Parenting with Pills: Tyler, Doug, Lynn

Pushing Pills?
Dr. Phil has advice for parents whose children have been diagnosed with ADD and ADHD.

Ten-year-old Tyler was diagnosed with ADHD three and a half years ago. Doug says Lynn is pushing pills instead of parenting, but Lynn argues that pills are the only way to control his behavior.

"I feel that Lynn uses it as a cop out where it makes Tyler easier to manage. When Tyler is on medication, he's not my Tyler," says Doug. "Whether he's rambunctious, obnoxious, whatever, that's my boy." He thinks Lynn is partially to blame for Tyler's behavior problems. "I could not ask for a better mother for my children. All she is is love, but I believe Lynn is more of the problem as far as her parenting, enforcing discipline and following through," he explains.

"Of all my children, Tyler is definitely the most difficult," Lynn says. "He is like a fast motor. He is impulsive. It's a constant battle. It is scary to me sometimes." She wants Tyler to do well in school, and worries that without medication he can't concentrate and gives up easily. Getting emotional she says, "Sometimes I feel like a failure as a parent with him ... It's very hard for me to even hug him anymore. I just want to always be able to hold him and tell him how much I love him, and I just can't anymore right now and I'm losing him."

Dr. Phil points out that Tyler only acts out of control with Lynn; he is much better behaved with Doug.

"Do you recognize that his behavioral problem is situation specific to you?" Dr. Phil asks Lynn. Questioning the ADHD diagnosis,

he pushes, "I'm just curious if you acknowledge the fact that it could be something else?"

Lynn reluctantly agrees. "I suppose it could," she replies. "I think it's still a struggle for Tyler to behave for [Doug], but because he's basically afraid of him, I think he does it."

"Would you consider it good news or bad news if in fact he didn't have a neurological condition, and it was all flowing from parenting?" Dr. Phil asks Lynn and Doug.

"That would be absolutely wonderful news," Lynn says. "Honestly, as much as I know it would hurt me to know I did something wrong here, to have my son not have a problem and have to take medication, is absolutely what I want."


Doug agrees.

Dr. Phil gives examples of some of the things that Lynn has said to Tyler. "You yell and scream at your son in frustration. You've said, 'If you don't want to be part of this family, there's the door.' He's been told he's a bad boy. You threaten to punish him

but you seldom do. You don't follow through consistently. You bribe him. You two fight in front of him about this." He asks Lynn and Doug, "Would it surprise you that those kinds of behaviors can also explain exactly the behavior that's being labeled as ADD or ADHD?"

They both shake their head no.

"Here's the thing that I'm concerned about," Dr. Phil tells them. "The only way you can know if he has a neurologically based disorder that we describe as ADD or ADHD, is if you have done either a spectrogram or an EEG to identify specific patterns in certain parts of his brain, and that has never been done with your son ... They have not checked the definitive test." Dr. Phil clarifies, "I don't know whether he has it or whether he doesn't, but I know some things we can do to shed some light on this and to control this either way."

Dr. Phil reveals his personal and professional bias about pills. "I think we overmedicate kids in this country unbelievably. I think there is this tendency for the medical community to use what tools they have."

Dr. Phil uses a graph to point out the side effects of taking the medication. "It's not that this is a magic solution to the problem," he tells them.

Dr. Phil introduces Dr. Frank Lawlis, Dr. Phil's mentor and author of The ADD Answer, a new book about alternative ways to treat ADD.


Dr. Lawlis reviewed Tyler's records and gives his thoughts as to whether Tyler truly has ADD or ADHD. "He has never been really examined in terms of the true tests that we use for determining ADHD," he says, explaining that a child's brain can be tested.

"Through the EEG you can determine the brain waves that are very much a pattern of ADHD or ADD, and you can also determine this by a spectrogram, which looks at the dynamics of the brain in terms of how it brings in glucose for example."

Dr. Phil tells continues, "Is it possible that this is all due to ADD or ADHD?
Absolutely. Your son may have it. It may be confirmed through the EEG and it may very well be the case," he says.

He reminds them that even if Tyler is officially diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, they still have a responsibility to change their parenting. "You don't have a unified front here. You don't have a plan that you guys can both be excited about," he says to them. "You've got to change the environment that he's being raised in. You've got to change the way you're reacting to the things he does when he's out of control. You've got to support one another and come up with a plan."
"The medications are only about 50 percent effective, and they are decreasing in effectiveness from the day you start taking them. It's not a long term solution anyway, and it boils down to the parenting," he reminds Lynn and Doug.

"It starts with you two coming together and saying, 'What we know we both want is the best for our son. We just need to negotiate a fact based plan that we can both get behind.'"

Pointing out that parents whose kids have ADD are three times more likely to divorce, Dr. Phil adds, "This can either bind you together or it can be a wedge that drives you apart, and you don't want that to happen."