Thursday, May 21, 2009

Humane Parenting Cures ADHD?

It's been several years now since I read Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. In this book, Louv argues that many children who appear to suffer from Attention Deficit - Hyperactivity Disorder simply suffer from not having enough unstructured playtime outside. He cites studies suggesting that we can alleviate, if not cure, the symptoms of ADHD by giving children time in nature.

Recently, the topic of ADHD, its causes, and its cures has come up a lot in my reading. One book I'm working my way through, and enjoying immensely, right now is Awakening Children's Minds: How Parents and Teachers Can Make a Difference by Laura E. Berk. In this book, the author states that "the current trend to give preschoolers stimulants to calm their behavior may, in large measure, be due to a reduced tolerance for child-rearing stress in parents who lead increasingly busy, demanding lives", that "impatient, inattentive, inconsistent parenting promotes demandingness, anger, and poor emothional control in both ADHD and symptom-free children", and further, that "if nondisabled children are denied the support system for bringing behavior under the control of thought, they will exhibit disorganized, unruly tendencies that can - in a world in which ADHD has achieved great notoriety - be mistaken for the disorder (page 174)."

In a recent article entitled "Can Lack of Sleep Cause ADHD?" by Danielle Wood, states that "a new study shows that lack of sleep can cause more than just sluggish brains: sleep deprived students are at higher risk of developing the behavioral symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)." And why is this such a problem? Because "American children are increasingly over stimulated and overscheduled. They get an average of one hour less sleep than they did just 30 years ago."

In the reading I've been doing for the Healthy Children, Healthy Planet discussion course, there is a piece called "Food for Thought" by Nathaniel Mead, originally published in East West in September/October 1991. In this article, he quotes Dr. C. Keith Conners, director of Duke University's Center for Attention Deficit Disorders in Children and author of Feeding the Brain: How Foods Affect Children (2001): "Foods can enhance problem-solving ability, optimize alertness, and improve mood and behavior in normal children. Contrarily, foods can also impair children whose behavior and learning are already in trouble from other causes, hampering their efforts to concentrate and maintain self-control."

So, then - what does all this mean? On the face of it, one could come away with the conclusion that no one really knows what causes, or cures, ADHD or symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity. However, upon closer examination, the answer is clear.

Make sure your children spend time outside engaging with your natural surroundings. Slow down and take time together as a family. Practice positive parenting. Live a simple lifestyle. Feed your family a healthy, whole foods diet low in processed, energy-intensive foods and wasteful packaging.

In other words, be a humane parent!

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