Monday, January 30, 2012

Drug the boy not

article in the NY Times
about the ADD drugs that it has become
fashionable to poison our kids' heads with. Mrs Zen wants Naughtyman
to be drugged. I am totally and implacably opposed to it. I will never
allow it no matter how much the school lies about how it will help

Of course when tested in the lab, drugs such as Ritalin have been
shown to improve concentration. We all know that stimulants can help
you focus. As a oneoff. (Who didn't scoff Pro Plus when cramming?) But
what has been less studied (why would a pharma company even care about
it?) is the long-term damage done to a child's neurons by being
constantly stimulated.

One of the key quotes in the article for me was this:

"One of the most profound findings in behavioral neuroscience in
recent years has been the clear evidence that the developing brain is
shaped by experience."

One of the areas in which I and Mrs Zen differed to the point of
screaming matches was her parenting of Naughtyman. I believed she
damaged him by not treating him like a "normal" little boy. Not that
she didn't also do good (he has real issues that have been helped by
some of the help she has acquired for him), but she often acted as
though she had a mild version of Munchausens by proxy. She decided
when he ws first born that Naughtyman was fragile, and then proceeded
to make him fragile. Then she diagnosis shopped so that she could
match what she felt about Naughtyman with whatever she found on the
web. (She did the same with me: apparently I have Asperger syndrome,
which would be news to anyone who knows me. In case you are not au
fait with Asperger's, think Sheldon in the Big Bang Theory and you'll
get the picture.)

In some ways he is fragile. Most kids are. They are sensitive and need
a lot of love and care. But he is also clever, cunning even,
manipulative. He pursues what he wants by any means he has available.

A big area of concern is food. He won't eat what the other kids eat.
It remains my view that the biggest error in parenting Mrs Zen made
was to give Naughtyman separate meals from the girls. We all have to
eat things we don't like much when we are kids. We all have to try new
things. Except Naughtyman does not. He is able to refuse because he
knows she will cave and give him what he wants.

Last night, I gave him mash. He used to eat mash but now he cries if
he's given it. Mrs Zen says he will eat "orange" mash made from
potato, sweet potato and whatever else, so long as it's just right. If
it isn't, he will refuse to eat it.

I make him eat it. It's a war because he is used to getting his own way.

So he starts gagging. Naughtyman, I say, that won't work with me. I
know you're faking.

He stops. I say to B, he does this gagging thing to the point of
spewing so that he doesn't have to eat things. B is sceptical. The
girls confirm that they know he's faking. They say he goes to the
toilet and spits his food out, pretending to be sick.

But his psychologist said he's ultra sensitive, and some foods may
give him a bad mouthfeel. I laugh, because it doesn't seem like
there's a biscuit, chocolate, cake or lolly made that he doesn't like
the feel of in his mouth.

I am not sure how to resolve Naughtyman's issues, although I'm sure
many, even if not all, are resolvable. I feel like anything I do is
bound to be undone week to week. If I try to make him try new foods,
she will undermine me by letting him eat baked bean sandwiches for a
week; if I try to get him to stay in his own bedroom, she will undo
the good by letting him sleep with her, as I'm told he does every

I am concerned that she will have him prescribed ADD drugs behind my
back, because she "knows best". She does not. Although I do not think
for a moment she has anything but the best intentions toward any of
our children, I do think she hurt Naughtyman, and the girls, by
treating him as though he was disabled from the moment he was born.
(And it has hurt the girls. They hate that he's treated as though he's
more special than them. Now it's hard to feed Zenella too because she
has started to not like things she once ate. It's clear that she is
hoping to get the special treatment that Naughtyman has always had by
acting like him: she often complains that "Naughtyman is allowed to do
it but I'm not". Luckily, Zenita has reacted in the opposite way: she
becomes ever more obliging in the same hope. All they have ever needed
though was to be treated evenhandedly.)

My view remains too that Naughtyman should be shown how to get what he
wants in ways that aren't so dysfunctional. He should be shown strong
boundaries. Kids don't start thinking you don't love them if you're
firm with them: generally, they respond well, because you are, after
all, showing you care. Naughtyman possibly would respond to slightly
tougher love. But I often feel, what's the use? Any good I do will be
undone the next week. In this way I've become complicit in his
misparenting, but I don't really know how to fix it. Mrs Zen refused
to talk about the children in a serious way when we were together and
she still refuses to. Naturally, I understand that when you feel
bitter about someone, it's easy for conversations to degrade into "you
did, I did, you didn't, I didn't". But that doesn't necessarily mean
you shouldn't try.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There have been studies where it has been shown that behavioural problems that have indicated the use of Ritalin have been caused by diet and simply by introducing health foods instead of junk processed and sugary foods,the need for drugs have been negated.
Perhaps your sons eating habits and behavioural issues are one and the same issue.
Maybe you ex could be convinced to try and feed you kid health foods to avoid the drugs.
Remember no child ever starved its self to death, its hard but they will eat when they are hunger. You can't give in to them after all its there best interest you are looking out for. I hate the phrase "cruel to be kind" but here it applies.

February 1, 2012 at 2:21 AM  
Anonymous Chris.tine said...

My kids tell me, crossly, that they never had a chance to be delicate. After all, they were raised by a wolf.

Never crossed my mind to worry about food. little buggers weren't going to starve themselves, were they? The basic rule was I decided what and when and they decided if and how much. They could refuse but then they'd have to wait til the next meal. Or bagel time. I learned early that most crankiness is a sign of low blood sugar or tiredness.

As for Ritalin, can't be all bad. Here in the states, children of the rich get it easily and often(costs a fortune) but if you've got government insurance, forget about it. You draw the political conclusions from that. One of my kids had psychotic breaks on it, the other asked for it in college and handles it brilliantly. But neither started before age 16.

February 7, 2012 at 8:42 AM  
Blogger Looney said...

Our son had similar problems (with eating, that is) - still does, actually. The difference is we couldn't call his bluff. He will not eat, and won't complain a wit about hunger.

His pediatrician has always said it's better he eats than doesn't - even if it's narrow.

Now he's 14 he's begun branching out and trying many new things, but only if we're not watching. He doesn't want us to know he's trying them. It may be an independence, or it may be a wish to keep low expectations. He is quite lazy :)

I did get your email btw, and have just been slower than usual to respond. Cheers, man :)

February 7, 2012 at 5:13 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home