Five percent of American school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France the percentage is one one-hundredth of that figure.
Where we assume our afflicted kids must be suffering a “chemical imbalance” in their brain—a condition that’s never been proven, by the way—the French attribute it to psycho-social and situational causes. Thus our kids get drugged and les enfants get individual and family counseling.
Yeah, I know there are thousands of parents who’ll testify that before getting Ritalin or Adderall, their children were unmanageable, and were perfectly reasonable afterward. These drugs do, after all, have their effect. But could their behavior have been effectively altered without drugs? Better yet, what sort of family situations would militate against ADHD in the first place?
The French raise their children differently than we do. They don’t mind saying “no.” For example, they can’t snack whenever they want. Meals are at specific times, and the French regard eating as a family event. The French still hold the high scholastic expectations that we began losing in the 1970s. Their stricter limits, psychologists tell us, help kids feel safe and secure.
We’re more lenient and actually less in touch with our kids. American dads and moms both work far longer hours than their French counterparts, and after work are too tired for much kid time. And American parents and kids alike spend more time with electronic gadgets than in personal contact.
Maybe in some cases ADHD is a biological problem, but I suspect the bulk of it results from lifestyle. Some kids may truly be helped with these drugs, but a pediatrician described an approach to me that doesn’t just bandaid symptoms. He said, “I teach the parents how to meditate.”