Friday, January 26, 2007

Daily lessons for an at-risk child

When I reviewed the scientific studies for my book, I discovered that there may be some things parents can do to prevent ADHD or perhaps lessen symptoms. One theme that repeated over and over in many studies was that a close parent child relationship was associated with better impulse control in children. Remember though, that this correlation SUGGESTS but DOES NOT PROVE that a close relationship prevents impulsivity.

Cross-cultural studies also suggest that physical holding of infants and much physical affection toward young children decreases impulsivity as children mature. There is little doubt that an at-risk child needs plenty of time spent loving every day. This daily time spent loving will also lessen the complications of ADHD. It is likely that it is much harder to have a close relationship with an impulsive child. These children protest a great deal when their desires are not being gratified.

The goal with at-risk children is to help them to fully develop Ability to Love. Ability to love involves both enjoyment of affection and care-taking behavior. It is possible for children to enjoy being affectionate and yet not learn care-taking behavior. Think about it, loving without care-taking is rather empty and meaningless. Our children need lessons in care-taking every day.

Teaching kids care-taking can be tricky. I am not suggesting that it is healthy for a child to be burdened with the responsibility of taking care of everyone else at the expense of his childhood. Somewhere between over-indulgence and excessive burden is the happy medium of teaching care-taking. In between times of playing and enjoyment a child needs to be directed to take care.

Tips for teaching care taking

At-risk kids need care-taking lessons repeated every day. Teaching care-taking occurs with teaching manners. For example, have you noticed your child run for a door, open it and go through without a thought regarding who is behind him? Teach your child to stop and look to see if anyone else wants to enter or exit. Teach him to hold the door for other people especially if they are elderly or handicapped. In this way lessons in care-taking and manners go hand in hand with lessons in impulse control. When you teach a care taking behavior to your child, follow your instructions with the statement, “We all have to take care of each other.” If your child hears this everyday it will eventually sink in!

Pets are also a good vehicle for teaching care-taking. Often however, a pet comes into the family, children are told the pet is their responsibility and mother ends up with yet another being to care for. To avoid this trap, have your child accompany you while you both care for the pet. Ask him to retrieve food and water dishes, clean the cage with you etc. If you have a dog, insist your child walk with you and the dog every day. Don’t give him the option of saying, “No!” When you have a dog you have to take care of him even when you think you have better things to do.

Children also learn care-taking through chores. Again, at-risk children may not be capable of doing chores alone. Instead, do them together. The important lesson your child learns is that he has to stop playing awhile to spend time taking care. This also builds impulse control.

At-risk children are often preoccupied with ideas of power. For example a child will say, “I’m as big as you.” Or “I’m Superman.” When you hear your child boast of his power, use this as an occasion to say, “Since you are big, you have to help take care of things.” Use your child’s drive for power to his benefit. Teach him daily that power means responsibility and care-taking not just privilege.

The price of not learning care-taking

People who are power-motivated and have no concept of caring for others, have an enormous sense of entitlement. The price you will pay for not teaching care-taking will be your child developing a sense of entitlement. This entitlement means that he believes it is everyone else who must take care of him. A child raised in this way will not be capable of functioning as a parent or spouse. Teaching your child care-taking may involve upsetting him. Why should he slow down to help an older person? Why should he put down the videogame to walk the dog? Sometimes children have to feel uncomfortable in order to learn important lessons. If this is your situation, and your child complains and protests, don’t give up. Keep insisting he put his own needs and desires aside a little every day to take care.

1 comment:

Bekah said...

Very informative and easy to read/understand! Thank you!