Attention Deficit Disorder, otherwise known as ADD, has evolved over the years. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) identifies three main characteristics of the disorder: inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. While ADD stresses the inattention behavior, ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) includes all three of the categories. The DSM-IV lists the following symptoms of the illness:
1. Often makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, and other activities
2. Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
3. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
4. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace
5. Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
6. Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort
7. Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities
8. Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
9. Is often forgetful in daily activities
1. Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in their seat
2. Often leaves their seat in the classroom
3. Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate
4. Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
5. Is often on the go or often acts as if driven by a motor
6. Often talks excessively
1. Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
2. Often has difficulty awaiting their turn
3. Often interrupts or intrudes on others
The DSM-IV provides a good description of the behavior but does not offer an explanation. The lists are helpful as it focuses our attention on certain behaviors. Unfortunately, it implies that the problem has to do with a genetic disorder when it actually is character.
There are numerous biological theories that attempt to explain ADD or ADHD but as of date, there are no medical tests to detect its existence. Many in the biblical and Christian counseling arena believe that ADHD is a spiritual problem. In a recently leased book by Dr. David Tyler and Dr. Kurt Grady titled, ADHD: Deceptive Diagnosis, they claim that a child’s lack of self-discipline, self-control, and self-motivations, disobedience, and bad attitudes are excused as a disease.
Both the physical and spiritual areas must be taken seriously. If one believes that ADD or ADHD is a spiritual problem, you can’t ignore the spiritual aspects of ADHD, i.e., repentance, faith, and obedience. Also, if you ignore the physical or cerebral related strengths and weaknesses, the child will become frustrated due to your unrealistic expectations.
Physical problems such as strengths or weaknesses obviously influence behavior. In a child labeled ADHD, the physical strengths could include a high energy level, creativity, risk taking, and an extroverted personality. Physical problems could be poor memory, cognitive problem solving, inability to establish priorities, etc.
Our spiritual essence is frequently discarded when discussing ADHD. By spiritual, I mean that humans are creatures of God who live before Him in all aspects of our lives. We constantly make choices as to whether we will trust God or submit to our own desires. Spiritual problems can be identified by determining if the particular behavior violates God’s law. If it does, then the behavior can be classified as a spiritual problem.
Parents need to exercise caution when their children disobey parental commands. Although the Bible clearly states that children are to obey their parents, what if the child did not understand or remember the instruction? Lack of understanding or forgetfulness may not be a sin unto itself. Parents should ensure that have given instructions that are clearly understood.
If your child lives on the edge of extreme impulsivity, hyperactivity, and distractibility, you will discover they are also prone to certain sins. ADHD kids seem to specialize in the following spiritual problems: difficulties in persevering when things are difficult or boring, talking before listening, not doing what they say they will do, slowness in learning from past experience, slowness in seeking advice, poor self-control, and acting before thinking. All of these problems are addressed in the widsom literature of the Bible. One such book being the Proverbs of Solomon.
Since no one is born with wisdom, you have hope in prescribing a lifelong pursuit of biblical wisdom. We often think that ADHD is an unchangeable genetic malady. However, when viewed through the lens of wisdom, we can have confidence that change is possible because God gives wisdom to those who seek it. Some thoughts on how to teach wisdom: you don’t have to teach everything all at once, work on one principle at a time, make sure you include yourself as a teachable student, become an expert in the book of Proverbs, and emphasize encouragement and instruction more than punishment.
Does popular secular literature have anything profitable to say about how to deal with ADHD? Yes it does. Here are a few tips: be on the lookout for encouraging strengths, offer instruction in a vivid, visual, concrete way, and memorable way…instead of saying, "clean your room" say "put all the books on this shelf." Provide structure by way of boundaries, guidelines, reminders and limits, have predictable, clear, simple, and written household rules, anticipate and pre-empt problems rather than react to them, develop “to-do” lists with reasonable deadlines, and do the hard task before the easy one.
Parenting a child with ADHD is similar to parenting any other child, i.e., you tailor your biblical instructions to the child’s abilities. ADHD children have God-given strengths and will take more careful observation and some creative teaching. They will pose unique parenting challenges. Instead of trusting in our own strategies and natural skills, we need to also rely on the insights of the Holy Spirit.