Think Twice Before You Give Your Toddler ADHD Medication!

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Developmental considerations

Toddlers don't know how to put on the brakes. At all. Impulsive behavior is the name of the game during the toddler years, and overall activity level is very high during this time period. Toddlers can be funny, loving, exciting, and full of hugs and kisses, but they can also be exhausting, impulsive, and highly energetic. For those of you quite certain that your toddler is incapable of listening, know this: you are not alone. Many toddlers struggle in the listening department—they are hardwired to act before they think.

It's important to consider developmental age and ability when thinking about things like hyperactivity. Many toddlers that present as hyperactive between the ages of 2-4 will be entirely different kids by ages 7-8. Channel every ounce of patience you have and focus on the positive.  

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Positive parent-child interactions work

There are a lot of things that don't work with toddlers, with yelling and sarcasm topping the list. But there are also a lot of things that work quite well.

Positive parent-child interaction doesn't mean meeting your child's needs with a smile on your face every time they express an emotion. Positive parent-child interaction means providing reasonable and developmentally appropriate structure and limits, remaining calm under pressure, and providing guidance to help kids learn and grow.

The fact is that toddlers tend to mimic the emotions of their parents; your stress becomes their stress. Your bad day becomes their bad day. While we all have bad moments and bad days sometimes, it's important to set the tone for the parent-child relationship. All kids are different. Some will present as more mellow, where others worry. Some love to follow rules, while others are constantly pushing the boundaries to see how far you will bend. Parent the child you have (based on personality) in a positive manner, and you will find that your interactions and daily living improve.

Good health helps

Many American children simply do not get enough sleep. Toddlers need 12-14 hours of sleep. Cutting naps short and having late nights can cause significant sleep disruption, and this can lead to behavioral changes in the child. Kids who lack sufficient sleep can have difficulty concentrating, contract medical problems, and display impulsive behaviors.

Focusing on the basics helps kids thrive. Consider diet and exercise. My daughter's food allergies forced me to read labels very carefully. I was alarmed to discover how many foods, even the ones you wouldn't guess, contain dyes and other unnecessary ingredients. For the record, dyes change her behavior in an instant.

Cutting back on added sugars and processed foods can be a good move for the whole family. Making sure your kids get enough fresh air and exercise/playtime also helps. Toddlers need to move! And don't skimp on sleep. A well-rested toddler is a toddler who is ready to face the day, all ups and downs included.

{ MORE: Unleash the ADHD: All the Great Ones Did It }

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Have you struggled with your toddler's behavior? What steps has your doctor suggested – if any – to help? 

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Think Twice Before You Give Your Toddler ADHD Medication!

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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