Behavior & Discipline

Book Review: Parenting Children with ADHD: 10 Lessons That Medicine Cannot Teach

A practical and informative must-have for parents of children with ADHD.

by Vincent J. Monastra
American Psychological Association, $14.95
Purchase Parenting Children with ADHD

Will this book about parenting children with ADHD stand out from the pack? That was my question when I glanced at this book and then at the burgeoning collection on my shelf. Then I started reading and realized that, yes, it does indeed stand out. Vincent J. Monastra is a clinical psychologist who runs the FPI Attention Disorders Clinic in Endicott, New York. He uses the knowledge he’s gained from treating thousands of patients with ADHD and related learning and behavioral disorders to produce a practical and informative guide.

Near the beginning of the book, Monastra discusses the possibility that a child might not have ADHD. Having sketched out the criteria for a diagnosis of ADHD, he asks: “Do you know that symptoms of inattention are a characteristic of hypoglycemia? Of anemia? Of diabetes? Of thyroid disorder? Of sleep apnea? Of allergies?” He writes, “I have rarely encountered a patient who had been screened for these conditions prior to seeing me.” So that’s step one – make sure your child’s doctor rules out other medical conditions. If your child happens to be among the 4 percent of patients who have other medical causes for their ADHD-like symptoms, ADHD treatment won’t help.

Monastra’s discussion of nutrition was also enlightening. “In the thousands of kids I have treated,” he writes, “I have rarely met a child who ate a sufficient amount of protein at breakfast and lunch.” It’s the protein in our diet that manufactures the neurotransmitters that fire up our brains and help us pay attention. Keep a log of your child’s dietary intake for three days, he advises, so you see what is eaten when. And set the example by eating a nutritious breakfast yourself. A sound breakfast routine is as important as brushing one’s teeth or changing into clean clothes. Monastra provides a list of protein-rich foods kids might like, but advises parents to let their kids make the call. If your child wants to eat cold lasagna for breakfast, that’s fine.

In this book you’ll find helpful lists, charts, and “lesson plans” for use with your child at home. I found Monastra’s “Time Stands Still” strategy intriguing: “Until the child complies with the request, his or her life is on hold.” Your child isn’t grounded; rather, he/she can go out to play or visit a friend only after he/she accomplishes what you’ve said must be done. In the meantime, your child, like an airplane circling an airport, is in a holding pattern. “With Time Stands Still,” Monastra writes, “children effectively determine how long they will be denied the opportunity to do what they wanted to do.”

By the time I’d finished reading Parenting Children with ADHD, I’d picked up quite a few tips from the self-described “ADHD doc.” So will you.