Tale of Two Wolves
The Garden of Wisdom #14: Outside Glitter

Parental Attention and ADHD

Look at me, Daddy
I saw a painful sight yesterday afternoon: a father was wheeling with a baby carriage with one hand and text-messaging with his other hand. Totally absorbed in his smartphone, he didn't hear the pleas of his 5-year old walking alongside, "Abba, I'm cold!" A sudden strong wind blew in from the southwest, carrying heavy rain clouds and reducing temperatures suddenly. It now started raining. The little boy was screaming, "Abba, I'm wet!" Heaven forbid that daddy should put down his idolPhone VI. Instead, he let go of the carriage, and with his free hand, he angrily pulled out a child's parka from the baby carriage tote-bag and slapped it on the little boy. Were it not for Hashem, the baby carriage could have easily rolled into the street...

Don't be surprised if down the road, in a few short years, the little boy and his baby brother or sister will be sent home from school with notes from the school psychologist that they have ADHD and must now take Ritalin.

In my experience of counseling parents on child-rearing issues, I've found a strong correlation between kids diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and lack of attention at home. Lack of attention is not a genetic disorder; it's the result of parents with skewed priorities.

In quite a few cases pertaining to the children of our own Beams readers, parents asked for my opinion after school counselors and educational psychologists had not only prescribed Ritalin, but stipulated that the child's continued attendance at their school was contingent upon his taking the drug every day. I asked parents to delay the use of the drug while first planning a program of maximum parental one-on-one quality time. Each program was tailor-made for the child.

The results, with Hashem's loving grace, have been superb. In general, I urge parents to invest "yechidut" time, where the the parent gives total attention to the so-called ADHD child, with no other siblings around. For example, a father takes the son on a hike in the woods for 2 or 3 hours, once a week, and together they learn about trees, rocks, and birds while also doing personal prayer together. A mother might take her daughter for a lengthy exercise walk & talk, or they might shop together or bake bread together. The one-on-one quality time with a parent calms a child, elevates his self-image, and does wonders for his inner joy, which is ever so important in enhancing the child's attention span and thought process.

In other cases, I've seen schools who are especially trigger happy with Ritalin and have suggested that the parents transfer the children elsewhere. In several cases, I even recommended homeschooling.

At least 2 dozen children of our readers - that we know about - have rendered the use of Ritalin superfluous in the above manner. Many parents protest that they lack the time to invest in their children. Priorities, folks... In the end, they ending up wasting more time running to school counselors, doctors and psychologists, not to mention the money involved either.

One of our readers sent me the following poignant anecdote to bring the point home: A 5 year old boy asked his Daddy one day, “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?” His father was quite peeved and said, “What business is it of yours?” The little boy persisted, so in the end, the father said, “Well, if you must know, I make $20 an hour”. “In that case,” said the little boy, “can I have $9?” His father was furious. He told the little boy to go and sit quietly in his room. Eventually he calmed down, and thought to himself, well, maybe he had a good reason to ask for $9, and he doesn’t ask me for money often. So he went to see his son, and told him, “Perhaps I was too hard on you earlier, and I am going to give you that $9”. When he gave it to him, he saw his son take a number of bills from under his pillow, and add the $9 to it. The father was surprised. “If you had all that money already”, he said, “why did you ask me for more?” “Well”, said the boy, “ I did not have enough money before. But now I do. Can I buy an hour of your time?” Ouch...

Think about it. Our children are precious little souls that Hashem has entrusted in our care. They deserve our love and undivided attention; they don't deserve to be second-fiddle to a cursed smartphone, especially when they have to pay the price of ADHD and Ritalin.


Racheli adds: Just want to make it clear that Rabbi Brody is only speaking about one aspect of the ADHD problem. In the future, G-d willing, we will discuss the relationship between ADHD and food, as well as the problem of children's brains being hyper-stimulated by all sorts of electronic media. Furthermore, we do not advise any parent to take his child off any medication without their doctor's approval! 

The most important thing we can do for our children is to make them feel loved, accepted, and wanted. Let's do our best to focus on these three areas, because no matter how much medication a child is on, nothing can cure the feeling of emptiness in his heart.