Don't Blame Quiet Parents for ADD

baby add
What's Next, Mom?
Stop what you're doing! But first, tell your baby you're about to stop, and then what's going to happen next. Otherwise that cute ball of baby might turn into a kid with attention deficient disorder. Or totally not. But that sounds scary, right?

Which is why there has been such a strong reaction against a psychiatrist's op-ed in The New York Times this week where he kind of blames parents for their children's ADD. I say kind of, because there is a lot more to unpack in the "Ritalin Gone Wrong" article, but what's making everyone angry is his reference to parents who suddenly switch activities with no warning to their babies and toddlers.

On the one hand, dude, seriously, if you pick up your baby when he's playing to put him in the bath, he's not going to develop ADD. On the other hand, I learned from my two babies that things go much better when you alert even the smallest of children to an imminent change. Naturally, I learned this the hard way.

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If you have a cranky baby when she moves from one activity to the next, you can try this at home. The next time you head out with your baby, give her a five-minute warning. Not that she knows what five minutes actually are, but talk to her about it instead of suddenly throwing her coat on and plopping her in the stroller/carrier. As you're walking around, tell her, "We're going to Victoria's Secret now!" or whatever it is that you do. Most babies who can't handle change will become much calmer if you're communicating with them, rather than picking them up without warning and changing their point of view.

With my first baby, I only worked one day a week so I talked to her every single day in order to not completely go crazy due to lack of human contact. It's no surprise she still gets excited when I say, "We're going to Starbucks now!" But my second baby came along when I was working, we had an older child, and he just kind of had to go along to get along. It wasn't until he was almost a year old that I realized his struggles against transitioning from one activity to another might just be soothed if I actually kept him in the loop. It worked like magic.

While I'm not worried that I gave him ADD with that one year of no information about what's happening next, I do know that it helped everyone remain calm when we took transitions easy instead of abruptly. Both of my children still demand to know what's going on, where we're going, and when. It helps them feel grounded to know what's up, and maybe it helps their brain activity. I have no idea. It certainly helps my stress levels to have calmer kids, that's for sure. And that's probably best for everyone in the family.

Do you always talk to your babies about transitions?


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