Saying ‘No’.

ADHD is the ‘thing’ these days, it seems. I know a number of children who truly have it. They describe to me that letters and words swim in front of their eyes and they can’t read sentences. That noises like people breathing are really loud and it distracts them. They speak truthfully and beautifully and it breaks my heart. Most of these kids are really clever, and a little bit off-the-wall. They are challenging in the classroom – but I like having them there, and I like them. Some children I see have medication. And it makes a big difference to them. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not advocating medicating children for everything – but sometimes it really works. And then children can focus and learn.

And the there are some other kids who tell me they have ADHD. I had one little boy like this in a drum circle the other day. He was fidgety, and distracted and pretty challenging. I chose to ignore most of it – as long as he wasn’t distracting anyone else, I’d continue with the lesson. But at one point he crossed that line. He wanted to turn his drum to one side (squashing the person to his left) and play with his hand up the drum stem so he could feel the vibrations. It’s fun to do it like that – but it wasn’t what I’d asked the class to do.

I looked at him, stopped my instructions to the class and said, simply, ‘NO.’

‘No. You may not do that.’

There was silence. He looked completely shocked. And put his drum on the floor. Someone in the circle giggled nervously.

He picked up his drum and joined in, still looking shocked.

I had no more trouble.

It got me thinking – when was he last told ‘no’? In fact, when was I last told ‘no’. I can’t have what I want? I can’t buy that coffee, or jumper? I can’t do what I want right now? What would happen if various business people were told simply ‘no’. No – you can’t have this today. Because I am over-worked, and want to leave at a reasonable hour today. You can have it next week – but not right now. Would it make workplaces better?

You know, I think it would.