READER QUESTION:

An upset mummy here in need of help. My little boy was 4 years old in December, and he’s really naughty. I mean REALLY naughty. My partner and I are at our wit’s end. Every day we are falling out about the best way to discipline him, as well as the general tension as a result of our son’s behaviour.

He never listens. Every time we tell him not to do something or not to touch something, he does it anyway and when we ask him to do something he doesn’t do it.

He is very hyperactive and literally runs around smashing toys, touching everything, pulling things off the side etc. He will not stop if we ask him to stop or calm down. He thinks it’s funny and it’s as if he literally cannot stop or be calm.

He can’t play quietly, he breaks nearly every toy he owns and smashes everything up. He can’t sit still even when he’s eating his meals, constantly getting up from table and walking/ running around. He thinks it’s funny to run up and break the Lego his 2.5 year old brother’s built and often taking things off him to upset him.

Yesterday when I was strapping him in his car seat he turned to me and pinched me on my chin really hard for no reason and tonight he went up to his dad who was sitting on sofa and bit his foot really hard.

We can’t take him out to a pub as he just wants to run around and won’t sit on his chair.

It’s getting us really upset we don’t know what to do. I think he has ADHD. My mum agrees with me. I’m not trying to label him but I’ve done a lot of research and he has most, if not all of the symptoms in the three key areas. They say that you know ur child and that your instincts are normally right.

He’s under a paediatrician anyway as he was diagnosed with global developmental delay two years ago, and he also sees a speech and language therapist every few months. The trouble is the paediatrician says ADHD isn’t diagnosed until a child is about six years old, as that’s when they can start medication. I’d lay my life on the fact that that’s what he’s got.

The health visitor and paediatrician only see him for short amounts of times every so often so it’s hard for them to see how he really is. 

I’m trying to get him to eat healthily but he won’t. He won’t eat fruit or vegetables, or anything that’s remotely healthy, it’s a nightmare. I’ve stopped giving him sweets and chocolate to see if this helps, but no luck he’s still very hyperactive and very impulsive. I read that Omega 3 is supposed to help with behaviour but I got him two different lots of gummies last week but he won’t eat them as they ‘don’t taste nice’.

I don’t know what else to do. 

Parenting expert and psychologist Dr Maryhan Baker:

Firstly, I want you to know you are not alone; I speak to lots of families feeling at a total loss, overwhelmed, and who cannot see any immediate light. Yet I can promise you there will be some, sooner than you think.

From what you have described it does sound to me as though your son may have ADHD, however, given there is also a diagnosis of global developmental delay, it’s probably more complex than just one thing.

Generally speaking, paediatricians are reluctant to diagnose children; they tend to adopt what they call ‘watchful waiting’ on the assumption that some of these conditions seem to sort themselves out as the child gets older. That said I am a strong believer in working with children on the assumption that they have ADHD, as choosing the most strategies is what’s key, and the diagnosis can come later.

8 important things you can do if you think your child has ADHD

So my advice is as follows;

1.     Start by only working on one thing at a time – otherwise it’s overwhelming for you and your son

2.     Begin to create a ‘toolkit’ for your son filled with activities and resources specifically for you’re his energy. These can include stress balls, fidget twists, and colouring in. Whilst at the moment it probably feels as though your son would never sit down long enough to use it effectively, it’s important to talk about his toolkit and to help him create and use it together. The idea would be when he gets too buzzy and busy, he would go to his toolkit to help himself ease the busy-ness.

3.     Focus on improving your child’s emotional literacy. Use emotional language to acknowledge how he feels, even when the behaviour he displays isn’t appropriate, for example “I can see you are very cross that I have asked you to get ready for bed. You’d much rather stay downstairs and play for ages, yet running away, shouting etc is not the best way you tell me you’re cross. Now let’s go upstairs together now for bed.”

It’s important he finds more constructive ways to express his emotions, as anxiety is often associated with ADHD. Being able to describe how he is feeling in any given moment will help you communicate with him and to find more appropriate choices. We can feel however we feels, and there’s nothing wrong with that, we are trying to help him make better choices with his behaviour.

4.     Help him create a daily ‘quiet time’ habit with an audio book, a cuddle on the sofa, a book etc. Start with 10 seconds each and every day at the same time, and build it up. Mindfulness and meditation is so helpful for ADHD yet it’s best not to begin to introduce these techniques until you can get your son to sit still for 1 minute.

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5.     Boost his confidence by praising any positive behaviour. I know it will feel as though you cannot praise anything but really focus your mind on any small step towards the behaviour you want to see – even if he pauses for a moment before knocking down his brother’s Lego, that’s a small positive step. When you praise be really clear what you are praising, remember the mantra “say what you see”. So you might say “I am so impressed with the way you sat down for our quiet time and sat quietly for 20 seconds. I know how hard it must have felt and it really shows me how hard you’re trying, well done”

6.     Look really carefully at your son’s food and try to supplement by being sneaky with it in his food. I am not a nutritional expert, yet I have worked with lots of children with ADHD who have also seen a nutritionist and there are most definitely huge improvements seen when children modify their diet a little. I would highly recommend Naturedoc’s blog by Lucinda Miller.

7.     Find a community of parents who will support you as you work through this difficult time. It can feel quite isolating when you’re struggling with your child’s behaviour and knowing you have other parents who have your back is key to your sanity

8.     This is probably the most important, and possibly the last thing we do! Take care of you!! Make sure you have regular time to yourself to just be. You cannot be there for your son, or help him constructively if you are running on empty. Looking after yourself is the greatest gift you can give your children, so lose the guilt and ask for help if need be to make sure you get some time for you.

If you need more direct support then do reach out to me directly and I can let you know about the different ways of working with me.

Dr Maryhan Baker, parenting coach and psychologist

Join Dr Maryhan Baker’s Facebook group Raising Confident Kids 

Naturedoc’s Lucinda Miller:

Gosh, it sounds like you are having a really hard time with your little lad and he really needs some help. Unfortunately the medical community can only offer medication from aged six plus, and there is very little else the doctors can offer for his age group.

The behavioural interventions suggested by lovely Maryhan Baker will help immensely, and in many cases is just what a child needs. However if there is an underlying metabolic, gut or nutritional problem, then it will be much harder to make headway with these interventions until he is feeling better in himself.

Every child is different, but in many cases of young kids presenting with attention deficit and developmental delay, there are nutritional shortfalls and we have found the following usually really helps:

  • Build in lots of protein – make your own waffles, pancakes and porridge with eggs, milk, yoghurt, seeds – ready made supermarket ones are all carb and almost no protein.
  • Hide veg in tomato and bolognaise sauces, even grated into waffles, muffins and pancake mixes.
  • Ask your GP to test him for Anaemia (iron deficiency), Coeliac disease and Vitamin D deficiency.
  • Omega 3 is key – if he won’t eat the chewies, get a liquid one and give via syringe or stir into a yoghurt or fruit smoothie/orange juice.
  • Magnesium is very calming – give him an Epsom salt bath every evening – add 2 cups of this salt to a warm bath in the evening and let him soak/play for 20 minutes before bed.
  • Probiotics can make quite a difference too – look out for ones containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium as these help to build brain hormones that help with working memory (ADHD kids have almost zilch working memory) and also GABA which keeps us calm and relaxed.
  • Both Theanine (the relaxing element of tea) and Saffron have been used in trials of kids with ADHD and have been found to be as effective as ADHD medications without the side-effects, and this is something my team can advise on and can be given to children from aged two plus.

In our clinic we can dig much deeper into his individual health needs, and this involves some cutting edge lab tests that check for vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well as metabolic issues and gut issues as well as food triggers.

There is an excellent book called Finally Focused by Dr James Greenblatt that I highly recommend you read first, as this will give you a better grounding on this method, and help you decide whether you need to pursue the more individualised nutrition approach.

I hope this is really helpful and you can start to have less disruptive behaviour and more fun with your little boy soon.

Lucinda xx

If you have a question for one of our experts, please do get in touch, info@mybaba.com. 

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