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Dr. Steven Richfield provides articles on many different aspects of raising a child with ADHD.                                   

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Study on ADD and TV
The recent study published on watching television between the ages of one and three and the possible link to ADD/ADHD did not take many considerations into account. The author of the study even admits that he cannot conclude that television watching and ADD/ADHD are linked.

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Parent Coach Archives


The Parent Coach:  

Using Good Judgment Among Peers
Dr. Steven Richfield

A parent writes: “I’m having trouble understanding my 11 year old son. For the most part, he makes good decisions and doesn’t get into much trouble. The problem is  when he’s with other kids. Bad ideas come to mind that he would never do on his own but if friends are around, he acts on them. What’s going on and how do I help him use good judgment when  he’s with peers?

Of all the factors posing a challenge to a child’s rational decision making the presence of other children is among the most potent. There are many unpredictable forces at work within the context of children’s relationships. “Peer pressure” is the popular expression to explain the manner in which peer presence compels children to follow the bad examples of others, but this term only scratches the surface of a complex web of peer dynamics. The wish to gain admiration, demean another, retaliate against a perceived injustice, compete on the “risk-taking playing field,” or boldly violate parental rules,
are some of the hidden forces that may surface beyond parental control but in full view of peers.

Here are some suggestions for approaching a child with a tendency toward poor decision making in the presence of peers:


Be prepared to hear and delve deeper than the excuses. Perhaps most worrisome to parents is when a child commits one of these “peer-present” infractions and then excuses their behavior. “It was her idea... They did it, too” are familiar refrains that normally trigger the inane parental question, “If they told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?” Consider replacing that question with this one, “Let’s figure out what was really going on that led you to make that bad decision.” If your child offers a confused expression, ask them to tell you all they can remember about the situation in order for you to pursue whatever forces seemed to be operating in your child’s mind. Try to step into your child’s shoes as you listen to their recounting and ask leading questions such as, “Did you feel like you wanted to prove something to them?” or “Have you wanted to do that before but knew it was kind of risky?”


Educate them about how background feelings and perceptions can direct behaviors. Children are often unaware that the way we feel about and see others has a lot to do with how we behave in their presence. Give examples from your own life to illustrate the different feelings and views you would have if a variety of people came over for dinner. Suggest that they may hold on to certain feelings and ways of seeing other kids that pop out when those kids are around. Illustrate this process by explaining how one kid might boast about all their cool stuff  and doubt others’ claims. This can make other kids want to prove that they have great stuff, too.  If the “want to prove” feelings grow strong enough a kid might end up bringing something to school that they know doesn’t belong there. It can also lead the second kid to feel like they must prove one thing or another when they are around the first kid. Point out how this process is akin to the second kid giving control over some of his decisions to the first kid.


Offer “talking tools” to manage the power of peer dynamics. One reason that kids succumb to these forces is the wish to “save face.” But well-chosen words convey power.  Lacking such a  response to a provocative peer or circumstance, kids give in to impulse and throw caution to the winds. Parents can offer such responses so that they can be “pulled out of the back pocket” when the time comes. Here are several to propose to the child who becomes inarticulate when the pressure builds: “This is just the kind of situation that leads you on the wrong road...Be my guest, but don’t wait for me to follow because you’re on your own...I don’t have to prove anything to you that I already know to be true...If you can’t see where this is heading then I suggest you take some time to think it over...”


“Warm-up” your child’s skills in advance of  “potent peer” encounters.  Keep in mind that some kids cause your child’s decision-making to lapse more than others. Simulate discussions where you take the roll of the potent peer and attempt to persuade or provoke your child into a poor judgment call. Coach them on using a firm tone of voice, in-the-eye gaze, assertive posture, and power talking tools. Consider videotaping the scenario if they are willing so that they further improve upon their delivery.

Dr. Steven Richfield is a child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting. His column appears monthly. He can be contacted at or 610-238-4450.