Jim Daly Christian Blog and Commentary

Should 2-Year-Olds Be Given Medication for ADHD?

  • Jim Daly Jim Daly is president and chief executive officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive.
  • 2014 May 30

It’s an unsettling trend that’s quickly gaining speed: toddlers are increasingly being prescribed drugs for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

A recent article from the Today Show cites the number of U.S. 2- and 3-year olds receiving the medication at 10,000.

Are these drugs necessary?

Let’s be honest: toddlers can be a rowdy bunch. It’s not easy to parent during these years and keep up with the constant running, screaming, climbing, and curiosity that’s characteristic of this age.

But when you think about it, toddlers are active because it’s their “job” to play.

That constant stream of energy and inquisitive nature is what’s fueling their physical and cognitive development.

The flip side is that, as parents, it’s our job to teach our 18 to 36-month old how to behave. It’s our responsibility to nurture and bridle their energies for good! Admittedly, this can be an uphill battle, and so the temptation to seek relief in the form of a medication is understandable. Even the best parents will inevitably face days that seem overwhelming. Even the calmest toddler may one day throw a sudden tantrum at the grocery store.

Children need many things, but especially our guidance, our love and our grace.

Consider alternatives to medication

If your toddler is particularly unruly or difficult to control, Focus’ counseling department recommends trying a diversity of other methods to help manage his or her behavior before considering the medications that often accompany a diagnosis of ADHD.

One reason to consider treatment alternatives is because Adderall, one of the common drugs given to children with ADHD, is a very potent drug. It consists of three amphetamine salts together in one medicine. In some children, that cocktail can incite aggressive and sometimes explosive behaviors that might result in even more medications being prescribed.

Some of the alternative suggestions to ADHD medications from our counselors include:

  • Dietary changes, such as limiting sugar intake
  • Parenting modifications, like instituting consistent and clear boundaries for the toddler and enforcing rules
  • Ensuring the child is getting enough sleep and isn’t over-tired
  • Closely regulating digital stimulation – too much video/TV/computer time can result in a too active toddler
  • Making sure the toddler has enough play time to expend extra energy

Focus’s resources for parents of toddlers

We’re here to help you along your journey with a variety of resources:

  • Our website has a section on toddlerhood you may want to check out that covers topics like potty training, bedtime, misbehavior and sexual discovery. There are also other articles in our parenting section that will apply to this season of life.
  • Our broadcast “Real-World Advice of Parenting Toddlers” might be an encouraging one to listen to. It will help you find the right balance of independent development, control and discipline with your child.
  • Both Thriving Family magazine and ThrivingFamily.com are designed to help families thrive in Christ. Every issue of Thriving Family provides parents with age-specific advice. You can subscribe to Thriving Family via a donation of any amount or download the free magazine app.
  • Speak to one of our family help specialists by calling us at 1-800-A-FAMILY or emailing us at help@focusonthefamily.com.
  • You can coordinate to speak with one of our licensed counselors by calling us at 1-855-771-HELP (4357). Counselors are available Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. MT (due to high call volume, it might be necessary for you to leave your name and number for a counselor to return your call).

But let me ask you: Do you think naturally active children are being unnecessarily medicated for ADHD?

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Focus on the Family has helped 560,000 parents manage a significant family crisis within the last year alone. Partner with our ministry and join Friends of the Family to help us ensure that families have access to Christian counsel and Bible-based resources year-round.

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