A client brings me a video of a school play where a hyperactive kid rocks back and forth, fidgets and dances around. It is hysterical, but I understand painful as a parent to watch. Unlike other kids her age, the little girl knows her lines and her part. During the big scenes, the child is front and center. She lights up the stage and she has charisma. She twists her hair and rocks on her heels, but she also talks at age six with a British accent and steals the show.
Her mother even after watching this with me is so frustrated. She feels her daughter “won’t act normal”. I have heard this story many times. The kid who does not stand in line. The parents who wonder why a child who cannot self-regulate and touches other kids in the hallway or whose behavior is “too much”. My client with the video tape fears labels.
I hear this a lot. She does not want the ADHD label because of the stigma. I do get that, but I will admit to you – there is always a label.
These kids are often characterized as difficult or disruptive. Other parents offer unhelpful and unwarranted advice, many times unfairly judging the behavior as if the child is trying to be this way, but there is always a label. When a kid is placed in the hallway or has to go to the principal every day, there is a label. When they are reprimanded time and time again until they see no point in trying – they have a label, and it’s not good.
I wish there were no labels. In the land of unicorns and fairies, there would not be. The fact is that other parents, educators, and communities label children who struggle with behavior. Often the label is to “type” the kid as a class clown, odd, out of control, or worse.
People resist diagnoses and labels, but sometimes we need to reframe our thoughts. If the label says that the kid is not willfully being difficult, that he is doing his best but that he cannot boss his body. Then isn’t that a better way to think of someone than to think of them as difficult or challenging?