently but is it just the French that offer the better skills and tips for parenting.

Where as French child psychiatrists view ADHD differently. ADHD is treated as a medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes. French doctors prefer to look for the underlying issue which is causing the child's distress, not in the brain but in the child's social content. They choose to treat the underlying social context problem with psychotherapy or family counselling.

To the extent that French clinicians are successful at finding and repairing what has gone awry in the child's social context, fewer children qualify for the ADHD diagnosis. Moreover, the definition of ADHD is not as broad as in the American system, which, in my view, tends to "pathologize" much of what is normal childhood behavior. The DSMspecifically does not consider underlying causes. It thus leads clinicians to give the ADHD diagnosis to a much larger number of symptomatic children, while also encouraging them to treat those children with pharmaceuticals.

The French seem to take on a calmer and more natural approach than just looking to medicate the child. The French also consider diet and the nutritional value of food intake, especially when the ADHD child's behaviour changed after artificial colours and additives. It is also stated that the US focus on pharmaceutical treatment and therefor encourages clinicians to ignore the influence of diet. 

Well, I tend to disagree as an Australian mother that no matter what I would look at every possible avenue for natural treatments and processes (like the French) before medical treatment. I also believe that each case is different and that not all American parents would choose to go down the medication path before looking at the alternatives.

From the time their children are born, French parents provide them with a firm cadre—the word means "frame" or "structure." Children are not allowed, for example, to snack whenever they want. Mealtimes are at four specific times of the day. French children learn to wait patiently for meals, rather than eating snack foods whenever they feel like it. French babies, too, are expected to conform to limits set by parents and not by their crying selves. French parents let their babies "cry it out" if they are not sleeping through the night at the age of four months.
French parents, Druckerman observes, love their children just as much as American parents. They give them piano lessons, take them to sports practice, and encourage them to make the most of their talents. But French parents have a different philosophy of disciplinine. Consistently enforced limits, in the French view, make children feel safe and secure. Clear limits, they believe, actually make a child feel happier and safer—something that is congruent with my own experience as both a therapist and a parent. Finally, French parents believe that hearing the word "no" rescues children from the "tyranny of their own desires." And spanking, when used judiciously, is not considered child abuse in France.
As a therapist who works with children, it makes perfect sense to me that French children don't need medications to control their behaviour because they learn self-control early in their lives. The children grow up in families in which the rules are well-understood, and a clear family hierarchy is firmly in place. In French families, as Druckerman describes them, parents are firmly in charge of their kids—instead of the American family style, in which the situation is all too often vice versa.

I am sure there are parents all around the world, including in the US that look at the French way of thinking. But is it really the French way or is it up to the individual on who what where and how they choose to treat their children?

I would love to know your thoughts and opinions on this topic of ADHD.

images Paris Breakfasts information psychology today

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