Last week, I wrote that CCEF is interested in benefitting from careful and modest science[i] concerning human behavior. When we find reliable observations, we then use Scripture as our interpretative lens to understand them as part of a larger reality. This, I suggested, does not diminish the value of the science but instead places it in a richer and more meaningful context.
Now I’m going to show you what I mean.
Here are some secular observations about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children:
· Attention is a complex phenomenon that can be affected by a number of things such as interest, sleep and nutrition.
· The inner world of ADHD is hard to understand, but some have suggested that it is more random attention than a deficit in attention. For example, ADHD thinking has been called lily-pad thinking because it seems to jump from one thing to another without a clear plan.
· Many parents speak highly about the usefulness of medication. These parents are not trained scientists, but they are usually careful students of their children.
· Children develop a tolerance to ADHD medication.
· Medication does not treat a known chemical imbalance in a child’s brain. This does not have to sway a person’s decision for or against medication.
· Using traditional academic measures, there is no clear evidence that medication helps over a period of years. Children with similar symptoms, who are not medicated, tend to do just as well in their academic achievement as those who are medicated. There are, however, particular cases in which medication seemed to significantly aid academic achievement.
· If you decide to use medication, do not use medication alone. There are many non-medical suggestions for parents in good books and on the internet. Your child will likely find some of them useful. One of the recurring suggestions is structure, structure, structure! A child who fits the description of ADHD will do better in a predictable environment with clear expectations.
These are helpful observations but now the real fun begins. With our spiritual lenses we can see even more as we place these observations into a much richer context.
· Wisdom: Many of our daily decisions are moral ones but there are also decisions that are not essentially right or wrong, though Scripture’s wisdom still guides us. For example, a decision to embezzle money is a moral one but a decision about how much money to save or give away is not; it is a matter of personal wisdom. In the same way, decisions about medication are not right or wrong; instead, medication might be wise for some children and unwise for others. This should take some of the pressure off parents.
· Patience: Scripture distinguishes between our moral condition and our strengths and weaknesses. The first is an expression of our heart, but the latter reflects the working of our brain. When you study your child, keep these distinctions in mind. The more you understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses, the more patient you become.
· Look for the good: The New Testament letters usually begin with those things that are good in other people. With this in mind, your parental aim is to focus on a child’s strengths more than weaknesses—on Christ-likeness more than sins. What does the child do well? Look for the good. This is part of your larger parental strategy of encouraging your child.
· Identity in Christ: Scripture indicates that as children of God we are saints, sufferers and sinners. Children with ADHD-like symptoms will feel different from other children. This creates opportunities to discuss the identity that all of us share as Christians.
· Know your child: Scripture reveals that there is always more to know about God. In a similar way, we should expect that we will always be able to know more about his children. Keep studying your child.
· Discipleship: This is the most important gift you can give someone who fits the criteria for ADHD. Read through Proverbs and notice how the contrast to ADHD-like behavior is wisdom. Wisdom is available to all of us, but we expect it to come gradually, one small step then another.
There is certainly much more than can be said; this is just a brief example.
CCEF is enthusiastic about careful observations, no matter who makes them. Our distinctive is that we want to bring Scripture’s interpretive lenses to everything in such a way that everything changes from black-and-white to Technicolor.