In August 2017, I contacted Dr Ken Resnick about my son, who was in Grade R at a private school in Johannesburg. Ken was my last line of defense against a system that I believed would prevent my beautiful and gentle child from reaching his full potential. We’d just returned from a meeting at our son’s school. It was the third “big” meeting. As anticipated, it was another disappointing confirmation of the paltry options available to us. We were already signed up for all the therapies (OT, Speech and Physio) and had already exhausted our lifeline of repeating a grade.
I was miserable. I was starting to grasp that I couldn’t beat a system that was completely rooted and invested in archaic predictors, flimsy diagnoses and cures (IQ testing, ADD/ADHD and medications). In my gut I knew none of it made sense. When I researched ADD/ADHD and medication, I was astounded at how diagnosing and medicating kids had snowballed in the past two decades without enough people questioning why or considering its efficacy.
How could we possibly hope to avoid getting entangled in this mess when it seemed every teacher, principal, therapist or professional working in the system supported and promoted these ideas? I argued that we were exceptions, but soon learnt that there were no exceptions. The same thing was happening at private schools all over Johannesburg.
It seemed that since I’d finished school the system was more efficient than ever at weeding out or “curing” the difficult or average kids in its voracious quest to produce above average performers – a necessity in the competitive business of selling education and attracting customers with deep enough pockets. I soon realized our best hope of escape might be to exit the “formal” system by considering at “alternative schools” or heaven forbid, home schooling. Neither were options.
My brain scrambled. I knew that this decision would be a turning point for my son. If I followed the professional advice I’d been given, I believed I would condemn my son to a label, which would limit his choices in the long run and forever allow him to abdicate any responsibility for his behaviour, or fully claim any success as his own. I’d heard about Ken from a friend who’d attended one of his talks at a well-heeled private girl’s school.
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Instead of delivering the usual conflicting psychobabble or lobbing the de jour acronyms at a bewildered audience, he’d offered some old-fashioned parenting advice. I went home and googled him and everything he said resonated with me. It made the most sense of all. If my kid wasn’t getting what he actually needed at home, in terms of his primary educators providing stability, consistency and routine, then how on earth could we, or anyone else, expect he’d be able to function in a classroom, or the big wide world?
Make no mistake this kid had everything he could ask for. He had playroom jammed with things we’d foolishly purchased because some marketing genius had convinced us it would make him smarter, happier and successful. Plus he had two parents (read: indentured servants) who practically did everything for him. And that was the problem, nothing more. It reminded me of Freud’s reported admonishment to student searching for a significant meaning behind Freud’s incessant cigar habit, to which Freud responded: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!”
Like many new parents who’ve had kids in the past decade, we’d gotten a little confused about the parenting thing and what our role was. For us this was caused by a combination of factors: guilt, fear, fashion and the misguided notion that we had to deliver the ideal childhood of 80s sitcoms that we never had and push our kid hard so he too could live the “dream” invented by the clever guys on Madison Avenue.
We thought we were doing our son a favour by indulging him, and that controlling and involving ourselves in the minutiae of his life would benefit him. What we’ve learnt from Ken is that by doing those things we robbed him of the most crucial learning experiences that create the necessary self-esteem and confidence to want to try. The results: staggering. Our son previously opted out of everything that he perceived as too difficult (construed by professionals as a possible learning disability (low IQ) or ADD).
Now that he knows a lifeboat isn’t coming to get him, he’ll swim. To everyone’s surprise (except mine) he gets the difficult stuff right more often than not. He was lazy and unmotivated (construed as a learning disability (low IQ or ADD) – He is motivated to do things and to try more challenging tasks. He shows more grit, which incidentally the experts now agree, is more important than IQ. He also gets on with the things that make a household tick: dressing, chores etc. We have seen his self-esteem and confidence grow exponentially and his teachers are happy and have stopped offering us the kool aid.
In conclusion: Ken helped us avert disaster.
Our son is staying in the normal school system without medication.
I do anticipate we’ll still have our ups and downs in the system, but we now have the skills and confidence to be the parents he needs and to get him through these hurdles with our sanity and our son in tact. I would recommend that you try this programme before resorting to medications or therapies.
One very satisfied customer