Sometimes bad behavior is just bad

At least nine percent of U.S. school-aged children are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). And the public school system, big pharma, and mainstream child psychology demands parents put these poor children on ADHD medications to control their behavior. Last year in my Insiders’ Cures newsletter, I called this unholy, triple alliance of public schools, pharma, and psychology the “Three P’s” that pollute one out of 10 children in the U.S.

Don McCown, my friend, colleague and co-author recently visited me here in New England to work on our next book together. He said something interesting to me during our visit that seems to apply to the massive ADHD problem in our country.

He said, “It’s not so much about what is ‘in here,’ as what is ‘out there.’” In other words, we don’t have to fix what we think is “wrong” with people (or their brains) if we understand what can be done about the social environments in which they live.

The French seem to have figured out this simple truth when it comes to how they treat their children with behavior problems.

In France, only 0.5 percent of children are diagnosed with ADHD. That number is 20 times lower than in the U.S.

Instead of tranquilizing children like captured, wild beasts and altering their brains’ basic biochemistry with drugs, French doctors look for underlying social causes of distress in the child’s environment. Then, they address the underlying social context with behavioral therapy and/or family counseling. Clearly, French doctors don’t use the drug-dominated psychiatric U.S. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). They developed an alternative classification.

Also, as I vividly recall from my own childhood, French parents require proper behavior in their children. They don’t indulge their children to the point of neglect. Furthermore, the French think American mental health practitioners “pathologize” much of what is just normal childhood behavior.

The French also realize dietary interventions can help with behaviors often labeled as ADHD. The first step is to get children off sugars, carbs, and soft drinks, especially caffeinated soft drinks.

In France, parents provide a firm cadre (framework or structure) when it comes to food. They don’t allow their children to snack. Mealtimes are at four specific, time-honored intervals on the daily schedule. The French also practice a little tough love by letting children “cry it out” when unhappy. They ignore the child unless it goes on for too long, or interferes with sleep.

The French also believe repeatedly hearing “no” (it sounds just the same as in English, but with more “oomph”) creates a sense of boundaries, self-control, safety, and security. The French say these boundaries rescue their children from the “tyranny of their own desires.” Apparently, it also rescues them from receiving an ADHD diagnosis and drug, which can have lifelong consequences.

I believe what is wrong with American children has more to do with what is wrong with American parenting, and with the public schools and practice of child psychology in the U.S. It’s not a “drug deficiency.”

When I was in medical school we still learned about all the talk therapies, the benefits of behavioral therapies, and even some sense of basic morality without all the new political correctness when it comes to health and mental health.

But, after medical school, I began to witness the rise of a new generation of psychiatrists who somehow believe doling out drugs is more “modern,” “scientific,” and “practical” than traditional psychotherapies. This new generation somehow became infatuated with the idea they could simply dole out drugs to make people healthy, happy and emotionally sane.

Sigmund Freud–whom the new generation discounts in their shift to drugged mental “health”–used to say, when asked about the “meaning” of his favorite habit, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

Sometimes bad behavior is just bad behavior. And sometimes a drug is just a drug–and a bad one at that.



  1. “Suffer the children,” Psychology Today ( 3/8/2012