Why is there no ADHD in France...

Sons want structure and authority. They rebel against parents who don't provide them. And do I really have to say that by "structure and authority" I'm not talking about haranguing, berating, demeaning, or beating our sons? Abuse destroys structure and authority.

Here's a helpful article outlining the difference between the diagnosis and treatment of undisciplined behavior in these United States and France. There's much helpful here, starting with the stat that, in these US, almost one tenth of our children are diagnosed ADHD and put on Ritalin or Adderall whereas in France the diagnosis is limited to about one in two-hundred and those who get the diagnosis aren't drugged. (Thanks, Nicole.)

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.


French parents believe that hearing the word "no" rescues children from the "tyranny of their own desires.

That's fascinating. I wonder where they got that from. Could that be residual influence from Calvin?

So when it comes to parenting, it is Americans who are the real "cheese eating surrender monkeys."  Or, rather, "Velveeta eating surrender monkeys."

As the father of a child with ADHD I thought I should comment.

For about 15 years now we have been on the receiving end of advice ranging from encouraging and empathetic to rude and completely ignorant in regards to how best to raise our child. Obviously we are rotten parents who refuse to discipline and offer no structure. Yes, sarcasm. Nobody and I mean nobody can understand what it is like to have a child with ADHD, real ADHD. Is it overdiagnosed? It could be. It could be something in the water we drink or the food we eat, I don't know. I wholeheartedly agree that many kids just need proper authority exercised and yes, structure and Godly discipline. The danger with an article like this, however, is that it gives most people the idea that ADHD is not really anything more than parents being bad parents.

I say this because already today my wife has been told maybe we should "move to France", you know; where people know how to parent better.

I caution other christians to be wary of getting up on a high horse and lower ADHD to simply bad parenting. It is bad enough to have struggled to care for and try to understand our child's problem on top of regular childrearing issues only to have insult added to injury by folks who have no clue of what it is like to live with it. "Hey, I read an article about this, it must be bad parenting." It sounds silly but we have experienced it time and again.

ADHD may be overdiagnosed, just be careful not to paint with too broad a brush.

>>Obviously we are rotten parents who refuse to discipline and offer no structure.

Dear Scott,

What is true in the aggregate concerning ADHD is worth saying although I regret you have been the recipient of much unhelpful advice and criticism concerning your own struggles. For many years I've been concerned about  this massive drugging of our nation's children. It's risky to point to the issue, I know, but too many parents and school counselors drug our boys when the solutions should be spiritual, relational, and personal.

I'm sure you agree, notwithstanding your own child's special needs. May God surround you and your wife and child with much love and support as you seek His mercy for each day, dear brother.


A few months ago my wife read Bringing up Bebe (the book cited by the author of the linked article) and she loved it. It provides exactly the kind of outsider's perspective on our culture of child-rearing that so helpfully points out the things that Americans do that are just plain crazy. And it sounds like it's hilarious, too. Another gem from the book is that French parents know their children will face dangers, obstacles and frustrations as adults; because of this, French parents believe that it is a disservice to coddle their children, or shield them from natural adversities when they're children, because that won't prepare a child for real life. The phrase they use to express that is something like "If a child plays with knives, he might cut himself, but he won't die."

I just started reading Pamela Druckerman's Bringing up Bébé as well. I'm not finished but it's been a fascinating read so far! I wonder if the parenting philosophy she describes could be descriptive of other European families outside of France too. Regardless, it kind of makes me wish I lived in France. I tell my children "no juice box today" or "no more snacks, go play" at the neighborhood playgroup and all moms' eyes hone in on me like I'm the Wicked Witch of the West. 

As a classroom teacher, I see the truth in all that's been said.  I used to teach in a majority African-American school, and of my 135 band students, 1 of them had an IEP for ADHD.  Now, I teach in a majority White school and I have 12 for the same number of kids.  In the same town.  There was more of a cultural expectation in the first school that when you acted up too much, mom would just give you the rod (sometimes in the wrong way) and tell you to knock it off.  Whereas here, most phone calls home related to behavior begin on the parent's end with "well, you know, there's the ADHD....."  However, I have one student I can see in my mind right now who, no question about it, has a legitimate problem, and the medication helps him.  

The main point here, I think, is that we're all so afraid of making a value judgement that we just go for the symptom with the drugs, rather than acknowledging that the root issue may not be medical.  Because that opens to the door, heaven forbid, to acknowledging spiritual realities.  And that's our big problem, as Americans and Westerners, is that we are at the end of the day a bunch of materialists.  There's got to be a pat, physical solution to every problem.  Just pop a pill.  

Like many American children, I was largely raised by the TV. (Let me just digress a moment and add what a massive waste of time and potential that is, for being taught useful things, how to manage a home and interact with people, and learn useful skills: I would bet I'd be considered an 11 year-old if this were a century ago. Returning to the real topic:) What I rarely see mentioned is how "psycho-social" and other causes have biological expressions (results): ADHD, real ADHD, can be found in brain scans and structural deformities that arise in the brain (or are supposed to be associated with what is supposed as being "ADHD"). I was diagnosed with it, I haven't had scans to look for those structural differences, and I would be interested in finding out; I also have factors that could be considered interference (I had cancer and was treated with a brutal intensity, slept for like 6 months then--that non-movement is devastating to your brain/mind; have slept a lot since for various other sicknesses/depressions...had perhaps a year of not getting sleep of any real quality and then a lot of trouble nights after...). What I notice is that the TV-reared children are often the children with AD[H]D; you can substitute all kinds of things in for "TV", but the basic point is that unparented children who don't have basic educational (i.e. disciplines practiced for cultivating a little person/life/lifestyle/competencies) and social upbringing that one would expect competent and care-full (I mean more than well-intentioned/meaning) parents and overseers of children to provide end-up rather messed up in the mind: socially, biologically, mentally, in neuroanatomy...and that's not surprising. We shouldn't forget that about the whole brain-mind connection and that factors which cultivate (or badly cultivate) the substrate (brain) have consequences for mind (therefore, behavior and thought). The drugs can actually be quite helpful, just as making space for such individuals to operate differently can be helpful (in my case, letting me be obsessive about a few things until I've wholly digested some material is the way to go...something unfortunately life rarely permits), but I am not surprised to hear that American children are diagnosed more often...diagnosing a kid (legitimately) should be reason for figuring out what kind of parenting is being done, if mom works, or if she actually gives attention to the kids when at home: we all know there are plenty who watch t.v. instead. But also with caution: it can be a medical issue with a medical cause and with medical (among other) solution.

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