**Published with the permission of my son**
I wrote a few years ago about our son’s “A.D.D.-like behavior” and how our change in diet dramatically affected (in a good way) his behavior, allergies and eczema. When we first pulled our son out of school in the middle of kindergarten to home school him, I saw firsthand just how fidgety he was. He was constantly tapping his pencil, shaking his leg, and just overall being annoying. When we changed his diet, a lot of that went away. Even though he was greatly improved, though, as he got older, we noticed he was an instigator. If there was a problem in our house, he was involved. If someone got in trouble, you could guarantee that he would be there. I was incredibly strict with his diet for about a year. Absolutely no dairy, sugar or grains. And honestly, his behavior was much more manageable. But maintaining that strict of a diet when there are no life-threatening allergies is difficult–birthday parties come up, visits to grandparents, going to friends’ houses…all of those situations present issues. People aren’t very understanding if they don’t see the ramifications of a child eating processed junk. They just think the poor child has an overly-protective parent.
So, we settled on a pretty strict Paleo diet at home, but gave our son the freedom to make his own choices when he was out and about. For awhile, he made poor choices. But, as he’s matured, he’s often chosen to avoid dairy especially as he knows that affects him dramatically. However, even with his most valiant efforts, he was constantly. in. trouble.
I don’t know how to say this nicely…but having him around was often like having a cancer in our family. It spread anger, hostility and an overall sense of just…rotten behavior. He acted like a self-righteous, spoiled, unappreciative brat. He complained and argued and was constantly at battle; with me especially. I’d read all the parenting books, tried all the positive reinforcement I could handle, and prayed more times than I could ever count. Parenting this child was difficult, to say the least. Many, many nights, I would lay my head on my pillow and silently allow the tears to flow, wondering how I was going to make it through the next 10-15 years. I felt overwhelmed, constantly drained…beaten down. I could feel my body tense up when he would come out of his room in the morning. I would wonder how the day was going to go, whether it would be a good day or bad day. Would he come out hostile and be ready for battle as soon as he entered the family room? Or would he (as he rarely did) come out with a smile on his face and a soft heart? More often than not, it was game on as soon as his day started.
He was always the last one to fall asleep and the first one to wake up. Superman and I would be in bed by 9:30 or 10:00 each night, and even though our kids are in bed by 8:00, this child would often still be awake, stirring in his bed when we went to sleep. He was usually the first one up in the morning, awake by 5:30, sometimes just blurting for the heck of it even though everyone else was asleep. I couldn’t understand how he could get such little sleep and still be so active and destructive during the day.
I felt emotionally demolished.
Superman and I had discussed ADHD meds a number of times over the years (our son is now 10). But every time we discussed it, I just felt like if I gave him meds, I was failing somehow. There must be something I can do, I would think. Even though eating a strict diet helped immensely, it wasn’t feasible longterm, and honestly, the thought of having to make this kid 100% grain/dairy/sugar-free in a world and culture where it’s like swimming upstream was completely overwhelming. I tried essential oils. I tried supplements. I tried just about every alternative method for treating his symptoms. Nothing worked.
About 9 months ago, I started praying about what to do with this child. Send him to boarding school? That’s what I felt like doing, but it didn’t seem like a viable option. I begged God to give me an answer. I pleaded with him to provide a solution. And one night, I felt God softly lay on my heart that I should be open to medication. The next morning, I brought it up to Superman, and after a short discussion, we decided we would at least get our son evaluated. I already felt like a failure.
A few days later, I took him in to a psychiatrist. First, she let him talk. She asked him loads of questions–about his life, about how he felt most of the time, whether it was hard to sleep, whether he had a lot of friends, what his siblings thought of him. He was very honest and open, and for the first time in a long time, I actually felt bad for him. He shared how he knew no one liked him. He said he wanted to do the right thing, but that he just couldn’t control himself and he felt like he was a bad kid, even though we had never said that to him. He said he knew there were people in the family and extended family who didn’t like him and didn’t want to be around him. He said he had a hard time focusing in school, especially math. He actually said he wanted help to be better.
Then it was my turn. I echoed everything he had said. I told her all the behaviors I’d seen over the past 10 years. How he had been this way since toddlerhood, but that it had gotten worse over the past few years. I told her he seemed drawn to doing the wrong thing. If he knew something was wrong, it’s almost like a little switch turned on inside him, and he was determined to do that wrong thing. I told her I was exhausted. And then I told her that even though he was so difficult, I saw potential in him. He has the most giving heart I’ve ever seen (when he’s in the right place emotionally). He is always the first kid to offer prayer if someone needs it. He would give the shirt off his back to a friend in need. He loves music, and would be content just sitting on the couch with headphones on all day, especially if he was listening to his favorite Christian music artist. I knew God created him for a reason, put him in our home for a reason, and that he would grow up to do something great, but I needed help getting through parenting him for the next 8 years.
We had 4 more sessions after that. We filled out tons of paperwork. Superman and I both filled out surveys about him. He met with the therapist one-on-one. And finally, she met with us: “He exhibits the classic behavior of a child with ADHD.” She went on to say that the first thing she looks at when evaluating children is the type of home they are living in. After talking to me and him multiple times, she determined that he was living in a stable, loving home, that we were consistent with our discipline, and that we were providing him with the structure that he needed. It wasn’t our fault.
Part of me was relieved. But, what next? ADHD meds? Read Part Two HERE.
Thank you for this. I too, am a parent of a child with ADHD. It took us years to admit it, and we felt the stigma attached to meds made us fearful of sharing info with anyone we knew, including family. We don’t tell people unless they are really close to us, because we just don’t want to deal with the opinions of those who just don’t understand. All that to say, THANK YOU for sharing this. I can imagine it was difficult, but I know it encourages me to know there are others going through this. Especially someone like you who often seems to “have it all together.” <3
Life Made Full says
Thank you, Sarah! PS–I definitely do NOT have it all together! Not in the least. =)
I can’t even tell you how much this meant to me. We have a son who I am sure has adhd, but I have been to scared to move forward with a diagnosis. Everything you wrote resonated with me–especially the part of feeling like your son was a “cancer” in the home. My son tries hard, but is ALWAYS doing things that make us want to pull our hair out. It’s not for lack of discipline, although I think a lot of people think it is. =( Thank you so much for this post. It has encouraged me to at least be open to the idea of taking my son in to be evaluated. Blessings to you!
Life Made Full says
<3 Praying for you on your journey!
Shanti, this post is so inspiring and heartfelt. I am not a parent of a kid with adhd, but I think your post will touch a lot of people. And it makes me think that maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge when I see a child acting out. Sometimes I think we assume it’s bad parenting, when it could obviously be something completely different. Thank you!
Life Made Full says
Thank you, Amber!
I don’t think you’ve exhausted all other avenues. I think the whole ADHD thing is just a way for parents to get out of disciplining their kids. Maybe you should try doing that before you take the easy way out.
I agree. Maybe try parenting better.
Megan and Anon, my heart breaks just reading your responses to Shanti’s heartfelt and brave post. Unless you have lived with someone who has mental illness or have it yourself, you will NEVER understand what families like hers and mine go through on a daily basis and you have no right to respond with such careless and naïve judgements. Thank you Shanti for posting your struggles. I felt like you were taking the very words right out of my mouth. Like you knew what we have been struggling with for years. Our son was diagnosed in K with ADHD, but as he’s gotten older and he’s gotten bigger, the diagnosis has definitely changed. We are currently waiting to get him re-diagnosed. Though the road has been VERY hard, what Larry Crabb said in one of his books still rings true for us… That these kids are sent from God to call out of us deeper levels of compassion and grace than we otherwise might have known were in us. I love your blog posts, your recipes, you have been a gift to me and a blessing <3
I don’t agree. When I was growing up, ADHD didn’t exist. Why is it that all of a sudden it’s such a problem?? It’s because people can’t stand up to their kids anymore. Instead of spoiling them, try being a PARENT.
It actually did exist, but wasn’t diagnosed the way it is today. Looking back, my father, who is 66, said he definitely had it and still has it today. They just didn’t know what to do with him. My husband has also been diagnosed just recently and he’s 46. I agree that many don’t know how to parent or stand up to their kids in the culture that we live in. We have 3 beautiful children, however the one has a mental illness of which we are working with him to help give him the best life possible. Megan, my prayer for you is that you could offer grace and sensitivity to those struggling with something you obviously know nothing about instead of being a bully and tearing people down.
Well I guess we’re just going to disagree. I’m always going to feel this way, I’ve never seen a kid who couldn’t be disciplined, just parents who don’t know how.
The diet you chose does seem strict. We follow Feingold – means you use certain brands of products that are dye, etc free. I have to say it it does wonders and the kids follow it on their own now that they are older. You just have to have the complete info and there’s a support network for that.
A parent does need to choose what works for the family.
Michelle "Pedey" says
Ignorance is bliss. You should be ashamed of yourself, all you “ADHD doesn’t exist” naysayers. Do you think those of us with children taking medication do it on a whim? For the easy way out? I have 4 very loved kids that have all been raised with the same structure, discipline & loving home environment with a perfect balance of strict firmness, compassion & respect. My kids are all very well behaved, responsible & respectful (in fact, I am often complimented by strangers while out in public), but one of the four is taking medicine. Not because we decided to be ‘lazy’ with 25% of our parenting. But because he needs it. YOU are the reason mental health sufferers suffer silently in shame – afraid to get help out of fear of ignorant, loudmouth know-it-alls telling them it’s fake. It is real & they deserve to be helped as much as someone with diabetes or asthma or whatever other daily-medicated affliction you’ve deemed as worthy of treatment.
Or maybe that kid is favored and doesn’t get the same parenting. Even though you say they are all parented the same, I highly doubt that. Every parent is easier on certain children and harder on others. Maybe this child just knows they can get away with more, or needs attention.
Life Made Full says
Thanks Michelle. <3
Amen, Michelle! Megan clearly has no children of her own, nor does she know anything about ADHD or any other Mental Illness for that matter. I’m saddened that she has to waste her time judging others without clearly taking the responsibility to become informed. Again, as you said Michelle, the reason so many suffer silently in shame, because of bullies like Megan.
Sarah McLain, RN says
Hi Shanti! I don’t personally have a child with ADHD, but I know so many parents who have struggled with this, and have done Everything in their power… like you mentioned, diet changes, behavioral modifications, supplements, essential oils, PRAYER… and still struggled… and unfortunately not only are the parents and family members being affected, but the kids themselves struggling are sinking deeper and deeper into this lifestyle and behavior they struggle to control! I so appreciate your perspective and sharing your heart and your struggle here! It’s important, and I am grateful for your honesty 🙂
Life Made Full says
Thank you, Sarah!!
It can be something other than parenting. Our world is a different place – our food is filled with petrochemical additives now that were not there years ago. Toxic substances are in the air we breathe, the products we put on our bodies. These chemicals affect cognition, behavior & physical symptoms. Don’t blame the parents. It’s not just diet. Many people do not know that there is a better way to live through nutrition & changing personal care & other products that are not chemical filled.
Melissa in NYS says
This topic is such a clear example of how so many of us are compelled to judge others.
Shanti, thank you for this brave, personal writing. I identify with a lot of it. My saving grace was doing a lot of sound research on the science of ADHD as a neurological disorder. They now have a strong understanding, based on brain scans done over years by many different sources, that there are both structural and chemical differences in ADHD.
Anyone who wants to judge should first consider that point.
Also, the longstanding science on the use of medication *when it is used appropriately, in the correct doses” clearly proved to me that, for us, to deny our daughter medication would have truly been the harmful choice.
When we parent based on the fear of what others may think, instead of based on a sound combination of instincts and facts, that is when we make our greatest mistake.
Life Made Full says
Thank you, Melissa! I totally agree.
Annette Tompkins says
Annette Tompkins says
I have been around Shanti and her children. I’ve watched her parent them and know she loves her children deeply and passionately, while she consistently corrects their hearts when their behavior gets out of line. Her heartbeat is to raise her children to be adults that will live their lives serving others, instead of being self-serving. A self-serving child is not only the result of a sinful heart, but also of parents who don’t parent. With a houseful of kids, what parent would want to raise a houseful of children that have behavior that drives not only them batty, but also society? Not me and not Shanti. The proof is in the pudding with the apparent respect Shanti’s children have for her and her husband. ADHD is not a result of bad parenting, parenting-styles or not parenting consistently enough. My oldest daughter has been raised struggling with all the classic symptoms of ADHD. Many times, when she was a young child, our house was a living hell. While the hell-days have gotten less, they still surface occasionally. Our diet is the cleanest of the clean, we don’t medicate – using only natural remedies, we eat organic, we detox, we’ve prayed, we’ve read a million parenting books, and employed what has seemed like just as many disciplining methods. I have tried EVERYTHING besides medication. Still my daughter’s symptoms, while some she’s learned how to self-correct, persist. My youngest daughter has been raised the EXACT same way, but is the complete opposite of her sister. Where the world shakes their head at my oldest, they embrace my younger daughter. It’s not a matter of parenting, diet, natural remedies or anything else. We live in a toxic world that is so much more toxic than I grew up in as a child. The toxicity of it has caused more disease and illness than ever by messing with our immune and intestinal systems. Yet, we still have to with it and the ramifications of what it’s doing to us and our children. If you’ve never had a child that shakes your world every single day and has made you want to walk away from parenting for the rest of your life, it is difficult for you to understand why a parent couldn’t just parent a difficult child more consistently or with different methods. However, when there is a true chemical imbalance in the brain, nothing can bring it back in balance except to have that imbalance corrected in whatever way – medicine or natural. There can be no denying results of tests and evaluations that reveal cancer cells in the blood, just as there can be no denying results of tests and evaluations that reveal ADHD in a person. Instead of pointing fingers at a person when they choose to make an extrememly difficult, brave and heoric decision, we need to be supporting them, encouraging them by letting them know we’ve got their back. Nothing discourages a person in a difficult situation more, than to take a stab at them. I’ve felt that more than once from other parents as I’ve raised my older daughter. My older daughter is an amazing young lady and she is going to rock her world for God. What she needs to know is that I will stand beside her no matter the stabs people take at her or me and that she has a community around her that love her for her, no matter what. Shanti, that is what you are doing for your son. You are a ROCKSTAR mom and you are so brave to write this blog entry. I will be praying for you as you navigate the ramifications of speaking out about something that was obviously very difficult for you to do.
Life Made Full says
Thank you, sweet Annette! Your daughters are both amazing, wonderful girls!
“having him around was often like having a cancer in our family”
Our thoughts lead to our actions and if those were your thoughts then I can only guess that your actions toward your “cancer” are what caused his behavior. Sounds like you never gave the kid a chance. I have a child with ADHD, OCD, and Major social behaviors. Yes, some days are hard, however, I would never refer to my child as cancer.
And way to use God as an excuse for your poor decision!! “Superman and I had discussed ADHD meds a number of times over the years (our son is now 10). But every time we discussed it, I just felt like if I gave him meds, I was failing somehow.” I’m sure that was God all those year telling you not to give in!! But you chose not to listen. Exactly how did God lay it on your heart to use meds? Or is that what you just told yourself to make you feel better?
Not trying to be mean, I just don’t think you explored ALL the options. Maybe you need to look at your own reflection for the solution instead or trying to constantly “fix” your child.
Jan, how dare you try and interpret the way the Holy Spirit speaks into her life! Your comment is so judgmental and harsh, even if your advice were good, I can’t believe Shanti would take it!
Diane Hindman says
I completely disagree with you. Engaged parents will always find a way to help their child. By agreeing to medicate your child, you are in effect admitting that you are too lazy to put in the effort needed to successfully raise a child. A few of my children would probably be labeled “ADD” but there is no way in hell I’m medicating them. I will continue to invest time into helping them learn how to control their behaviors instead of dumbing them down with meds and turning them into zombies.
Diane, I fully support your right to medicate your children or not, but I couldn’t read your post without correcting you on the effect that medication has on children/adults who have ADHD. When people with ADHD are on the proper medication, they aren’t dumbed down or zombies. If that’s the effect someone is getting they are on the wrong dose or med. What medication does is help the brain to focus on the task at hand without getting distracted by other stimuli. A neurotypical person can choose which task to focus on and block out other “noise” (smells, sounds, sights, etc.) The ADHD brain can’t filter out distractions and tries to process many stimuli at once. As you might imagine, this is incredibly frustrating. The outward symptoms often manifest in hyperactivity, especially for boys… girls are underdiagnosed because they may daydream more than they act out. The outward hyperactivity may be annoying to parents and family, but imagine how it must feel to the child. Unable to focus, constantly underachieving, being reprimanded for something you struggle to control.
As a recently diagnosed adult, I am thankful that I developed coping strategies – they are important – but I will always wonder how much more I could have achieved if I had been diagnosed earlier and received treatment.
Untreated ADHD is not only a matter of controlling behavior. You must also consider how it will affect your child’s potential.
Just wow! Your words are as if I penned them myself! They perfectly describe the battle we have faced as a family the last several years. I hate that my son struggles so much and that I’m CONSTANTLY disciplining him, and I see my frustration and impatience tearing him down. We’ve sought out help and avoided medication because of the stigma and judgments of others. After a year of OT and his re-evaluation with no progress they are recommending increasing his OT to 4hrs a week. I feel heartbroken, discouraged, and out of options. Your words were the grace I needed today and gave me the strength to seek out our next steps!