Q&A: Could my 3-year-old have ADHD?
I have a question concerning my 3-year-old son. Until recently he has been in a home childcare setting. I received complaints about his behavior at the two most recent visits. I thought it was because of lack of attention (because he wasn't that bad at home). Now, I am a stay-at-home mom and realize my son seems to never stop. My fiancé and I have read What to Expect, The Toddler Years and found the section about ADHD. All of the questions the book asked we answered yes. At my youngest son's appointment the pediatrician suggested that we ignore Kyle when he is doing "bad" things. I told her that makes it worse.
She just said, "Well, we won't medicate a 3-year-old for AD/HD." She didn't offer any other advice. We want to have more children, but I need advice on Kyle first.
Kyle's father has a younger cousin who has ADHD. Is this something I should be concerned about?
There are two separate components to the issue you raise. The first is whether your son has ADHD, and the second is what can you do about his current behavior, no matter what it is ultimately called.
Your pediatrician is right in that the ADHD label isn’t meant for children under 5. Not only is distractability and impulsivity part of normal toddler behavior, but each child matures at his own pace and outgrows traits differently. The medications used for ADHD also aren’t given to younger children. The side effects can be more severe and hard to interpret.
However, ADHD does run in families and is at least four times more common in boys than girls. It is possible that Kyle will ultimately have ADHD, but it is too early to tell and there aren’t any tests to confirm this now. On the other hand, you still need to cope with an active, challenging preschooler. Besides medication, many therapies have been tossed around over the years. Some, like megavitamin therapy aren’t effective at all and can be dangerous.
What can help you and your family now is learning a set of parenting strategies that can bring more structure and control into the house. Effective parenting skills help decrease problem behaviors while building your son’s self-esteem at the same time. These skills are taught by a therapist, usually a family counselor. Going to a counselor doesn’t mean you aren’t good parents already or that the problem is severe, and it can empower you and give you more skills to handle a challenging preschooler. Your pediatrician should be able to make this referral for you.