An interesting comparison…
In the United States, at least 9% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5%.
In the United States ADHD is treated as a biological-neurological disorder and is often treated with prescription drugs. The French, however, believe it is a medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes.
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….
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.
I know some children’s biology is the cause of their ADHD and symptoms can be so severe they need that medication. It is a blessing for parents that have tried very hard to deal with the problems associated with ADHD. What is alarming to me is the disparity in diagnosis rates between the two countries. It seems like a good idea to try good structure, behavior and boundary methods before medication. This might not be the easiest route, but, it is important to not throw a pill at every childhood problem, especially those that are just slightly deviant from the norm, you know, kids acting like a kids.