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Home » Parenting Advice » What ADHD Is NOT!
What ADHD is not!

by Dr. Tara Borsh

tags: ADHD, Parent-Child Relationships, Parenting Skills, Today's Family, Understanding Behavior


There is a lot of misinformation in the public media today about what ADHD is and what might cause it. If parenting treatments are designed around this misinformation, it often leads to a dead end, leaving children and parents exasperated and still searching for answers. In order to bring some clarity and accuracy to the situation, and give us all hope that we can manage our children's ADHD symptoms, it may be helpful to look at some of the myths surrounding ADHD that are currently out there and are often taken as fact.

Myth 1 – ADHD is the result of diet or food allergies.

In 1973, Dr. Ben Feingold theorized to the American Medical Association that there was a link between certain food additives and preservatives and the symptoms of ADHD. Although the popular media publicized this extensively and many parents worked very hard to control what their children were eating, to date, there has been no credible research evidence that children develop ADHD by eating these substances or that children with ADHD become more hyperactive from eating them. Also, restricting the sugar intake of your child, though probably beneficial for dental health and weight control, will probably not have much effect on his or her ability to focus and sit still.

Myth 2 – ADHD is willful disobedience.

Although it often may seem that your child is actively defying you, it is very possible that a distraction caused him or her to forget what you had asked or said. This does not excuse children's behavior; they are still responsible for how they act. However, it is easier to focus on teaching your child when you maintain emotional control, and that is easier to do when you don't think of your child's behavior as a challenge to your authority.

Myth 3 – ADHD is the result of poor parenting.

You may have heard people claim that all parents have to do is be stricter and quit "spoiling" a child by giving in to his or her behavior. People who say these things likely have never lived with a child with ADHD. Good parents who love their children and always have their best interests at heart know that no matter how many different strategies they've tried, from giving in to being very strict, their children still struggle with focus, concentration and hyperactivity. Although appropriate parenting is critical to helping a child with ADHD (or any child) manage his or her difficulties, a lack of appropriate parenting is not the "cause" of ADHD.

Even with effective parenting, children's symptoms may not completely disappear and there may be areas where they continue to struggle. However, developing effective parenting skills and strategies for dealing with a child's ADHD will eventually help a child learn how to manage inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity in school, with friends and with tasks. Most of all, these parenting skills can help you, as a parent, feel more in control and feel like you have a better way to address the problem behaviors that interfere with your child's functioning. These skills will give you hope that your child's symptoms will not always control your household and your family's life.