Apr 30, 2011

Diagnosis: Toddleritis

Over Pesach I read a horror story in one of the frum publications about a family whose Yom Tov was ruined by the behavior of their 14 year old son. The article was presented "so that others can glimpse the challenges of raising a mentally ill child" and the "diagnosis" is stated as "ADHD and ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder)." I was annoyed to see yet another article promoting non-illnesses as illnesses in the frum media.

Dr. John Rosemond is a psychologist who directed mental health programs for children, had a full-time practice as a family psychologist for a decade, has written numerous popular parenting books, and is a busy popular speaker and writer.  I don't agree with everything he writes but overall, he is quite sensible and calls for a return to the normal parenting of several decades ago in which parents were firm and expected obedience and decent behavior and there were negative consequences with those who did not toe the line.

His perspective on ADHD is, "The diagnostic behaviors quite simply describe a toddler. The reason that we are dealing with so many children school-age who are exhibiting these behaviors is because we are no longer in America curing toddlerhood. So we have children who are not maturing emotionally and intellectually because we are not disciplining their feelings state. Toddlers have bi-polar disorder. Toddlers have oppositional defiance disorder. Toddlers have attention-deficit disorder. Those three, I quote, 'disorders,' are normal to toddlers. My first grade class had 50 kids and was taught by one teacher. None of those 50 kids came to school with ADD, ODD or bipolar disorder. Because back then, toddlerhood was cured by the time a child was three."

I'd like to see less discussion of "medicalizing" and "diagnosing" of pseudo illnesses in our frum publications. I don't think this approach is helping anyone; on the contary, I think that it's very harmful. At the very least, we should be given different points of view with at least some articles opposing the medical-disease model!

Would you believe, in this sad article, the out-of-control 14 year old behaved beautifully, when he chose to, in front of others, so that friends enjoyed him as their guest while he created chaos at home! Does that sound like a real illness to you? Real illnesses are not put on and taken off at will! Come on, frum parents! Stop buying into this nonsense!


  1. I remember when a shul member complained about a girl of about 12 who was acting out and behaving in a disruptive and immature fashion. The mother of the girl retorted that the complainer had no right to be upset because the girl had an auditory processing disorder. What in the world is an auditory processing disorder? The girl later graduated high school and got into college so I wonder what happened to the disorder.

  2. The lucky mother had a wonderful excuse for her poor parenting. Thank you mental health professionals for letting us off the hook!