Hyperactivity in pre-school children

There is an interesting report in the Guardian this morning (P1 &4) – or click here for the online version – “ADHD drugs increasingly prescribed to treat hyperactivity in pre-schoolers”.

It reports that more than a fifth of educational psychologists say they know of pre-school children who are being given medication in order to treat hyperactivity even though guidelines recommend other methods should be tried first.

136 educational psychologist were surveyed.  The survey, found there was an “intolerance of difference”, so children not conforming to the norm were increasingly being seen as having something wrong with them.

What is the norm?  When does ‘not conforming to the norm’ become developing a personality, or being creative?

I’ve always tried to avoid the use of the term, ‘normal child’.  I’m not sure ‘normal children’ exist – and would we want them to?

I am in no way condoning bad behaviour – when I teach, or lead a school, I have the highest expectations of children.  But are we trying to produce robots, who do not challenge and do not push boundaries?

I am not an expert in parenting (although I am a parent!), but I do know that consistency is key with children – clear, understandable rules and boundaries are necessary – but so are the rewards and sanctions that go with them.  Children will always break rules, but they need them.  They need to know what will happen as a result of breaking them, but also what will happen if they follow them.

In teaching, I promote the ‘2 positives for every negative’ approach.  If a child is doing something wrong, praise 2 others before addressing the negative behaviour.  This certainly makes you feel better as an adult, but also promotes the right type of behaviour for a child.  Do we get the balance right in all circumstances with our children? Is there a common approach, consistency – do parents, schools, pre-schools, or whoever has access to our children, have the same expectations and language?

We also need to engage children.  How many children are seen as ‘hyperactive’ or ‘badly behaved’ because they are bored and under-stimulated?  Let’s make sure we give children something to do and that what we do give them excites them and engages them.

I am not saying that doing this is the answer for all hyperactive children, or that there is no such thing as hyperactivity – I am not medically qualified to say this.  But I am saying that a few simple steps could support and enhance the upbringing of any child, hyperactive or not.

So, my top-tips:

  1. Set clear boundaries – and stick to them
  2. Establish clear rewards for doing the right thing
  3. Have clear, appropriate sanctions – nothing major – the focus has to be on the positive
  4. Issue the reward / sanction instantly – not hanging over to later in the day, or the next day
  5. Every day is a fresh start – no holding grudges for something that happened yesterday
  6. Limit (not ban) screen time
  7. An outdoor activity every day – even if it’s cold or raining – “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.
  8. Quality sleep – set bedtime routines (children and adults!)
  9. Good diet – balanced meals, 5+ fruit & veg per day
  10. Calm music in the background – not TV noise in the background

Sir Ken Robinson has an interesting comment on ADHD in this video clip – the whole video is superb and well worth watching, with the ADHD reference coming at 3 minutes 37.

Oh and by the way, I certainly do not always get it right with my own children – but they are ‘OK’ – are they ‘normal’?  Well, as mentioned above, what is the norm?  They are fun to be with, engaged, creative, inquisitive and sparky – this is very different to being hyperactive – And I like the way they are!


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  1. HonestMum.com · December 22, 2014

    Love this post, such valid points here. You’re a wonderful teacher!