I was cleaning out my office the other day when I found the purple notebook beneath a pile of papers. My heart skipped a beat as I remembered the time when that notebook was a daily part of my life.
When my son, Jake, now seven, started preschool, problems started along with him. I got daily phone calls reporting his bad behavior. Invitations to other kids' birthday parties routinely "got lost in the mail," and no one, it seemed, was ever available for a play date.
At first, I blamed everyone else. The teachers were incompetent, the mothers cliquey. Sometimes, of course, mail really does get lost. But in my heart, I knew there was something else to it. So I bought the purple notebook and began to keep a daily record of Jake's behavior. My goal was to figure out if certain times of the day or certain situations made it worse.
Waiting and writing
I had a lot to write about. I spent each day waiting for the latest incident to be reported, and then I wrote it down: Jake hit someone on the playground. Jake wouldn't share. Jake refused to listen to instructions. Each time the phone rang, my heart would start to pound.
My husband and I tried every discipline strategy we came across. When nothing seemed to work, we started blaming each other. The atmosphere at home became increasingly tense as we waited to see what Jake would do next — and argued over how to handle the situation. As he got bigger and stronger, it became impossible simply to remove him from a situation and re-direct him. My daughter's friends were scared to come over.
I quickly found out who my own "friends" were. One suggested that I lock Jake in his room and let him out only for 15 minutes at a time. If he behaved, I was to let him out for another 15. Jail my four-year-old? I didn't think so. Other friends stopped inviting us to their homes and including us in social plans.
Whenever the subject of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) came up, I discarded the notion. I convinced myself that Jake couldn’t have ADHD because he could focus and, at times, exhibit self-control. Of course, by this point he had developed quite a reputation; his social life was virtually nonexistent, and his sister's was ailing. Things were headed in the wrong direction. But if it wasn't ADHD, what the heck was it?
This article comes from the December 2006/January 2007 issue of ADDitude.