ADD: Just An Excuse For Bad Behavior, Perry Suggests


Whether you call ADD  a “disorder or a ‘paddleable offense,’ ” we’re making too many excuses for children’s problems today, Texas Governor Rick Perry wrote in his 2008 bookOn My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For. His statement is a throwback to a less well-informed, less compassionate era when children who were hyperactive and struggled to focus in school were not said to have disabilities like ADD and ADHD, but were thought to be just plain bad.

Nearly 1 in 10 children today are diagnosed with ADHD according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease and Control. Many children take medication to address symptoms including difficulty concentrating and impulsivity. Many parents are concerned that children with ADHD and ADD are overmedicated. But Perry’s suggestion that children just need more discipline and “tough love” overlooks the fundamental challenges of having ADHD and ADD.

In his book, the presidential candidate self-diagnoses himself with “severe Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).” His suggestions for addressing the challenges of ADD are, first of all, the rigors of scouting:

“Some young boys—especially those with severe Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), as I must have had as a boy—have never focused on something for more than a few minutes until they tried to build their first fire on a camp-out or learned to tie a bowline knot with a double half-hitch knot on the opposite end of a thirty-foot rope,” Perry wrote. “Others have never been asked to do a project that takes more than a few hours or a few minutes to complete. If they have, they probably walked away from it without any consequences. Boy Scouts helps cure this form of restlessness. The combination of difficult tasks and harmless competition can ignite in a young boy the characteristic of perseverance that has never been seen in them before.”

A recent study has indeed found that regular “green time” — playing in “green,” outdoor settings — is linked to milder ADHD symptoms; scouting could be seen as having some similarities to “green time”:

The researchers … found that children who were high in hyperactivity (diagnosed with ADHD rather than ADD) tended to have milder symptoms if they regularly played in a green and open environment (such as a soccer field or expansive lawn) rather than in a green space with lots of trees or an indoor or built outdoor setting.

Perry suggests that people today just need to be tougher on kids who receive diagnoses of ADD and ADHD. These are considered  neurological disorders today; Perry refers back to a bygone, certainly harsher era in noting that ADD has been called a  “‘paddleable offense.’”As Perry wrote:

We have a drug for every problem and a diagnosis for every psychosis. We don’t have children with ‘ants in their pants’; we have children with ‘attention deficit disorder.’ That is not to minimalize such conditions. Lord knows, whether you call it a disorder or a “paddleable offense,” I had it as a kid. The point is, we defend today behavior we wouldn’t tolerate in past years, and we treat with drugs today behavior we would attempt to fix through either discipline or love in the past. Don’t take my statement too far: some drugs are a godsend for conditions we never treated right before they were available. But some kids don’t need coddling or drug therapy; they need attention and tough love.

Perry makes a familiar argument here: Instead of saying children today are “bad,” we say they have some psychological diagnosis or learning disability. Instead of “fixing” those behaviors with “discipline or love” — “tough love,” that is — we medicate children with “drug therapy” and even “coddle” them.

A few years ago, comedian Dennis Leary said something similar, that autism was a “joke” and that the reason so many children are being diagnosed with autism is because their “inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can’t compete academically” — because of bad parenting.

Leary was roundly rebuked by parents, teachers and therapists of autistic children and Perry should be too.  Perry’s statements suggest that ADD and ADHD are just today’s way of talking about “kids who are bad”; about children who, in the past, might indeed have had a paddle or other form of corporal punishment used against them. ADD and ADHD are real neurological disorders that can make school and life really, really tough for those who have them — if Perry indeed had ADD as a child, he should know.

Related Care2 Coverage

Nearly 1 in 10 Children Now Diagnose With ADHD

Are Sports the New Prescription for Kids with ADHD?

3 Harvard Psychiatrists Disciplined Over Drug Company Ties


Photo by Gage Skidmore

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K B.
K B.1 years ago

Adhd is certainly not a paddlable offence and children who are diagnosed with it need to be managed and nurtured becuase children with adhd are intelligent, sensitive and do not fit into the normal child 'box' . These children think for themselves and have a different way of learning , which precludes copying notes and memorizing them, they lern by their own observation. Now why hasn't the school system capitalized on this and why do they insist on having everything done the way that They want , is not understandable. Unfortunately since the education ad school system is managed by people who haven't the slightest idea on 'Adhd' children , or rather highly sensitive children, then , they will not see that what simply need to be done is the acceptance of these children and the full cooperation of teachers and parents so htat this child reaches his full potential . A little bit of receptiveness from the teachers goes a long way . Picky , unemotional, teaching for the sake of teaching won't work. It would also help if they have a counselor and a person who understands Adhd behavior, so that they may be calm and resolve the situation without any clashing and hurt to the student ,, Think 'self esteem' and 'psychological well being'
- or type ' adhd ' in search

Ann Fuller
Ann Fuller3 years ago

A good nutritional breakfast and NO TV/wii etc before school is a good start

Thomas A.
Thomas A.4 years ago

Nicky M - the reason why you don't hear about AD/HD two generations ago is because it wasn't recognized then. When you review the history of how children are treated, in this country as well as elsewhere, it is truly horrifying. I can't adequately describe it in this space. Kids were just beaten if they were "out-of-line". In many fundamental Protestant communities where my family grew up, they honestly believed that they were beating the devil out of their kids.

It first started as "minimally disfunctional disorder" or something like that (go look it up) in the mid 20th century, and then it later became ADD and then, more recently, AD/HD. Like most medical ailments, the technology just didn't exist to understand what was wrong with them, whether mentally or physically. It was only within the last two generations that the brutal practice of electroshock therapy was stopped in this country.

It is not accurate to compare the medical past with the medical present. Yes, prescription drugs are out-of-hand across the board, and I would not be surprised if AD/HD is being excessively diagnosed. However, there is a genuine frontal-lobe glitch called AD/HD. It is objectively discoverable with proven tests and is a daily struggle to live with, just like any other genuine disorder. Being diagnosed with it last year, it has really opened my eyes and set me free.

-- -.4 years ago



the mother, as so many women have to go out to work. I'm sorry I lost the last part of my comment, as I rambled on too long.but one point I was trying to make was that children are basically the same as they have alwasy been and two generations ago you virutally ever saw children with this problem... That really shows me that you have to be very careful not to medicate a child who may very well be able to learn more appropriate behaviour when they get a bit older and they get busy on some absorbing venture which doesn't involve sitting in school all day being totally bored! I was so pleased to see that many teachers are trying to make learning so much more interesting now, so that children who are not used to being highly disciplined can be allowed to act out their impulsive behaviour without disrupting others to much!


I am afraid that there are many cases of children who are mis-diagonsed as having ADHD.Most doctors are just to busy to do anything but post drugs down patients, as an easy fix, because.. well.. they are there and it is the easy way out.... I have spent years working with children in one way or another and there are just so many instances where children that have been diagnosed with ADHD purely need 'THE NANNY!!!' There are MANY stories that I could tell you of children that would illustrate what I am saying... Let me see... One example... One little boy of two that I knew.. diagnosed with ADHD .... A VERY hard child to be around! The doctor recommended drugs, but the mother would was against the idea.One year after the parents split up due to a really disfunctional marriage and the mother went to live in another town and start a new life, I was amazed, when visiting him for the first time in that year that he had turned into the most delightful little boy... . Active, but happy and totally normal. I have often dealt with children who nowadays would be on drugs, but they were lucky enough to be in a situation where they were NOT diagnosed as having ADHD and their behaviour later on in life was totally normal... Many children who are -overstimulated constantly and allowed to exhibit any old behaviour without any guidance as to the fact that they MUST learn to delay their impulsive actions and with our modern day frenetic way of life and without that 'one-to-one care' from

Rosemary Graf
Rosemary Graf4 years ago

Texas is a state that allows their political people back the most uninformed issues. Than force them to defend theses isues,

Debra K.
Debra K.4 years ago

And I thought dub yuh was a fool!

Hilary E.
Hilary E.4 years ago

More like an excuse for bad parenting. When he was growing up cruelty was the preferred method of parents to keep their children in line. Now that we live in a society where that is politically incorrect parents struggle to raise their children in an open loving way because they weren't raised that way. If you stick your kid in front of a tv all day they won't be able to focus on anything. Its common sense. When my first grade teacher suggested add drugs for me my mother came and spent and entire day in class with me. She informed her that her class was extremely boring for a grown woman to sit through, much less a bunch of 6 year olds. I was transferred to a different class with a teacher that was still semi in touch with what it feels like to be a child and I did just fine.

SeattleAnn S.
Ann S.4 years ago

I have to agree with Perry on this one point that kids are overly diagnosed with ADHD and ADD and over-medicated b/c many parents don't have the time or energy to "deal" with their children anymore. In which case, they should not be having them. On the other side, this is unfortunate for those who truly do have it and need treatment or special care. Tough love does not necessarily mean that children need to be spanked - there are other ways of just telling them no and being firm.