Many people today struggle with the intensity of a challenging child and, unfortunately, wind up being advised to use medications as a first intervention rather than as a very last resort.
In their heart of hearts, everyone really wants the intensity that has gone awry to be the very source of their child’s greatness. This is not that hard to achieve. This is the whole purpose of the Nurtured Heart Approach. The Approach was developed for the most “symptomatic” kids – kids who were acting-out in the most alarming and concerning ways. In the process of working with these kids and their families, I found that symptoms are just symptoms – indicators to us, the adults, that something has gone awry. At their best, symptoms are challenges to us to find something that truly rises to the occasion of transforming them to greatness.
The problem for many loving and well-intentioned parents, teachers, and treatment professions has been that most normal and traditional approaches fall short of that promise. These approaches simply don’t have the power to transform the core intense life force that has become problematic. Most approaches actually make the situation worse.
In relation to the above, I want you to consider these reasons to avoid the pitfalls of medications as a first-line way to handle the intensity in your child.
1. Medications do not heal anything. They do not and cannot solve the core issues. At most, they throw a blanket of moderation over the symptoms and lessen them to a point that gives the illusion of “improvement.” I know improvement is appealing to those who are in the eye of the storm, but think about this: Before the meds kick in each day and after the meds wear off later in the day, the problems are still there. Nothing has changed. The adults are still squarely in relationship with the problems and are none the wiser on how to best help the child. The child is none the wiser on how to best help herself. There has been no core healing whatsoever. The impact of medications is an illusion.
2. In placing a child on medication, the unfortunate underlying message the child receives is: we need to make your intensity go away – we cannot handle it. In other words: “Your teacher can’t handle you; your parent can’t handle you; and you can’t handle yourself… you need a substance to control whatever is going on inside you.” This creates an emotional obstacle to feeling positive about the “life force” that has been given to the child. Instead of seeing it as the gift that it is, it feels like a curse.
We all have life force, and some of us simply have more. Until we get used to it, we can overwhelm others and feel overwhelmed ourselves. We need our intensity to fulfill our dreams and to live in a passionate and purposeful way. We can’t afford to drive a wedge between a child and her intensity. We simply need to learn ways to foster and inspire them to use their intensity in greatness.
3. Medications are powerful substances. Those prescribed for ADHD and other symptoms related to challenging behaviors and moods are mostly classified as Class II narcotics, the same designation as for cocaine and other such strong narcotics. Yes – they are powerful substances. I encourage you to do your own further research. I am highly concerned about the myriad physical side effects along with the long-term repercussions. Looking into this further is important.
The medical community is typically all-too-fast to prescribe, even on the basis of a first evaluation. Though they would have you believe this is a rigorously scientific process, it is actually a highly subjective process. There are a growing number of doctors who are exceptions and who take alternatives seriously, but for the most part, an innocent evaluation of symptoms will still most often net you a prescription in hand.
My experience is that medications have the unintended but powerful side effect of interfering with a child’s ability to believe in herself rather than in the medications. I have met many children who start meds and find that they can do rote tasks better, and thereby give the appearance of being more focused, but they dare not take on the important tasks, assignments, and life challenges. Here’s the reason:
A day or two into taking the meds, the child can no longer discern whether positive outcomes are due to herself or to the medications. Likewise with negative outcomes. Who gets the credit? This might seem incidental, but it is crucial. It interferes with the child’s relationship with cause and effect and dramatically impacts her ability to trust her own impressions of life and to believe in herself. There is potentially a greater loss of self than can ever be anticipated. Worst case scenario – every day is Groundhog Day.
Ordinary parenting methods typically backfire with intense children, and I certainly understand how this frustration can move a parent to consider medications, but please know that the culprits are the techniques most people have at their disposal… not the parents, teacher, or child. The Nurtured Heart Approach puts parents, teachers, and professionals into the driver’s seat and gives them the perspective and strategies to shift children into using their intensity in beautiful ways, so that medications can truly be a last resort.
The excellent news is that the Nurtured Heart Approach has been proven to create the transformation very quickly and in an enduring way. Instead of a child believing that she gets a great deal more from adults through negativity, the child is moved to believing that she can fully invest her energies and intelligence in successes.
A last important note: please DO NOT yank your child off of any medications if she is on them currently. Rather, study an approach like the Nurtured Heart Approach or another equally influential method and put it fully into motion to see how it plays out. If and when you start to see a consistent impact in the new and desired direction, and you begin to see that this is not an accident, but rather a function of what you are doing, then consult your physician with a request to begin weaning your child off the meds. Some doctors will deny such a request, but most will create a smart plan. If your current doctor won’t help with this, consider finding any number of doctors that can now help in such matter.
To Your Greatness!
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.