An editorial in the Washington Post about overmedicating children reminds me of a documentary I saw a decade or so ago.
But setting aside the children with legitimate mental illnesses who must have psychiatric medications to function normally, much of the increase in prescribing such medications to kids is due to the widespread use of psychiatric diagnoses to explain away the results of poor parenting practices. According to psychiatrist Jennifer Harris, quoted in the January/February issue of Psychotherapy Networker, "Many clinicians find it easier to tell parents their child has a brain-based disorder than to suggest parenting changes."The documentary was about a "difficult child" whose parents had agreed to have hidden cameras placed in their house such that their interaction with their child could be monitored. I believe that the parents were also being given some coaching on how to be better parents, but in the scene I recall none of those lessons had held - a rather atrocious two-on-one verbal bullying of the child resulted in an outburst of bad behavior by the child. The voiceover then explained, rather than how bad parenting can trigger bad behavior, that it's "hard to be a parent for a difficult child". (I think it's probably harder to be the child of difficult parents.)
Parents need to be more careful with whom they entrust their child's mental health care. Doctors need to take the time to understand their pediatric patients better and have the courage to deliver the bad news that sometimes a child's disruptive, aggressive and defiant behavior is due to poor parenting, not to a chemical imbalance such as bipolar disorder or ADHD.Sure, but as the author previously indicated, many parents will respond to such news by getting the "help they want" somewhere else - that is, a doctor or counselor who will blame the kid and, increasingly, recommend medication.