Questions about deciding whether your child “will not” or “cannot” perform better
As a psychologist specializing in neurofeedback (EEG-Biofeedback) and children’s school problems for over 21 years, I’ve heard many questions regarding children’s struggles – as well as their parents’. Here’s one of the most important ones: “As parents, how can we tell whether our child is ‘choosing’ not to perform better or is simply unable to do any better? My husband always says it’s a choice and we need to be harder on her, but if she’s doing the best she can, then she needs help, not stricter discipline – right?”
One of the fundamental questions for successful parenting is whether poor performance or behavior is occurring because a child “will not” or “cannot” perform the behavior properly. Answering this question correctly makes all the difference in the world as to whether you solve the problematic behavior or not, and more importantly, whether you help or hinder your child. If your child is able to perform a task or “can” – let’s say complete their homework, for example – but isn’t doing it, then you’re dealing with a case of “won’t” and the problem is likely one of motivation. However, if your child is unable to complete a task or “can’t,” then this is a different issue that needs to be addressed in an entirely different fashion.
If the issue is a “won’t,” then the desired behavior needs to be reinforced. Many parents (often, but not exclusively, fathers) will automatically go to negative reinforcement or punishment first. This can be effective but typically causes anger and resentment in the child, which then creates yet another problem to deal with. Positive reinforcement, or reward, is nine times more effective in correcting behavior and doesn’t result in the negative side effects.
If your child “can’t” or is unable to complete a task, then you must determine the reason why and correct that problem first. If this isn’t done and the parent treats the problem as a motivation issue, then the child’s inability to achieve the reward (or in worst-case scenario, avoid punishment) will result in a sense of failure and frustration and the loss of belief in one’s self. This is the last thing you want to do to your child.
If the issue is task-related or behavioral, and your child has the necessary knowledge to perform the behavior yet still cannot do it, then the problem may very well be ADHD. Unfortunately, many parents deny this possibility because they fear the rigors of medication, or they think it might in some way reflect poorly upon them as parents. In order to avoid parenting problems and damage to the aforementioned child, it’s critical to do ADHD non-drug testing and treatment, if necessary.
ADHD non-drug testing and treatment is done through neurofeedback. Testing is performed through EEG analysis, which is the only objective test to determine if symptoms are coming from this disorder. This method of testing is a sophisticated yet simple way to determine the source of the child’s problems.
Neurofeedback is a drug-free and side effect-free method of painlessly retraining the attention and behavioral mechanisms of the brain. In a series of sessions, the child learns to correct these problems, thereby alleviating the disorder. Once training is complete, no further treatment is necessary, and the child is able to perform tasks and behaviors requested of them in an appropriate manner for their age.
Dr. Stephen A. Ferrari is the director of Alta Neuro-Imaging Neurofeedback