ADHD in Toddlers

Toddlers and ADHD Medication

May 22, 2014


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common behavioral disorder of childhood, yet experts are worried by statistics that show very young kids are now getting powerful medications to treat the problem.

Some 10,000 toddlers across the U.S. are being diagnosed as hyperactive and receiving drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced in a new report. The 2- and 3-year-olds — especially those whose families who are on Medicaid —are getting the drugs even though the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t even have guidelines for ADHD in children under 4.

“We’re giving Adderall to 2-year-olds? I mean, that’s nuts,” said Dr. Lawrence H. Diller, a behavioral pediatrician.

“There’s no evidence that it works. There’s no evidence that it’s safe. These are desperate measures.”

An excerpt from

Before I say a word, I do want you to know that I understand that parenting a toddler is at times tiring, exasperating, and frustrating.

Little ones have big energy.  But that’s normal.  Their little bodies and minds are growing and often at odd times.  What does that mean? It means that their curiosity may be exploding and driving impulses, but their self-control is just forming and hardly up to the task of limiting their impulsiveness.  When you add curiosity to impulse to endless energy and motor skill that grow before your eyes, you get a whirling dervish!

They want  to go, go, go all of the time.  And at this point in their development that’s normal.   And for the tired moms out there who are right in the middle of raising toddlers, I want to reassure you that this is a season.  It doesn’t last forever.

But you do need a plan to get through the high energy toddler years and if your child is more active than most you need a plan forever.  I have kids like this and it does require commitment on your part–a commitment to wear your child out.  For me that meant a lot of trips to the pool, the park, walks (no strollers) around the block, dancing in the rain, etc, etc–every day.  I would take my kids for a walk before any birthday party or car trip.  Exciting opportunities like birthday parties and trips required extra exercise.  One of my children never out grew his energy and had to run 5 miles ever day before school.  If he didn’t he would make some kind of impulsive mistake at school and would often be crushed by the consequences because he really didn’t mean to do it.

I learned so much about managing children from my mother. She employed many resourceful tactics to keep my energy under control. For example, every year on Halloween before I could go trick or treating I had to rake all the leaves in the yard.  Not because she needed it done that day but because I was driving her crazy and needed to be outside.  Something about the space of outside calms a child.

I believe that one of the reasons more and more children are being medicated is because they just don’t get outside enough to explore or touch or run.  They just watch a screen a lot–no moving, touching, smelling, wondering.  I would go a little crazy too.

I hope you will share below what you do to calm or to expend your child’s energy.  I think if we all share ideas we may be able to avoid medicating little ones that need more time to develop.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  • Vintage Mom

    What an insightful article. This rings true for teenagers too! Thanks for your encouragement

  • B nadeau

    Great insight! My son rides his bike too and from school every day. I also have an envelope with “calm down” cards, if he’s wound up, or making poor choices he picks one. It includes things like 50 jumping jacks, 20 push ups, run around the outside of the house 5 times. Working his muscles wears him out and calms him down.

  • Jo Ott

    Like you said, the majority of them are Medicaid paid. It is VERY likely that the children are THANKFULLY not receiving those meds due to a majority of that group of consumers are either selling it or taking it themselves. Those doctors are the ones that need to be brought to justice. I will share this on my website. Thank you for sharing.

  • Meluwo

    Our boys are 6 and 8 and there are some days that no matter what I do, they STILL have energy. So we would have them run laps around the house. Now that they’re used to it, they’ll do it themselves! We came home from a birthday party the other day and my younger one said, “Mom, I’m going to do 5 laps and then I’ll come in for supper.” Since they’ve been 4 and 6, we hit every park in our city at least once during the summer (that’s around 25 parks…) Winter is harder though…