David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | david@davidaltshuler.com

How many times have I told him to just have a Milky Way Bar? Just one lousy candy bar. It's not like I'm asking for the world. Why won't my son just have some chocolate?

Yes, it's something of an emotionally laden issue for me. I admit it. See, my father and I used to go out and have a chocolate shake. Or we'd go down to the Malt Shoppe and have some chocolate candy. But my son won't have any chocolate with me.

I've taken him to doctors. They keep talking about "diabetes." They say my son has "diabetes," whatever that is. These "doctors," these so called "experts" say that if my son eats chocolate that he'll go into shock, that he'll have blurred vision, be fatigued, and have to go to the bathroom all the time. What hooey! If he would just try harder, he wouldn't have any of those symptoms.

All he does is complain. He says that there really is such a thing as this "diabetes" nonsense, that it's real. He says that his pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin. What nonsense.

If he would just try harder, he could eat chocolate. I know he could. I'm pretty sure he doesn't eat chocolate just to annoy me, because he knows how much it means to me.

On the other hand, maybe we did do something wrong, maybe it's something we did when he was younger. For example, my wife nursed; maybe she should have bottle fed. We sent him to pre-school when he was three; maybe we should have waited until he was four. We were too permissive; maybe we should have been more strict. I think if we had bottle fed, waited a year before starting him in pre-school and were more strict, he would like chocolate.

We've been to every chocolate specialist in town. Dr. Hershey said that behavioral interventions would work, that we should take away our son's cell phone until he agreed not to go into shock when he eats chocolate. Then Dr. Cadbury said that three sessions each week for our son to talk about his relationship with chocolate would be more productive. Dr. Ghirardelli said that the best solution would be to just forbid our son all other foods besides chocolate. "When he gets hungry enough, he'll eat chocolate" the doctor said.

I'm at my wits' end. Even if he won't eat chocolate with me, if at least I could know that he's eating chocolate with somebody else, I'd be OK with that. In any case, we clearly can't give up. Chocolate is important for our family, has been for generations. We'll keep trying until we get it right.


Before you suggest that this father be immediately commended to the Nobel Nominating Committee for "Fathers Who Don't Get it at All," two quick points: First, let's try to be sympathetic. Dad doesn't understand diabetes. He's never heard of it. Diabetes wasn't an issue when he was a kid, at least not in his family. He wants to have a good relationship with his son; he wants them to spend time together doing that which he and his father liked to do. He's even willing to have his son eat chocolate with somebody else. Dad isn't a bad guy; he's just not educated. He doesn't know the existence of let alone the meaning of words like "pancreas" and "insulin."

Secondly, change "diabetes" in the paragraphs above to "learning differences" or "executive functioning issues" and the discussion strikes a lot closer to home: "Why isn't my son doing well in school? I always did as did my father before me. We've always been a successful family. He doesn't do homework and when he does, it's not done well. His handwriting is terrible. Why won't he do the assignments properly?" Then the recriminations start and the assigning of causes: "Maybe it's our fault that our son doesn't study effectively and efficiently. Maybe the curriculum is too hard, too easy, too boring, not relevant. Maybe our parenting style is too strict, too lenient, too sarcastic, too turquoise."

Just as it's hard to imagine a kid not liking chocolate or a kid who goes into shock after eating chocolate, it's hard to imagine a kid who wants to do badly in school. Nobody ever woke up one morning and thought: "I have an idea. I'll lose my assignment pad and spend all of recess looking for it! That way my mom will yell at me, I won't be allowed to have dessert and then I can go to bed early after a big fight. Plus I'll have the added joy of showing up in class tomorrow without my homework so that my teacher can yell at me in front of all my friends too!"

Kids with learning differences or kids with executive functioning issues (call executive functioning issues "attention deficits" if you like) don't want to have learning differences or executive functioning issues any more than a kid with diabetes wants to not be able to eat chocolate. And just as a kid with diabetes needs to acknowledge, embrace and articulate what her diet should be in order to be healthy, a kid with learning differences or executive functioning issues needs to be able to acknowledge, embrace and articulate what's going on is his head so that he can learn effectively. Parents and educators can help these kids by being sensitive to their learning styles and understanding that almost all kids want to learn, want to fit it, want to do well.

The alternative assumption--that kids are refusing to eat chocolate just to annoy you--leads to some odd conclusions!



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