Dr Richard C Woolfson
Some seven-year olds are on the go the whole time. If yours is one of these, then you’d probably find yourself struggling to keep up his limitless energy and constant activity. Yet it’s hard to know if he is simply full of energy or if he is really hyperactive (or “hyper” as it is more widely described).
What is hyperactivity?
Also known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), this is a very challenging behaviour and different from an excess of energy. Here are some facts:
= A hyperactive child is usually a poor sleeper, and has been like this right from birth. In many instances, he is also a fussy eater.
= The mother of a hyperactive toddler is more likely to have had high blood pressure and bleeding during the pregnancy.
= Almost 25 per cent of parents who have a hyperactive child were themselves hyperactive when they were children.
If you have a hyperactive child (or just a highly active one), the difficulty you face is not only about matching your energy with his it’s the fact that he never sits still. His variable and short concentration span makes it challenging. And he stretches your patience to the limit at times.
What you can do
Whether your child aged seven or older is hyperactive, highly active or just energetic, consider the following suggestions:
= Clear rules Try to have clear ideas about what your child can and cannot do in the house. Explain these rules to him.
= Explicit punishments Warn your child of the punishment for breaking a particular rule, and carry it out as soon as he misbehaves.
= Avoid physical punishment Research clearly shows that smacking a hyperactive child has no positive effect – and may even make him aggressive.
= Reward for good behaviour Remember to praise your child when he does settle down during an activity, or when he sleeps through the night.
= Bedtime routine Even if he doesn’t sleep well, try to follow a regular routine anyway. Put him to bed at the same time each night.
= Diet Not everyone is convinced that a non-additive diet works, but it is worth a try if you are struggling to manage your very active child.