It seems that with every new year, a new set of “issues” or “disorders” get applied to children. With the introduction of the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, things are no different. A new introduction into the field of mental health is Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder. This new “condition” was introduced in the DSM-5 to address symptoms that had been previously labeled as “childhood bipolar disorder.”
Now, if we ignore the fact that diagnosing children with bipolar disorder has always been unethical based on code of ethics in the profession, that this diagnosis is completely subjective and the research at best sketchy regarding validity of such diagnostic pictures, and that the criteria for the new label, Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, is made of children who exhibit persistent irritability and frequent episodes of extreme, out of control behavior…….what are we left with, a tantrum? This is a concern of many in the field today and is shedding more light on issues surrounding diagnosis of mental health issues as a whole…..we have forgotten that Psychology is a pseudo-science.
This is also another example where we as a culture have turned to the mental health community to define what childhood is supposed to look like. While we could go on and on about the validity or lack of validity of such an approach, we really need to look at what all of this has done to the family. As the mental health community, one that I am a part of, has grown in number and popularity, the effect on the American family has been profound.
First of all, we have shifted the paradigm of how we look at children. Instead of realizing the need to understand what is normal and common among all children, we have come to where we look at children through the lens of what is uncommon or abnormal. Statistically, children are more normal than not, yet it is what we have decided is abnormal that drives so much of parenting advice from the mental health community today. Due to this, parenting has become a “reaction” to whatever is going on with our children.
A second issue is that the mental health profession does not identify what is healthy. Does that shock you? The entire profession is based on what it identifies as unhealthy, and yet there is no agreed upon standard of what “healthy” looks like. Truthfully, depending on which professional you ask, you will get wildly varying ideas about what a healthy child or family is. Without a reference point, how much confidence can we really have in the realm of treatment?
A third issue and one I believe that has been most damaging, is that the parent has been replaced by the “professional” as the expert on the family. Parents today have been led to believe that they do not know their children or what is best for their family. The “experts” have become the counselor, school system, or the government…….and yet none offer a coherent or consistent model of what a healthy child or family really is.
The result of this is that we have higher rates of mental health issues in children and families than we have ever had in history…..yet there are more “experts.” We have more children on psychiatric meds than in any other generation in history…..yet there are more “experts.” Shouldn’t the trend be going in the other direction?
If we are to rebuild the American family, we have to take parenting out of the hands of the “experts” and put it back in the hands of parents, healthy parents….and parents need to step up. To do that we have to reclaim what previous generations knew as a “healthy” child and family. We have to understand that parenting is not designed to be “reactive” but “proactive.” It is a process of impressing what is right, healthy, and wise into the lives of our children and training them to be mature and of good character……this has been lost. Our grandparents and great-grandparents would never have stood for what our culture encourages today.
A place to begin is by asking, what is the design of the family? What is its intended purpose? What is the design of Marriage? What is its intended purpose? What things in this culture actually support or distort this purpose and design (education, entertainment, athletics, etc.?)
Keith McCurdy works with children, families, and individuals in the Roanoke Valley and surrounding areas in hopes of helping to rebuild the American family. For more information and ideas, take a look at his new website and blog at theradicalparent.com.