Go to your room! Oh, and don’t come out until you take this pill.
We’re sure parents can relate to the following scenario: trying to cook up dinner in an overheated kitchen, phone tucked between shoulder and ear with sister in tears on the other line, kid tugging at the leg—“I’m hungry”—and then, when the baked potato explodes in the microwave, it feels like the world is crashing down.
What happens next?
Well, strategies for dealing with an aggravating child have evolved over time.
1950: “Go play outside. I’m not asking you—I’m telling you.” (If that doesn’t work, WHACK).
1970: “Eat this cookie and zip it.”
1990: “Take this Game Boy, go to your room, and don’t come out until you’ve saved Princess Peach”
2010: “Here, honey, eat this happy pill, drink this cool glass of water, and go watch some cartoons.”
With more and more parents resorting to over-the-counter medications to calm their children, Madison Park of CNN wonders if administering drugs is abusive.
Her article begins by detailing extreme cases of abuse—the Massachusetts woman who gave her child lethal doses of a sedative used to treat ADHD, and kids given “analgesics, street drugs, sedatives, hypnotics, antipsychotics.” There was even a case a few years ago where a man taught his 2-year-old and 5-year-old how to smoke pot, while videotaping it.
Park reports that there are 160 similar child abuse cases per year in the United States.
But with roughly one million confirmed cases of child abuse each year, 160 annual drug-related cases represent a mere 0.02 percent. Sure, administering drugs to kids in a malicious manner is abusive; but it’s just another means to an end. In other words, if a parent’s going to abuse a child, he or she will find a way to do, whether it’s using a belt or a drug.
The real question here is whether any drugs—even in small amounts—should be given to children in non-medical situations. The intent may not be malicious, but does that make it okay?
There are parents who might slip their kids a little Benadryl to calm them down, and then there are those who slip their kids a little horse tranquilizer to knock them out. That doesn’t seem too “hazy” to me. One is lazy parenting, the other is downright criminal.
It would be interesting to know what percentage of parents who administered drugs to their kids did so for non-medicinal purposes. Kids don’t play outside as much anymore—perhaps due to our increasingly wired culture—and this may put added stress on parents. With their kids crashing through the house, riled up after hours of intense Warcraft battles, parents, at their wits’ end, may fall victim to the “quick-fix” of an over-the-counter sedative.
Then again, for years—even before TV and video games—parents have used “alternative” remedies on their children, such as administering whiskey to babies who are teething.
Giving kids a little cough medicine or sleep-inducing allergy medication “is certainly better than being pushed to the edge, spanking a child or slamming doors or really losing it,” explains one mom quoted in the article. “It’s not the end of the world.”
However, even in cases where the initial intent is benign, administering over-the-counter drugs could be a slippery slope. Upon noticing a drug’s effectiveness, parents may increasingly use it to deal with an insolent child, upping doses (maybe even subconsciously), to the point where the child’s health is in danger.
What do you think? Is it criminal? Unethical? Or justified in certain cases?