Does My Child Need Medication?

Mother and toddler putting away toys

For some reason, the question posed above is one that more people seem to be asking nowadays. My friend, for example, has a 5-year-old first grader. He’s a great boy: funny, smart, sociable, has tantrums when he doesn’t get his way, argues with his little sister, does not listen to his mother, and loves to play, watch movies, and spend time with his toys. My friend will sometimes yell when he doesn’t listen right away. And he may not always sit still, but when he’s in front of the TV he will. Sound familiar?

Her neighbor says that he has “all the signs of ADD/ADHD.” In my opinion, we all have a little attention-deficit/attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADD/ADHD) in us. During a long seminar, we doodle, watch the clock, get antsy, etc. I won’t go into detail about what ADD/ADHD entails. The details aren’t really the point, anyway.

I spoke with my friend again recently. Her son is going miniature golfing as a reward for behaving in school. “Maybe he does not need medication after all?” she said. I replied that medication can help if it’s needed, but that she found something her son is interested in and wants to shoot for—and when he gets it, he will be more aware of what he can achieve when he sets his mind to it.

There are a lot of factors in parenting and raising children. Yes, genetics are looked at, but also the home, school, peers, and other social areas. Each child may respond differently when he/she is interacting with a different person. We all do, in a way. Each child likes different things, responds to different things, and will “work” for different things. When those “things” are found, it’s a good thing. Parents want their children to be internally motivated, but external motivation helps. The employed among us receive a paycheck every now and then; there’s our reward.

If you have a child not unlike my friend’s son, he or she probably is on the right development track. We all age and go through various stages of growth that are influenced internally and externally—from home, in school, via genetics, etc. How the child is disciplined (taught, shaped) also matters. If a parent believes yelling will move the child to act, the child might very well wait until he/she is yelled at to do something. He might even yell back. The cycle can continue.

What have I told my friend as she has shared her struggles?

  • You do not have to yell for your child to do something. If you “have to” yell, your child taught you to. Kids are smart. If they know that if they wait long enough you will pick up after them, they are going to wait. The child is then training the parent. When you make the decision not to yell, you begin to find more creative ways of instilling the desired behavior, such as counting, giving a predictable consequence, encouraging with rewards, and so on.
  • Follow through with what you say. If you tell your child that he cannot watch TV until he picks up his toys, follow through. If he does not pick up his toys, he does not watch TV—even if other family members are watching. He may not like it, but he chose not to pick up his toys. You do not need to do it for him. When he does pick up his toys, he can watch something, assuming there is still time. If he waited too long to follow directions, then that is a good lesson.
  • Be consistent. Kids want to know where the line is. They may not say they want boundaries or to be punished, but they know they do. If you sometimes say “no” and sometimes “yes” or follow through sometimes and other times don’t, the child may not trust or be able to predict what you will do. When the child knows that if he does not pick up the toys he cannot watch TV, it’s less for you to say or remind him.
  • Find something that the child is interested in. This may change as the child ages. If he or she likes Legos, dolls, or playing chess, use that as a reward. When the child comes up with something to work toward, he or she is taking ownership of it and you will find out more of what his or her interests are.
  • You and your spouse should be on the same page. This helps with consistency in parenting.

Let’s say there is progress with the child’s behavior but he or she still has difficulty staying still, focusing, and controlling temper, or has issues with sleep or self-control. This can indicate that the child may not be able to have self-control on his or her own.

Medication can help calm the brain so it can process better, but it is not the end-all, be-all. If a child needs medication, he or she will still need to follow the rules or face consequences, and the parents will still need to be consistent.

If your child does need medication, make sure you and your spouse are both on board, adhere to the above suggestions for healthier parenting, and remember to allow your child to rise to his or her abilities. Even with medication, he/she can still learn, grow, and mature.

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Kelly Sanders, MFT, Child & Adolescent Issues Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Damien

    September 5th, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    Very important for parents to be on the same page. If mom s saying one thing and dad another, not only can it end up confusing the child but could also take away authority from the parents.

  • Travis

    September 5th, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    NO!!!! No meds for kids unless it is the final thing that you try.

    I have seen far too many kids who are medicated and guess what? It’s not what they really need. They need to have parents and teachers who are interested in them and the things that they are curious about. They are kids who maybe need a little more one on one attention in the classroom. They are kids who perhaps could benefit from some different teaching styles then the traditional lecture style that so many classrooms offer. But they are not necessarily children who need medication just because parents or teachers don’t know what else to do with them.

  • Bernard

    September 5th, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    its funny how we are so quick to medicate a child without truly knowing how those specific chemical effect the developmental brain, and with the topic of ADD/ADHA, we live in a society that pushed us towards being ADD/ADHA, instant gratification, unreal expectations, unfair comparisons, putting wants before what we truly need to survive, multitasking, go to the store, pick up the kids, drive, talk to friends, watch TV, do homework, spend time with loved ones, have time for self care, let alone all the time trying to keep the basic need in balance, food, shelter, sex, community acceptance, now, lets sell you a drug to fight those symptoms, …we will never get out of the ADD/ADHD at this rate…We will never truly be authentic human beings until we shed all these masks, roles, false ego’s, and false narratives…and we wonder why we need therapy lol

  • Brandi

    September 5th, 2012 at 4:42 PM

    Well I guess I will have to be the one to go against the grain, but my child is like a different child since we had him tested and placed on medication for ADD. He is so much more focused, more interested in the task at hand, and had such a better school year last year while on medication. Why is that a bad thing? I mean, between me and his dad and all of his teachers we had tried just about everything else- this felt like the last recourse. So we did it, and I can honestly say that after seeing the improvements I have no regrest.


    September 6th, 2012 at 1:10 AM

    “Does my child need medication?” Ask any parent this question and chances are that most would say a NO! The reason for this is because many of us do not want to believe something is wrong with our loved ones, especially our children.

    But this supposition can often lead to problems because we just weren’t ready to acknowledge the presence of a problems initially. What’s more it could even delay treatment and end up complicating the issue which could have possibly been solved easily in the initial stages!

    So what’s required is to be open and just take precautions rather than indulging in suppositions. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

  • stan hope

    September 6th, 2012 at 3:59 AM

    It always feels like those who choose to use medications are looking for the quick fix, and to me this is just a little too dangerous to do to your children without knowing all of the ramifications that this could do to your child.
    I realize that there must be some cases, extreme cases, where medications are used and they really do help to improve the life of the child.
    But this is not the only option and should not ever be used without exhausting all other avenues. I would simply like to warn parents to practice a little more caution than they may have been doing.

  • Jeremy

    September 6th, 2012 at 9:43 AM

    The easiest way to answer this question would be to be aware of things such as the pointers mentioned in this article. Frankly I didn’t know many of these but then awareness and knowledge is power and it is even more so when it comes to seeing that your child is developing right. After all that’s one of the things parents worry about the most!

  • Jean Nystrom

    September 6th, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    I agree with this article. What I have learned is that as a parent I need to be, have to be involved, interact and communicate with my daughter. I tried the medications and they didn’t work for us so now I’m using a new platform which does. I now really understand that “it is not what you say” but “how you say it” that really matters.

  • Carla

    September 6th, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    While paying attention to your child is good, being over cautious is not always a great thing. That is because medication is not always a great thing and although it can help with issues of a varied kind it can also be harmful if administered when not required. And more than that, the confusion that the child would go through due to this procedure that’s not required could be very detrimental.

  • penelope

    September 6th, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    How are parents supposed to get a straight answer anymore? One person tells you that putting their child on medication for ADHD is the best thing that has ever happened for the family and then others tell you how horrible it is. How do I know what I should believe or what will work for my child? I don’t want to harm her health but at the same time I don’t want her to flunk out of school either. Where can I go to get her some help where someone will be objective and help me come up with the best possible solution for her?

  • Blakely

    September 7th, 2012 at 4:17 AM

    As a pediatrician you would be amazed at how many parents come in with their children and practically demand that I prescribe them Ritalin even though they have had no proper diagnosis or even proof that this would help their child.

    The only information that they have is a teacher telling them that their child is proving to be a classroom disruption and that perhaps medication could be an answer for these problems.

    I tend to err on the side of caution and generally encourage them to try other tactics before automatically assuming that medicine is the answer. Sometimes it is but sometimes it isn’t, and I like to look at the situation for a while before determining that medication would be the answer for this child.

    It is very much trial and error and some parents simply don’t appreciate the thoroughness that I try to give this kind of medical issue before deciding on the most appropriate form of treatment.

  • mason

    September 8th, 2012 at 6:47 AM

    If the child doesn’t, I probably do!

  • Suelynn Hanegraaf

    September 13th, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    Every school year, our medical practice notice parents so often reporting their feelings of being pressured to put their ADHD children on medication by the staff at school. They may acquiesce because they think the staff has more experience in these matters, and some children will certainly benefit from medication. But parents should know that there are alternatives to medication such as nutrient therapy. There are experienced physicians and healthcare practitioners who will treat behavior disorders with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.

    Mensah Medical is such a clinic. Children, as well as adults, with attention issues or hyperactivity are treated for brain chemical imbalances by having blood and urine samples evaluated. The imbalances then are addressed with an individualized supplement regimen. Many have found that this type of treatment controls behaviors enough so they do not have to turn to medications.

  • Ryan

    November 23rd, 2021 at 11:02 AM

    Sorry for the long comment, but I just need some advice and I not sure where to turn.
    My wife and I are at our wits end. We are losing sleep and going in late for work because our 6 year old throws fits. She doesn’t just throw a regular fit, she has epic meltdown fits with kicking the walls and screaming anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour. Our daughter has always been difficult like this with fits. We thought with age she would get better and sometimes it does get better for a bit and then the fits come back. Right now they are extremely bad. There is no real reason for her fits, it could be telling her no, or telling her to wait, or get ready for bed, any of those may cause an epic fit. Lately it is the above plus she doesn’t like the way underwear feels. She has always had a thing about clothing. If they tug on her or scratch her even very slightly she has a meltdown. In combination with that she wears pull ups at night because she pees the bed, but lately it is like the pull ups are unbearable for her. Underwear and pull ups are things she has worn without a problem previously. Our family is miserable because of her fits. I feel like we are being held hostage by a 6 year old. We are all afraid of setting her off because it will mean an hour or 2 of pure misery. Her pediatrician says fits are normal, but this doesn’t feel normal. They don’t think she is autistic, but she could have ADD or some kind of sensory issue. We were told when she does this to set clear expectations and ignore her until she calms herself to reason, but sometimes we don’t have the time or energy to do this. Also, she will calm down after 20 or 30 minutes and then again ask for the very thing she was throwing a fit for and then she will go back into screaming and kicking. We avoid long road trips and vacations because of her. She ruined one day trip to the lake and I lost it and yelled and cried and she didn’t care she wanted what she wanted and we didn’t have it. I wake up for work at 4am so I like to be to bed at 8 which is when we put the kids to bed. Last night she was screaming about wearing pull ups to bed, this went on until ten when she fell asleep without putting the pull up on. Honestly I want to medicate her because of the stress it is causing for our whole house. My wife is resistant to doing anything other than letting her scream until she is calm. Our daughter is not learning that her fits don’t help her. We thought going to school and being active would help her learn, but it isn’t. I am lost and close to a nervous breakdown which has happened before.

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