Re: Misbehavior and ADD (long)
Judy Harcus (sfryer@COC.POWELL-RIVER.BC.CA)
Thu, 23 Nov 1995 22:27:19 -0800
Like Bill Paul, I had a bit of a problem with the tone of Phil Gilbreath's
post. Perhaps it comes from also being the parent of an ADD Scout. I agree
with Phil's comments that ADD is not an excuse for letting a boy run wild,
rather it is a reason why you, as a leader, need to learn the best
techniques for working with ADD children.
I am no expert, although living with my son for 14 years has given me some
insights into dealing with ADD kids. First, you have to realize that most
ADD kids do not want to be 'bad' and are not trying to drive you up the
wall. ADD is a medical condition and is a disability that limits the kid's
ability to cope with stress and excitement. Second, you have to realize
that ADD kids have much less ability for internal control than their peers.
An ADD kid can get wound up without realizing it's happening and can have a
hard time slowing down once he hits a certain level of 'hyper'.
No, this does not mean that they are uncontrollable and should be left to
run wild. What it does mean, though, is they may need some external help
(i.e. from other people) to keep control. I have found that having at least
some level of structure in what's happening helps the ADD kids keep on
track. "Free time" can be disasterous as there is no 'boundaries' on the
behaviour. It works better to provide 2 or 3 options (i.e. you can swim,
play ball, or rest in your tent) than to say they can do what they want. If
you see the ADD starting to get wound up, talk to him then and let him know
that he needs to slow down a bit -- DON'T wait until he is totally out of
control! If you catch him early and bring it to his attention, he can
probably settle down for a while; but if you wait until he's bouncing off
walls, he has too little control left to help himself.
PLEASE don't tell the kid that he is a rotten kid! ADD kids hear this an
awful lot and it is extremely destructive to their self esteem. Tell him
often enough that he is a 'bad kid' and he will start to believe you and
decide that there is no use in trying to be 'good'. Believe me, being good
is hard work for an ADD kid, but most do try. Instead of telling him that
HE is 'bad', tell him that his BEHAVIOUR is the problem and what
specifically needs changing.
Time-outs often work, but do it in a positive way. Don't send him to sit in
the corner because he is bad -- tell him that you think he needs some time
to calm down and that maybe if he sat out for a while and watched (or drew a
picture or looked at a book or practiced a knot (if he can without
frustration) or some other quiet activity), he could rejoin the group in a
while. He may even ASK for time out. My son often does this when he felt
he was losing control. Depending on the current activity, I will usually
say 'yes' but sometimes put restrictions (for five minutes, then come back
or in a specified location or similar). He finds it very upsetting when he
asks for time out, is forbidden it, and then gets in trouble for losing
control. Another example happened at a multi-troop camp. My son had
problems with another boy and refused to participate any further. Rather
than leave him there sulking, another leader (from another troop who did not
know me or my son) took him aside and gave him a chore to do instead
(washing dishes). This worked fairly well. He did not enjoy doing the
dishes, so he was not rewarded for his behaviour, but it provided a type of
'time out' from a situation which he was losing control in.
A lot of ADD kids (my son being one) are very 'black and white' kids. 'Grey
areas' are very hard for them to deal with. They need things spelled out
very specifically. Our son loves music. When he was first in school, he
would sing to himself, which would get him in trouble. He stopped doing
that, but one day was in tears because the teacher yelled at him for humming
("I've told you before not to do that!"). My son was devastated because the
teacher had only told him not to sing, and hadn't said anything about
humming! As far as he was concerned this was a totally different issue. So
we gave him a long list of similar items and that was the end of the
problem. More recently, my son was ready to quit Scouts one night when one
of the leaders told him that if he was involved in any more of that sort of
horseplay he would be sent home and couldn't come to the next meeting. The
leader was referring to serious rough-housing that several of the boys were
starting in on, but my son took this to mean anything other than perfect
behaviour, therefore he might as well quit as he could never meet these
standards. It took a long conversation to explain to him what types of
behaviour would warrant this punishment and why (safety, etc.) It was
apparent that he really didn't know where the line was between a little bit
of goofing around and serious rough-housing.
Don't paint yourself or the ADD kid into a corner. Give him an
(acceptable) out. My son had one cub leader who told him (on a hike) "If
you do xxxx again, you can just turn around and go home!". When my son
thoughtlessly did it again and the leader yelled at him for it, my son
turned around and started heading back. This left the leader in a dilemma
as my son had taken him literally and was doing what he had been told to do.
The leader then had to find a way out of this. A better alternative might
have been to tell him that a repeat offense would mean he would have to do
extra dishes, or he wouldn't be able to make the campfire that night, or
some similar consequence.
It helps to get to know your ADD kids. Find out what reasonable rewards and
consequences work for THAT kid. Make it fair. My son, and several other
ADD kids I've met, have a very strong sense of 'fair'. My son will accept a
'fair' punishment with reasonable grace, but if he feels he is being
punished unfairly, he will kick up an outrageous fuss. Sometimes it needs
to be explained to him, why the punishment is fair. Listen to his side too.
Really listen, and ask questions. You may find out that he has a reason for
his behaviour that you are not aware of. ADD kids are often very poor at
expressing themselves. I had one ADD cub get in trouble for dumping a
tentmate's sleeping bag out of the tent at bedtime. At first all he gave
for a reason was that he lost his temper. Under probing, it was discovered
that the tentmate had been dumped all his clothes and sleeping bag on top of
the ADD boy's sleeping bag and was refusing to move them, and the ADD boy
wanted to go to bed as he was supposed to. Who was the victim? Also, ADD
boys make great 'targets'. A few boys may figure out subtle techniques for
rousing the ADD boy's anger. They harrass him until he reacts (which is
usually not subtle), and enjoy watching him get in trouble. Keep an eye out
for these situations and stomp on the REAL troublemakers (though not
necessarily letting the ADD kid off without punishment if he warrants it as
well, but make sure he does deserve it).
As you can probably tell, this hit a sore spot with me. ADD kids do not
have to be out of control kids, but my son has suffered frequently because
adults who did not understand what ADD is all about have condemned his
behaviour while their actions, or lack of action, as created a 'sure fail'
I'm sure those of you who have never had an ADD child of your own would be
very happy to lose any you currently have in your group. It would make your
life much easier. It would also make the life of the ADD kid much, much
poorer. He has a hard time fitting in anywhere and Scouting has much to
offer an ADD kid.
One final note (which I posted a longer note on a few weeks ago), watch what
you are feeding the ADD kids! Despite the so-called experts, many ADD kids
DO react negatively to some foods -- artificial coloring and other additives
and chocolates often being prime suspects. If a parent tells you their
child reacts to a food -- do everyone a favor and believe them, though many
parents are not aware of what triggers their child.
I'll get off my soapbox now.
Judy Harcus, Troop Scouter, 1st Powell River Scouts
(British Columbia, Canada)
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City