Book Review – Pills Are Not Fro Preschoolers

I was so excited to be asked to participate in another TLC Book Tour; this time for Pills Are Not For Preschoolers by Marilyn Wedge. Wedge advocates family therapy and “a drug-free approach for troubled kids”.

I’m all for therapy, and drug-free? Sounds ideal, but since I’m not one to drink the proverbial “kool-aid” without doing my reading I dove into the book…and then I stopped. At page 8. For a couple of weeks. Let me explain.

Early in the introduction Wedge’s states

“Certainly some children are more active and impulsive than others and some are exceptionally irritable and moody. But to posit that a child can have bipolar disorder from the minute he is born – as some psychiatrists have claimed – is to ignore entirely the influence of the child’s family environment.”

Just as someone who has a family history of heart disease needs to be aware of their diet and life style I believe people who deal with mental health issues have a biological and genetic predisposition to those issues. I also agree that family plays a big roll in how those issues, and the individual, develop. I truly believe if the kids’ dad had been more stable, and I had been better equipped to deal with my underlying issues, I believe the kids issues may have been able to be dealt with without the use of meds. However, life being what it is, meds have been a saving grace for the Madhouse.

I continued reading and two pages later (page 8) was completely turned off. Wedge begins to describe the positive outcomes of several of her clients. She described a young boy in Australia who was diagnosed with depression and school phobia. Wedge explains how she aided the family by stating, “I succeeded in resolving long-distance just by giving his parents a simple list of directives.” Whoa, back the bus up – “I succeeded” – you succeeded? all by yourself? the parents did nothing? There was no work on the child’s part? I had to put the book down. I was actually seething (my regular readers will know I’ve been struggling with mood swings since weaning off my own meds so it showed great amounts of control that I didn’t chuck the book across the room, but I’m too much of a “book nazi” to do that). At this point in time I was flabbergasted that a therapist would claim so much credit in a client’s achievement. In my experience with counseling, the therapist acts as a guide, while the client does the hard work. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this book anymore.

Being committed to this book review though I resolved to read it. I picked it back up a few days ago and I am glad I did. Although I continued to struggle with some of Wedge’s choice of wording I did learn more about the “family therapy” approach to counseling. Wedge describes family therapy as “a holistic and humanistic approach to treatment that frames a child’s problem in the wider context of  the family“. I recognized some of the strategies Wedge described as tools the kids’ counselors, and my own therapist, have introduced to our family including worry journals, positive self talk, positive reinforcement and the need for parents to remain in an Alpha or hierarchical role in the family unit. All of which have had wonderful, and positive, lasting effects in The Madhouse.

In chapter one Wedge spends some time describing pharmaceutical advertising and its affects on how the general public views “troubled children”. I was very frustrated while reading this part as I had no idea what she was talking about. I did a little research and found this on Wikipedia (which really cleared up the “why don’t I know what advertisements she’s talking about?” issue I was having) –

Canada‘s limitations on pharmaceutical advertising ensure that commercials that mention the name of a product cannot in any way describe what it does. Commercials that mention a medical problem cannot also mention the name of the product for sale; at most, they can direct the viewer to a website or telephone number operated by the pharmaceutical company.”

I didn’t understand her description of “the drug industry’s robust consumer advertising” because as a Canadian I am only exposed to it when I watch American advertisements (which is rare since the CTRC has regulations around that) and reading American magazines. I must admit when I do leaf through my monthly issue of  Martha Stewart (my guilty pleasure) I usually just skip past the 2 to 3 page drug advertisements without investing any time actually reading them.

Wedge dedicates a chapter to what she describes as Metaphor. Wedge writes

A family therapist must move smoothly between levels of meaning in the family, and it is metaphor that allows us to do this. It transports us from the plane of the individual symptom to the level of the deeper problem in the family system.”

She describes how children will often display the symptoms of the parent they identify with – the one they are most worried about. I know this is true. I have witnessed it many times in my own home. When Rian was about 4-years-old she complained of her hands hurting “like Grammie’s” (my mother has Rheumatoid Arthritis and it is most noticeable in her hands). I took her to the doctor, had blood work done and was assured that Rian did not have RA. Both kids, in the last couple of years, have complained of headaches, dizziness and memory loss (all symptoms I’ve been dealing with during my health crisis). Lesson here is – don’t think they don’t notice the problems, folks, because they do and they internalize them.

There are several interesting cases Wedge describes throughout the book. She describes in detail how she aided the families and often spent a great deal of time working with the parents on their marital issues. By working on the issues in the parents’ marriage the families were able to recreate a solid foundation and, in many cases, “resolve” the child’s problems as well. Although I found these cases interesting I would have been more interested in reading about how the families implemented these changes. Of course, I’m a parent, not a therapist.

There were a number of strategies that Wedge writes about that I will be introducing into the Madhouse (or reinforcing their use as the case may be), including:

  • only positive talk about my own life around the kids; Wedge (and many counselors that I’ve dealt with) point out that children feel insecure when their parent(s) talk about their own life in negative terms
  • to not discuss my health or money trouble in front of the kids (which I try not to do anyway), not even on the phone to my friends when I’m in another room away from the kids (I have to admit this is going to be hard, but the Madhouse is a small bungalow so it makes sense that they would hear some of the talk anyway)
  • to say only positive things about the other parent (ok, epic fail on that one recently, see It’s All Fun and Games at the Madhouse, but I’ve been much better since)
  • for parents to NOT argue within earshot of their children, EVER (I’ll remember this tactic if I ever get remarried)

Wedge also recommends a couple of interesting family techniques and I love these creative solutions:

  • one “old school” – to play board games with your kids; Wedge writes “board games and card playing…(provide an) intimate contact with parents”
  • when siblings are fighting and claiming that the other one “started it” the parent is to step in and say “No, I started it”. Wedge writes, “This is so surprising to kids that it can stop them in their tracks.” (sneaky, I like it)
  • when siblings are fighting, for the parent to challenge the children to a “water duel” (with plant sprayers, not nearly as exciting as Nerf Super Soakers, but practical). “This cuts the tension and brings humour into a strained situation”, advises Wedge.

In conclusion, Wedge recommends some wonderful and creative strategies for families who are struggling. Would I recommend this book to everyone I meet? Probably not. Especially not to parents. Not because I don’t think the strategies are helpful, but I know some people, like myself, who will be turned off by, or drown, in the “kool-aid”. However, I would highly recommend this book to any professional (counselors, therapists, teachers, etc.) who work with “troubled children” and their families. Some of these techniques, if used properly, could make a huge difference for a hurting family.

Tour Stops for Pills Are Not for Preschoolers

Monday, August 27th: There’s a Book

Tuesday, August 28th: Just Joanna

Wednesday, Augut 29th: Family Volley

Thursday, August 30th: Attention Deficit Whatever

Friday, August 31st: Two Bears Farm and the Three Cubs

Tuesday, September 4th: Family Dysfunction and Mental Health Blog

Wednesday, September 5th: Earnest Parenting

Friday, September 7th: Here’s to Not Catching Our Hair on Fire

Tuesday, September 18th: Surviving the Madhouse

Friday, September 21st: Misbehavin’ Librarian

Tuesday, September 25th: Family Dysfunction and Mental Health Blog – guest post

Date TBD: Buried in Print

TBD: Gone Bookserk

About the Author

Author biography from TLC Book Tours

Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D., is a family therapist in Westlake Village, California, with twenty years of experience helping parents find safe, drug-free solutions for troubled children and teens. She is the originator of “Strategic Child-Focused Family Therapy,” and the author of the book Pills are Not For Preschoolers: A Drug-free Approach for Troubled Kids. She has blogs on The Huffington Post and Psychology Today, and her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal,BabbleNatural Health Magazine and People Magazine.  Marilyn has a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and had a post-doctoral fellowship at the Hastings Center for Bioethics. She has taught at The College of the Art Institute of Chicago and The California State University, East Bay. Marilyn lives in Oak Park, California with her husband Gene. They have three grown children and two grandchildren.

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About Holly

I hope you're able to glean something from this blog, a nugget of wisdom, a new perspective, a smile or even a laugh. I enjoy getting feedback so please comment, share your story with me too. After all, we're here to help each other.
This entry was posted in ADHD, book review, children's mental health, coping strategies, parenting and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Book Review – Pills Are Not Fro Preschoolers

  1. diane white says:

    Holly – I’m so glad you got through this book. Sounds like you have analyzed it bang on and, from your comments, agree that some therapists (but not many parents) could definitely garner some strategies from the book.
    I definitely agree with the quotes regarding talking positively about self/partner/financial situation, however I do not agree with the sentiment of never, ever arguing in front of children. Children argue – with their peers, with their siblings and with their parents. How can they ever learn that this is normal and how to resolve an argument in a positive way? I do believe that some parents need some therapy/reinforcement in arguing “fairly”. That, in my opinion, is a very valuable lesson to teach children. Humans are passionate; they should be encouraged to positively express their point of view, argue the points and resolve any arising conflict.
    My mother always told me that she didn’t know what to do the first time in her married life that she and my dad argued. This was because her parents never ever argued in front of her and her siblings, so she did not know that fair arguing was normal and ok. Kids need to be ale to witness a heated discussion (and again, I do emphasize – fairly!!) then how the issue at hand is resolved by two people who love and respect each other – all arguing between people should not be viewed as negative! Remember, though, I do admit that alot of adults could benefit more from resoluion therapy – far better than pretending to our children that arguing just doesn’t exist.
    ok – off my soapbox – just my opinion!!

    • Holly says:

      I agree with you. Although, having yet to experience a “fair argument” with a partner, I’ll have to take your word for it that they can be had. There is some great stuff in the book, but like all “therapeutic” style reading – you might not want to drink the “kool-aid”. 😉 Thanks for commenting.

  2. I’m really impressed that you picked up this book again after having had such strong negative reactions to it early on, and I’m even more impressed (and pleased) that you ended up finding some things of value in it. Thanks so much for committing to read this book and for sharing your thoughts on it for the tour!

    • Holly says:

      Thanks so much, Heather, for commenting! I believe there is some wisdom to be gained from almost everything – especially something that seems negative.
      I love being part of TLC Book Tours and am looking forward to participating in another tour in near future.

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Holly, and for continuing to read the book. I really like the strategies you outlined, and I truly need to work more on keeping my negative comments about things that happen “to me” at bay. Just the other night, we got home at our usual late hour of 6:15PM after school/work, and my male dog had been sick all over the house. It was literally a complete and total nightmare to clean up, and all along the way I grumbled…”Just what I need! Geez, thanks, dog! If only I could have one evening where everything went right!” Maycee was already upset because she had lost her brand new jacket (that didn’t help my attitude, either), and with both of us frustrated, my comments only made it worse. So much to learn as a parent…but everything we share along the way helps. I really appreciate all of the research you put into things that I know I would never get a chance to read or find out! XOXO-SWM

    • Holly says:

      Sounds like a right crappy day, alright. I can’t blame you for being upset. It’s hard having to be “on” all the time. I’m fortunate that my kids are that much older that I can now hide in my room or go for a walk or a drive, by myself, to help alleviate the doldrums.
      Thanks so much for your encouragement. Some of the techniques she wrote about are very helpful. If you have any questions about any of them, don’t hesitate to ask, I’ll look it up for you!! Big hugs – Holly

  4. Pingback: Pill-Popping Preschoolers: No Epidemic Required « Buried In Print

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