≡ Menu

The Over-Medication of the American Boy

4 Flares 4 Flares ×

overmedicationThe other day, I had to take my son to the doctor. Nothing big, just a routine visit. And I could tell, as we walked in, that this was not going to be one of his best days.

It started small. Being silly while they were taking his weight and height. Walking “like a spider” to the exam room. K likes to make people laugh, and when they respond, he just gets more silly. So when the nurse said, “wow, you’re funny!” he took that to mean, “Amp it up, kid!”

Which he did. After giving the doctor a brief moment to examine him, he spent a couple of minutes appropriately discussing his reason for being there, and then decided that flopping like fish on the exam room table was exactly what he should do next.

While I talked to the doctor, I kept trying to give him directions. “Lower your voice.” “Inside voice.” “Don’t jump on the table…actually, just get off the table.” But there was no stopping him. Once he moves in the ultra silly direction, there’s usually no turning back, until I remove him from the environment….which is why I try to prevent these situations when I can.

The office visit was one of the worst, behavior wise, for my son. And I even got to the point in the visit where I asked the doctor, “Is this normal??”


What a stupid word. I know that. As an educator, that’s a word I avoided using at all costs. There is no such thing as normal. Every child is different. In this age of different learning styles and differentiated education, assuming that there is a “normal” is almost ridiculous. (The irony here, of course, is that even in this philosophical age, all students are required to sit for and pass multiple standardized tests, but that’s a WHOLE other post.)

The doctor assured me that while she would hope he doesn’t act like this all of the time, (he doesn’t), it’s normal for a three year old to act out when he’s bored. And my son even informed me, thirty minutes into the visit, “I’m tired of the doctor.”

But for a split second, I was worried.

This isn’t the only time this has happened. Sometimes, my son gets this look in his eyes, and it’s very difficult to focus his behavior back to what we need it to be. The “1-2-3 method” has been working well, and I can see that as he gets older, he can handle more pre-emptive talks, which almost always work. Course, in my haste, I’d forgotten to have the behavior talk in the car before we got to the doctor.

But there was still that little voice. What if my son is incapable of following directions? What if he can’t still sit? What if…

The thing that bothers me though, is this. Why, after some “normal” behavior episodes does my mind go straight to ADHD? Is it because it is always in the media? Is it because there is a separate extension at my pediatrician’s office…just for “attention and hyperactivity” issues? ADHD and boys; it’s everywhere. The number of American boys being diagnosed with and being treated for ADHD is increasing. And for some children, medication and treatment for ADHD is warranted. It is a real problem, with certain kids. But I was in the classroom long enough to know the difference between a child who worked better with medication to help him focus and a child who honestly, just needed a space to play, run, and be loud.

Sometimes I think that as a society we are trying to push down the natural tendencies of boys. That we are not allowing them to be who they are wired to be; that we are forcing them to sit still longer than they should, not encouraging enough physical activity, and with the addition of ubiquitous technology, which sedates some kids, there’s always something to throw at them that will turn them off.

This is not to say I believe boys should be able to grow without boundaries. I actually believe there should be strong boundaries; behaviors that are accepted and behaviors that are not. Boys need to learn when certain things are okay, and when they have to suppress their impulses. For example, while I’m happy to allow my son to run and play and yell outside, I want him to walk with me while we’re in stores. (That doesn’t always work either…)

But it worries me; the culture of boys. I want to raise a boy who is tough, who can hang with boys and not be intimidated…and I also want him to be sensitive and emotional enough to be able to have an equal, loving relationship. But I’m afraid that too often, his high energy level and need to be in near constant motion, this behavior that comes naturally to him and to lots of boys, is the thing that gets suppressed in so many American institutions.

“He has a lot of energy,” my neighbor commented when she saw my son running up and down the driveway, at 5:30 tonight, after a full day of playing and a swim lesson.

“Yes, but he’ll be in bed by 7,” I responded.

She was just making an observation. But many times, that type of comment is meant with an undercurrent of “doesn’t he ever stop?” or “are you going to do something?”

Sometimes, yes, I’ll tell him to calm down. But sometimes, I won’t. I don’t want to manage my son’s energy right out of him.

He plays hard. He sleeps. And early, before the sun rises the next day, he’s up and ready to do it all again.


Sarahlynne signature


5 comments… add one
  • ME June 3, 2014, 5:38 pm

    I love this!!!!! Too many children are medicated when they are perfectly “normal” and expressing brilliance. Too many children are medicated to quell their independence and creativity. It takes a very special energetic parent to allow a child freedom of expression – within reason, of course

  • Leah June 4, 2014, 9:18 am

    The way you describe your son almost perfectly matches my 4-1/2-year-old son. He’s wild, he’s crazy, he’s completely filled with energy and once the goofy switch is flipped, it’s not going back off. When he sleeps, he’s out, recharging all those batteries, only to be completely on from the moment he wakes up. I worry all the time about ADHD, and have asked his pediatrician repeatedly if he shows signs of it. Thankfully, he doesn’t. My brother-in-law has it and I’ve seen just how much he struggles with it, even as an adult, so I don’t want my son having to deal with it.

    It seems that all of my friends have these calm little girls and I feel like he stands out and that I’m being judged by his behavior. I try not to let it bother me, but who am I kidding? Sometimes of course it really bothers me. Like you, I’ll try to explain to him upfront if I need him to behave calmly for a certain period of time, and usually if I tell him that afterwards we’ll be going to a park or somewhere where he can burn off that energy, he’ll do ok. He’s starting kindergarten in the fall, though we chose a Montessori kindergarten in the hopes that it will fit him better than a traditional K would. He can get up and move around if he needs to, or move to a different task. Before he was accepted into that program, I was really struggling with worry about having a teacher who wants to medicate him.

    Just a little rant here, but the one person who seems to be the most bothered by his excessive energy is my mother-in-law, the woman who raised a son with ADHD. And yet she acts like he’s way out of control or should just sit and be quiet during some long thing that even I find completely boring. I just don’t understand it. Ah, well.

    • Sarahlynne Sarahlynne June 5, 2014, 3:55 pm

      Thanks for sharing this, Leah! I’m glad I’m not alone in this. My son has so much energy; he’s like a puppy! (I say this as he has fallen asleep on the floor while playing with his toys; a rarity nowadays!) I think what you’re saying about the fact that you’re afraid you’re being judged is true for me, too. Sometimes, he’s amazing, and sometimes he’s super silly. While I’m trying to explain to him the appropriate venues for certain behaviors, my explanations get lost in his silliness. And I also have to remember that some people see him in a snapshot; they don’t see him all the time, all the moods that ebb and flow and make him complicated. So we know our kids the best; everyone else just sees a moment in time.

  • Jess H August 7, 2014, 10:13 am

    This is a great post. Now that I have children, I realize that little ones are hyper, curious, and excited about the new and interesting world around them. Their brains are developing so rapidly and I have yet to meet a young kid who can sit still and focus for long (especially little boys).

    I have a close family member who the doctors wanted to medicate because she didn’t pay attention when she was little. Her mother refused and this person has grown up into a completely normal and functioning adult. I wonder what would have happened if her mom decided to medicate her.

    As parents, we know our kids best and it’s ultimately our decision whether our kids truly need medication or not.
    Jess H recently posted..Is Vacation Worth This?My Profile

    • Sarahlynne Sarahlynne August 7, 2014, 12:33 pm

      that’s so interesting, Jess. I think way too often the jump to medication is too fast, and society looks to calm children before looking for the root cause. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

4 Flares Facebook 3 Twitter 0 Pin It Share 1 Google+ 0 Email -- 4 Flares ×