By Dr Ken Resnick, parenting specialist in South Africa
I wrote this blog post after returning from a very successful two days in Cape Town where I did a SmartParenting presentation as part of an Employee Assist Programme at a large corporate. I was also able to fit in one session 3-hour parenting workshop that evening where the response from the participants was very enthusiastic.
I was very fortunate in that a colleague, who is an Occupational Therapist, helped organise the whole event for me, from organising the venue to contacting interested parties. I was able to run the workshop at a greatly reduced fee and as a result, I have decided that when visiting the main cities this would be the way to go. If any readers from Cape Town, Durban or other outlying centres are interested in helping me organise group SmartParenting workshops please contact me email@example.com.
What is ADHD?
I’m sure that most of you are aware that there is an increasing amount of children being diagnosed with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with more and more of these children being medicated. I tell parents that ADHD is not a disease or virus or blood disorder. It is symptomatically diagnosed by professionals who observe the child, fill out a form called the Connors and then draw a conclusion from the number of ADHD symptoms that the child exhibits. The main professionals involved in this diagnosis are psychiatrists, who although they have had 11 years medical training, and I stand to be corrected, I don’t think that there’s a module on how to effectively help parents understand the vital role that they play in helping with the treatment of these children. Research has shown that when parents are given tools that enable them to set up a structure whereby they stay in control and are able to parent their children in a consistent and calm manner, this is the most effective intervention in dealing with these children.
I have my own theory about why there are so many learners being diagnosed with ADHD. I believe that many children go to school because they have to rather than because they want to. This means that they’re not interested in what’s been taught to them. They don’t have to listen because they know that when they return home from school somebody is going to help them. As an example, if I wrote a piece now on nuclear physics, the majority of readers would have symptoms of ADD within a minute! In my opinion, there are just too many kids having extra-lessons and one-on-one remedial help. I was aghast when a parent told me that their 4-year-old was attending extra maths and English classes at a well-known establishment who were charging them R800 a month. Crazy! There is no way that a healthy child of four needs extra lessons. Too many people are climbing on the bandwagon and making money under the guise of helping the child. From my experience, in all these cases the parents are given no constructive or consistent advice as to the best way to parent these children.
Sins of our fathers?
I find it amazing how we repeat the mistakes that our parents made with us; The long lectures, the threats, the pleading, the guilt trips etc, which we know made no dent on us, we tend to parent in a similar fashion but with little impact on our children. I’ve recently seen a parent with two boys aged 8 and 10. The 8-year-old does very well at school while the 10-year-old is not interested. Every term he comes home with a poor report and every term he gets the same lecture, the same threats about what will happen if he doesn’t ‘try harder’. The parents and teachers are upset but he’s chilled. All he wants is to get these ‘adults’ off his back. If you think about it, he doesn’t have a problem! The only thing that he’s really upset about is that his parents are upset. He says that he’ll work harder but does anything change? I leave that up to you to guess as I’m sure that this is a common problem faced by many parents.
I have a very effective solution when I see the parents and child with this issue. If the child is failing or doing poorly in certain subjects, I ask the child why he’s choosing to fail. He’s normally taken aback and can’t give an answer except to try and make out that he’s not making a choice. When I point out to him that by not putting his hand up to ask questions, by not doing his homework or learning for a test is a choice he has no answer. I then explain that every choice has a consequence and by choosing not to learn or understand the work then maybe he needs to start at the beginning again by going back to grade 0. I then give him the choice; if he’s not going to make the effort to learn and try his best will mean that he wants to go back to grade 0. However, if he’s prepared to choose to try his best then this means that, as was the case in the above example, he could remain in grade 4. I give him a few minutes to think about it and then ask for his decision. Without fail, they always want to stay in the grade that they’re in. This doesn’t end here. I suggest that the parents go and have a chat with the involved teachers and explain the situation. Most schools will cooperate and when the child decides not to cooperate or try his best he does go back to grade 0 for a day. He is treated like a grade 0 for the whole day which means that when he comes home he can only watch Barney on TV and goes to bed earlier. He can also spend his time at home catching up on his regular grade’s work. It’s his choice. What I have done here is make the child own his own problem. He is made to understand that neither his parents nor teachers are upset with him; they’re only confused as to why he is making bad choices. I could elaborate more but this example works. You’re welcome to contact me if you’d like clarification or help with any school-related problem.
A reminder that the SmartParenting workshops are held on an ongoing basis usually on a Saturday morning from 10h00 to 13h00 hours. Each workshop consists of 2 sessions with the second session following not earlier than 10 days after the first session. What makes SmartParenting appealing to fathers is that it only consists of 2 sessions. Virtually all other parenting programmes that I know of consist of between 4 and 10 sessions. Also, parents are given all the tools that they need to make the changes that they want after the first session. The second session is purely a follow-up and reinforcement session.
The SmartTeenz workshop consists of 3 sessions with the second session following within a day or two after the first. At this session I see the whole family including the teens and I help mediate and negotiate the rules and structures that need to be agreed to before being put into place. The third session follows not less than 10 days after the second session.
Brand and name change
After doing a fair bit of googling and research as well as asking interested parties, it was felt that the brand name of Kensway should be changed as well as the SmartParenting name. It seems that the name SmartParenting is being used by a number of other organisations involved with parenting. After much thought and discussion with involved parties, I have come up with KINDELA as a brand name to replace Kensway and ‘The Child Whisperer’ to replace. I’d appreciate your input regarding the proposed name change.