Concerning Restless Children

<< back

By: Bertram von Zabern, M.D.

excerpted with kind permission from the Newsletter of the Association for Healing Education

Teaching often means dealing with restless children. At least one child in every class takes up enormous energy by constant dis­traction, irritability and chaotic motion. News articles remind us that attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has become America's number one childhood psychiatric disorder. At least 1.3 million school children in the US take the psychostimulant Ritalin regu­larly. Such popularity is astounding considering the list of adverse side-ef­fects including growth retardation, motor tics or Tourette's Syndrome and drug dependence. The manufacturer states that "...sufficient data on safety and efficacy of long-term use of Ritalin in children is not yet available." 1 In fact decades of research show no proof of long-term efficacy of this drug.

Where Should We Start
One way of understanding child­hood was taught by Rudolf Steiner who outlined three streams of influ­ence: The spiritual entelechy of the child, the bodily heritage of the par­ents which must be individualized, and the influences of the environment. Steiner left no doubt about the respon­sibility parents and educators have to provide an environment which will shape and nurture the helpless trust­ing child from birth on. "Whatever happens in the physical environment (during the first seven years) the child will imitate and, by imitation, the physical organs are poured into their permanent shape. 2 "Environment" means all physical, esthetic and ethi­cal impressions a child receives; most powerfully the impressions of joy and love. "Such love, which permeates the physical environment, truly hatches the forms of the physical organs." 2 A lack of loving warmth during this forma­tive period can cause lasting damage, giving rise to serious restlessness, to which boys, especially the first-born, are more prone than girls. Although this condition may be obvious by age three, it is mostly diagnosed in the first years of school, when a comprehen­sive therapeutic approach becomes necessary, as facilitated through a school care group.

If "nest warmth" was missing in the family, parents appreciate learning how to create the right atmosphere of daily rhythms, choice of clothing and proper biodynamic/organic nutrition with a minimum of meat and eggs.

Constitutional remedial treatment for restlessness mainly aims at restoring the harmony of function of kidneys and digestive tract. Even without symp­toms of manifest illness, the soul-life of restless children is not well inte­grated into these functions when, for instance, emotional tension and lack of impulse control combine with bed wetting or chaotic eating habits, illus­trating an uncomfortable connection with the lower body. For such children

I like to recommend Chamomilla Cupro culta 2X (Weleda) 10-15 drops twice daily in water for three months or longer.

The above medication is supported by rubbing Cuprum praep.0.4% (Weleda) in a circle (5-10 times) over each kidney twice a week (the down­ward motion always closest to the spine). The rubbing is done with a pea-size amount of ointment, slowly, with the palm rather than the fingers. Instead of two circles, the rubbing can be in a figure-eight motion. On the others days a parent can do a whole back rub with Blackthorn Body Oil (Wala). Besides its remedial effects, the prescribed back rub allows parent and child to restore physi­cal closeness and warmth in their rela­tionship. The parent should be in­structed by a therapist how to perform these rubs. This is just one example of a constitutional therapy that can be in­dividually expanded. Organic causes of restlessness can vary, and therapies would have to vary as well.

Other therapy can come from the realms of color, form drawing, music, speech, eurythmy, drama, and other ar­tistic expression. It begins where the child is at—with movement, excitement and activity; then it will lead to the contemplative side. It must capture the imagination in joyful ways, bringing content to the empty movement energy.

In remedial work 3 we pursue long-range goals. The question is, what kind of person will we have by age twenty? Our priority is helping the child rebuild a shattered constitution and inner rhythm, and restoring a sense of heart­felt warmth and trust. These are chil­dren with a poor tolerance for the rest­lessness of our civilization. They be­come our teachers when they demand that we change ourselves, accompany­ing them along the road to inner peace.

Dr. von Zabern and his family moved to the US from Germany in 1969. He is a consultant to Waldorf schools with a special interest in children with learning difficulties. He practices as an anthroposophically ori­ented family physician and psychiatrist in Wilton, New Hampshire.


1) Physician's Desk Reference, 1996 (Medical Economics)

2) R.Steiner. Education of the Child, Anthroposophic Press

3) See Association For A Healing Education Newsletter, December 1995,

Suggested Reading:

Anthroposophically-Extended Health Care Literature, compiled by B. von Zabern, Mercury Press.

<< back

Dynamic Content Management by ContentTrakker