According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) almost one out of every ten children, in the United States, has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Behaviors include inability to focus, inattention, hyperactivity, and challenges in controlling impulsive behavior. A higher percentage of boys are diagnosed with the disorder than girls. (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/)
Scientists do not know what causes ADHD, though studies have focused on everything from genes to environmental causes. Treatment often includes medication, psychotherapy, education and /or a combination of the above. There are currently over a dozen medications used to treat the condition, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (http://www.nimh.nih.gov). For parents and teachers, as well as the children diagnosed with ADHD – there are daily challenges.
A significant advocate for innovative techniques to address behavioral problems in children, without the use of medication, is therapist Howard Glasser, M.A. Glasser has gained a sizable following from parents, teachers, and therapists, and is author of the bestselling book on ADHD, “Transforming the Difficult Child.”
“The difficult child has been assigned many labels depending on current symptoms, current fads in diagnostic thinking, who is doing the labeling and the labeler’s frustration with the child.”
– Howard Glasser
Photos provided by Shan Boggs.
SHAN: You are regarded as something of a miracle worker with difficult children. How did you find this mission in life?
HOWARD: I feel my mission was given to me. In my practice, I came to the realization that the methods I learned in school – basically treating behavioral problems in children with medication and therapy – were not working. In fact, these seemed to be contributing to the problems I was seeing in patients.
It took getting out of my own way and really listening and observing to see what was actually happening with children and their parents and that certain techniques were energizing bad behavior. Once I had this realization, I turned things upside down and was able to help people understand immediately that not focusing on the “problem behavior,” but on new patterns of behavior was what was needed.
SHAN: What are some of the everyday challenges difficult children face in the way they relate to their environment, whether at home or in school?
HOWARD: The biggest challenges for children with behavioral problems are the people in their environment – the well-intentioned traditional responses they receive. Adults learn to respond to kids by having been a kid and from reading about parenting. Most adults have a lot of power and can have very “charged” responses to a child, even when a child does mildly wrong things. Yet, when children make right choices this rarely elicits more than a little response from adults. So, the biggest obstacle for children is how people respond to their choices. They generally receive more responses when they’re tripping up.
SHAN: What are some simple tips you can share with parents and teachers?
HOWARD: Help children feel cherished. Refuse to give the gift of yourself that energizes the relationship with a child through long-winded lectures. Turn the world upside down – praise the child when he/she is being responsible, when not arguing or bothering a sibling or classmate. Notice a child’s choice when they are getting along and tell them, “How thoughtful of you to be respectful to others, kind, and collaborative. I appreciate the great choices you are making.”
Children not only deserve to hear this – they need it. When they begin to trust, they fall into a new pattern. When they break a rule? Turn away. Then praise them when they get back on track. It’s very simple.
SHAN: The word “nurture” comes up a great deal in your teachings and writing. Can you explain its significance?
HOWARD: Nurture is a key word. It refers to a quality of giving and receiving by an adult to a child. “Good job” doesn’t completely capture it. It has to be genuine and specific. Compliments are like food to the soul. When children get nurtured, it tells them on a deep level who they really are.
If you have a child who does argue, fight or get disrespectful you know how great it is when that is not happening. That’s a wonderful and inspiring indicator for parents and teachers to create an ability to truly appreciate the child for any and all things that could be happening that aren’t. Let them know how great their choices are and how grateful you are.
Managing behaviors is about transformation - transforming kids into their full potential. Then they will want to do well in school and fulfill their purpose and dreams.
“Anyone who has experienced the glory of focusing his energies and accomplishing a goal or a project or mastering a skill knows that energy is a gift.”
– Howard Glasser
Howard Glasser is the author of “Transforming the Difficult Child”; “The Inner Wealth Initiative: The Nurtured Heart Approach for Educators”; “All Children Flourishing: Igniting the Greatness of Our Children”; “Transforming the Difficult Child: True Stories of Triumph”; and other books. His books can be found on Amazon.com or on his website.
For more about Howard Glasser and The Children’s Success Foundation, please visit: http://www.childrenssuccessfoundation.com/