Tag Archives: discipline

French kids don’t have ADHD? Well, mine does.

22 Jun

An article from Psychology Today was published last year. It was called “Why French kids don’t have ADHD” and it resurfaced a couple of weeks ago on Facebook.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/suffer-the-children/201203/why-french-kids-dont-have-adhd

Now you might not know me at all or maybe just a little but you should at least know these 2 things about me:

1. I’m french.

2. I have a kid with ADHD.

Obviously, it appears to be a shaky start for the writer of this article because I am the living proof that French kids can have ADHD. Maybe it is because we live in a plagued-by-ADD South Africa, or maybe because we are the exception to the rule – since French love exceptions. 

A few of my friends shared that article with me and wanted to know whether it’s true (Don’t they know the first 2 things about me??) My first two reactions were:

1. Mwahahahahahahahahaha! (after reading the title)

2. Roll of the eyes (after reading the article)

But being french with an ADHD kid, I felt compelled to look deeper into the article.

Marylin Wedge, the writer of the article, starts by comparing how ADHD is labeled differently in the US and in France. On one hand, the US  call it a biological disorder, treated with medication like Ritalin, while in France, it is considered a  psychological disorder, treated with counselling. The difference is ‘treating the symptoms’ vs ‘treating the cause/ root of the problem’, the difference between ‘chemical’and ‘psychological’.

I don’t really want to dissect the article (you’re disappointed, I know!) because the topic of ADHD is so vast and so controversial that even after reading up so much on it, even after living with an ADHD boy for 8 years, I don’t feel like I have enough knowledge to do it justice. However, reading the writer’s observations about the french way of raising children (2nd-hand observations, taken from a french book), it made me think about what I observed; first, as a French person raised the ‘French way’ and second, as a mother of an ADHD precious boy.

The part of her article that makes me uncomfortable is when she states that French kids are better behaved than American ones.

French kids are awesome. I wish I had one.

French kids are awesome. I wish I had one.

I would argue that it is debatable. The French society is without a doubt much less permissive than the American one. When I go back to France for holidays, I am always reminded (‘shocked’ is a more accurate word) of all the rules – said or assumed – that my children are expected to follow. Starting with wearing shoes (winter or summer), not walking more than 3 feet away from me, not climbing, jumping, leaning over or reaching for anything higher that their knee-level, sitting quietly at a restaurant, not speaking too loud or making sudden moves… I find that often kids have to live through the old adage of ‘being seen, not heard’. In my observations, the discipline that the writer mentions is not a thought-through decision taken for the sake of the child but rather a discipline enforced when the child’s behaviour becomes inconvenient for the parents.

Every child is off to school from 3 years old until 18, 8.30am to 4.30pm, 4 and a half day a week. If they are not ‘Sage comme une image’ ( literally ‘as well-behaved as a picture’), they’ll quickly learn. The way kids were brought up 50 years ago is the way that they are raised today because, after all, why change something that worked so well at the beginning of last century?

It might seem strange that I would take a stab at the french way of raising children. Being French myself, I’m sure that I have – consciously or not – adopted some of the French behaviour, even when it comes to raising kids. A friend of mine has been incredibly helpful when my kids were younger, reminding me that it should be an age-appropriate discipline. In other words, expect a 2 year old to behave like a 2 year old!

The writer seems to imply that this strict discipline is what saved France from the ADHD that afflicted other countries.

For me personally, I rewind a couple of years: the year my son turned 5, the year we took the decision to try out Ritalin for our ADHD son. A decision not taken lightly, a decision that came after taking him out of his preschool because the teacher asked us to, a decision that came after having him assessed by a paediatric neurologist, a decision taken after realising the impact that his behaviour had on the rest of our family, a decision taken not just for my sake, but also for his.

When parents – and I include myself – find that no strategic parenting style seems to work the way it should, when your child is unable to sit still long enough to learn, when his relationships with friends, siblings and parents suffer because of his lack of impulse control… when these parents turn to the help of Ritalin for the sake of not only the ADHD child but also everyone else in the family, I cannot but roll my eyes at this kind of article.

I do not know whether the french society has less ADHD kids or whether they suppress their symptoms and spirits through rules and punishment. What I know for certain is that there is a place for Ritalin for those overwhelmed children who suffer academically, socially and emotionally. I know for certain that Ritalin brought balance into my son’s life and into our home and I know for certain that he is grateful that there is a medication out there to help him control his emotions.

I know what I aimed to achieve when I put my son on Ritalin. I am confused as to what the writer aimed to achieve with her article.

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A month full of Jion…

14 May

Three times a year, at Jion, the karate school that my kids attend, there is a grading. A grading allows a child to get his next karate belt if his Sensei (teacher) thinks that he is ready to grade.

Before sending your child off to grading though, they have to go through what is called a’ mock grading’ – which is almost like the idea of a ‘staged combat’. In the Middle Ages, the jousting games were also referred to as ‘mock fights’. So there you have it, a piece of not-so-useful information to drop at your next dinner party. A mock grading is therefore like a dress rehearsal before the premiere of a theatrical play. Stress levels are on a rise and performing at your best is important if you wish to prove to your Sensei that you are in fact ready to go to the real grading.

A few weeks before the mock grading, in our house, we live through a lot of karate moments. Over and above their twice a week karate lessons, there are moments of practicing their kata (organised moves that represent a fake fight), moments of staged fights with dad, teaching and teasing each other and of course a lot of hope and expectations to get the ‘Oss’ signal from their Sensei.

Between the mock grading and the actual grading, there are usually only 5 days (from the Saturday to the Thursday). However, the first grading for this year happened to be over some public holidays which meant that between mock and grading, we had almost 2 weeks. Two weeks over which a lot of bargaining and rewarding could – and did – happen.

‘Mmmh no, you can’t play on the iPad until you practised your karate.’

‘Ooh I don’t think you should behave like this. A genuine karate-kid should know better. Maybe you aren’t ready to grade to green belt… ‘

Aaaah, happy days these were…

These days of easy bargaining came to an end  beginning of May when the kids from Jion that were ready to grade, graded.

Léa and Killian graded to, respectively orange and green belt and Matty got 2 stripes on his white belt. Not yet ready to grade to yellow, his grading stopped at the mock grading. It’s always a positive life lesson when hard work is rewarded with the coveted result and for that day at least, their world remained a just, fair and fun world. Long may it last…

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More than ever before I am convinced of the right choice of sport for all my children. Whether they are competitive, perfectionist, low-confident or just floppy, the values of discipline, respect for each other, hard work, healthy body development and a fun Sensei really build them up and make for a holistic approach to what is good for them.

And the best part is that they love it!!

If you’re interested in finding out more about karate in Cape Town, you can contact Sensei Dirk by going to the website www.jion.co.za

I promise I don’t have share in the business!! 🙂

Karate is contagious!

18 May

Our house has become very safe over the last month or so, thanks to these 3 karate kids! Léa and Matty follow in the steps of Killian. Matty with his I-don’t-really-mind attitude is decidedly the most chilled out karate person I know. Léa listens attentively and tried her hardest to look the part. Mmmh, she makes me think of the prayer mantis character in Kung-Fu Panda, with her long dangling body.

But they are all super motivated (Matty in his own way), they love it, they sweat at it (Matt comes at the end of each lesson and tells me “Look Mama, I’m nearly sweating!’). Léa is practicing practicing practicing. She is in the same class as Killian (white, yellow and orange belts are together) and wants to feel that she is good enough.

I love the structure of karate, the discipline it requires, the respect of others and the way the gradings are organized. If you work hard, whether you look good or not, you will move on to the next belt (well, in the early stages at least) which is great for young kids. It helps them to stay motivated and to know that they can do it. No doubt, Killian looks much better than Léa, but to a certain extent, it’s irrelevant.

Here they are, taking their role very seriously! Killian not flinching (apart from the oh-look!-a-butterfly moment), Léa trying to look fierce, and Matt and his cooler-than-cool attitude. Aren’t they cute!!!

The only downside is the washing. Lots of white, white and white!!

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