The saddest Calvin & Hobbes cartoon you’ll ever ignore because you have more serious things to do.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Aug 8, 2011
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Just Say No, Parents.

Calvin & Hobbes, & Ritalin.

A young family friend was raised on Ritalin. He was hyper and happy and motivated and bouncing off the walls and…his parents didn’t want to deal. So, Ritalin, yah, was more for them than it was for him.

Let’s consider whether hyperactivity is more a result of a lack of exercise, a real food diet, encouraging discipline and timely affection…a lack of time spent outdoors skinning knees and climbing trees, pretending this and that and swinging a baseball bat…instead of babysat by video games and TV.

And let’s discuss alternative options to drugging our children.

Or, at least, let’s slow down ourselves, enough to contemplate this Calvin & Hobbes cartoon. Unless we have more serious things to do, of course.


A complex issue that deserves our undivided attention. More exercise, more bicycling, more real food, less TV…is a start.

Relephant read:

Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD 


Related videos:

Walk the Talk with Waylon Lewis on Children:


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


82 Responses to “The saddest Calvin & Hobbes cartoon you’ll ever ignore because you have more serious things to do.”

  1. Pamela Grow says:

    Exercise and cutting processed foods will work too.

  2. monkeywithglasses says:

    That was the saddest, most depressing Calvin I've ever read and I'm sorry I did. Time to go pull out my Complete Calvin & Hobbes and cheer myself up.

  3. elephantjournal says:

    Jennifer Billingsley Well they could just take the kids off the sugar and it would likely help the issue without making them into little zombies.
    32 minutes ago · LikeUnlike · 2 peopleLoading…
    Pamela Grow Not to mention exercise. Kids don't get near enough exercise.
    26 minutes ago · UnlikeLike · 1 personLoading…
    Steve Derrickson This does not require another CURE. He needs to go outside and play in the snow, uselessly!
    21 minutes ago · UnlikeLike · 1 personLoading…
    Steve Derrickson Joyfully!
    20 minutes ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personGayle McWeeney likes this.

    Sarah Smith Actually sugar doesn't affect kids nearly as much as people think it does…. Aftificial Colours and Flavours, artificial preservatives – those are the things that hype kids up.

    Susi Costello There was a headline in The Onion recently that was similar…."Ritalin Cures Next Picasso."

  4. carolyn says:

    Lets clarify one point. We knew plenty about ADHD WAY back over thirty years ago, this was before I even thought of becoming pregnant. I promised myself if I did have a child I would never use drugs, then I gave birth to an ADD child. The Feingold diet defined all your current ideas. Nothing new here, and yes you can keep things under control and watch your child manage thru the weekends without a drug, but no amount of this sort of intervention can protect your child from alienating his peers and teachers, and, not learning the most essential things at a time it must happen or they fall way behind, while you play around with diet and gymnastics! Time is of the essence, my son reaped the benefits of a clean sugar free diet, No processed foods, lived in the country on a farm, and took Ritalin until he didn't need it anymore! He was grateful as was I. He was finally able to concentrate, learn, go to a top ten school, and holds an important place in business, soon to be a dad will have the choice himself. I suspect he will do what is necessary as I did.

    I could Ditto the above comment by Heather, she has said all I could only better. The difference was I acted sooner .
    I too had this problem and still do, it is devastating so I acted quickly after early testing. The diet and lifestyle suggested should be considered a normal diet for every child and adult not a replacement for proper and timely therapy.

  5. d. chaber says:

    How comfortable you seem to be sitting in judgement, completely sure you know the hows and the whys and feeling just a tad, or more, superior. An old resentment coming our sideways perhaps? Or maybe just plan old lack of experience and/or humility. Yes, of course there are situations like you refer to above. Your generalization of this most extreme case to a multi-factorial and complex issue is ignornant, inflammatory and pretty irresponsible,

  6. sms says:

    In addition, this is a commentary on a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon – it is NOT a real strip. Watterson would be upset for people to think it was part of his work.

  7. elephantjournal says:

    Actually, it's signed by Watterson and copyrighted by Universal.

  8. elephantjournal says:

    Amen. But we, and parents, aren't all responsible or correct in our judgment all the time, of course. If we were, there wouldn't be an issue. ~ W.

  9. elephantjournal says:

    Beautifully expressed. Again, this commentary applies to some, perhaps many, but not all. It applies more to a casual attitude toward prescribing drugs than it does to those, like yourself, to try anything but genuinely appreciate and need them. ~ W.

  10. elephantjournal says:

    In Buddhism, that's what we call the human condition. I'm the same way—many of us are. If of course the drugs are helpful, then besos. But there are other ways to try first. ~ W.

  11. elephantjournal says:

    I'm not sure we should call drugs "therapy." Just call them drugs—that may ably treat symptoms but don't, like meditation or therapy, tug at the root.

    My friend, who I'd prefer not to name, was drugged into submission. He was not himself. But others, like you, have an entirely other experience. The above is more about those who prescribe drugs casually, as many of us in America do, than those like yourself who are thoughtful, have researched, and find the drugs helpful.

  12. elephantjournal says:

    Sorry to come off as "ignornant, inflammatory and pretty irresponsible, comma," anonymous friend. I didn't intend the above to be judgmental of those who are responsible and view drugs as a necessary component to a healthy, wholesome lifestyle. I do mean to be judgmental of those parents who drugs their children so that their children will be well behaved. ~ Waylon

  13. elephantjournal says:

    "In general, I agree with all this. That is, in fact, why we held off on medicating my hyper son until he was 12 years old. But as with all generalities, there are exceptions. So I do believe there are children who are not just ill-served by lack of exercise or whatever, but do have a valid disability… just as some folks' pancreas doesn't make insulin properly, some folks' brain doesn't make or process serotonin normally. More than just "happy and bouncing off the walls", these people are unable to function on a pretty basic level, as they are so scattered and internally disorganized that they cannot even do the things they WANT to do…"

    Beautifully expressed and amen. Thank you for taking the time.

  14. Joe says:

    Hack science AND deleting my comments on facebook and unlike-ing the facebook page for me, waylon? you're pettier than the tea party you deride so much. next up for elephant journal: denying global warming.

  15. Emma says:

    I don't believe the cartoon is exclusively referring to children with learning disabilities. I am an English Language teacher and I have seen many children who are under extreme pressure to succeed from their parents. I believe there are those parents who want their children to rank higher than all the rest and will use any means necessary to get there.

  16. Well said, Heather. Our son has ADHD altho not to a severe degree. We held off until 2nd grade. The teachers saw intelligence + creativity but were concerned by his inability to focus and comprehend. He especially suffered in math. Had already had him on a healthy diet so I think he could have been worse. He's on a low dosage of vivanse and only on school days. He excelled and LOVES math. It was a dramatic difference. I see plenty of parents who don't even try to change the diet and probably have to medicate their kids even more than would otherwise be necessary. Too bad there arent more doctors out there talking about how nutrition and other things in the environment can impact our kids' brains.

  17. I see where you're coming from on this, Way. I've seen it. That cartoon was sad! My guy is lightly medicated only on school days for ADHD. FOrtunatly, there's not a behavioral piece to it and we did put it off as long as possible. He had been behind in school because of his inability to focus. Now he excels (mostly) + regained some self-confidence about hisi own intelligence. Cheers!

  18. Louise Brooks says:

    Then why not say so in the commentary instead of trying to universalize the "drugged out of his mind" image.

  19. Diane says:

    That C & H was a doozy. But. Very. Very. Special.

  20. adhdcanuck says:

    this is why i write about adhd.
    I was calvin, as a kid.. and kind of as an adult too 🙂

  21. I need to go off topic to say that this is NOT a REAL Calvin and Hobbes Cartoon…It was NOT published by Bill Watterson. Bill Watterson was smart to finish his strip without selling out, but of course that has not stopped people from using his awesome characters for their own purposes.

    None of my children suffer from ADHD. Some people seem quick to medicate, while others try various other options (diet, exercise, etc. ) Some parents find medication can be a last resort. The more information and knowledge we share, without unnecessary judgement and divisiveness, the better chance we have of actually helping the children who truly need help and of helping people make better food and lifestyle choices. Disparaging others serves no great purpose. It usually satisfies the ego at the expense of the feelings and the well being of others.

  22. […] and should just pay attention already dammit!) Then, when I got to college, my doctor decided that Ritalin would be helpful. Who the hell gives Ritalin to an anorexic college student with a drinking problem? Dummy. So that […]

  23. annmarie says:

    I have a child who struggles with school every day. Since she was diagnosed with ADD (no hyperactivity) we have tried everything not to medicate. However medications are the only method that worked and assisted in her ability to focus and get through school with some bit of self esteem left. I am sure that many people who have similar struggles will find your judgement as insulting as I do. I am sure there are many who just medicate because they don't want to deal, but to lump everyone together is not kind. We struggled with our decision and judgement like this are hurtful. This is NOT a Buddhist article, there is no loving kindness in these words.

  24. Natalie Baginski says:

    The transcendental meditation technique has had positive results in schools, especially with issues related to ADD, and in some cases ADD symptoms have subsided completed after a few weeks or a few months of transcendental meditation. There are links to all of the research studies, and some videos of kids talking about their experience on –

  25. Grateful Mom says:

    I am a special ed teacher and have 3 kids, all of whom had some attentional issues. As nothing else worked including meds and other interventions, I did something radical. We went on a 100% gluten/casein free diet, avoided all allergens and supplemented with a very powerful Omega-3 from sage as well as calcium/magnesium. My oldest boy with ADHD is in college and pulling a 3.95 GPA (he struggled through high school) and the other one who had been diagnosed with Aspergers was declassified and is incredibly social and doing well in a post high school program. My daughter is doing better in school too. It took a long time of being consistent before seeing results, but it clearly worked better than I ever imagined. It doesn't work for everyone, but it worked for my kids. Studies say that it may be effective in 1/3 of kids on the ASD.

  26. mark says:

    I was an elementary public classroom teacher for many years, always thought I was level headed, open to suggestions, had the child's best interest at heart. Then I married and we had children. I cannot believe the amount of words I ate after having them, especially when they were young and in school. I always say they succeeded in spite of me…

    One word of caution: watch what you say about how people raise their kids.

  27. ADHD-adult says:

    I'm an ADHD-adult myself and four things:
    First, comic isn't a real Calvin and Hobbes comic, it's a fake.

    Second: As from experience, I can tell you that is not what happens when you give a kid Ritalin. It looks like that probabbly from the outside world, but to us ADHD-kids there isn't a big notable change. Due to our inability to reflect in an objective and realistic point of view, most of us don't notice it if we're hyper at the time itself. True, we can do our homework better, but it will still be in this imaginative world we created ourselfs (ADHD doesn't make your kid believe in stuffed tigers as well. It boosts imagination, but that part isn't killed of by Ritalin (i'm a Cum Laude Masters of Arts on Ritalin)). Even on medicine, concentrating is hard. We only improve our abillity to hyperfocus (something that is extremly usefull for making homework). If we take a break from making homework, we loose track. Sounds sad, but I could write my 200-page Masterthesis within 20 days and still get an A-. It's actually really usefull.

    Third, it's not an easy thing to just get Ritalin. It's an expensive drug with serious side-effects. On top of that, it's a drug that is listed in the international Opiumlaw for it's properties for non-ADHD patients. As a European, I had to get special medical documents to take my Ritalin with me on my trip to the states. No doctor would or does throw that around.

    Fourth and most important: ADHD medicine isn't a drug that works on every kid. If you did some serious research, you would find out that Ritalin is in fact a Wekamine-medicine. It is, in a very real sense of the word, a drug since it gives people WITHOUT ADHD a serious pep-boost. In other words, if Ritalin calms someone down, it means they have a problem in their neurosystem. A normal kid wouldn't become calm of it, it would make them even more hyper. Saying that hyperactivity is the cause of lack of excersise, attention of parental love is both very offensive and very ill-informed. It is people like you that spread these stupid stories about ADHD and it's medicin without the propper knowledge or studies to back it up. If you know nothing about a medical issue, please don't write about it like this. It's not a choice we make. I'm not paying 80 euro's (105 dollars) a month, because of lack of exercise. I see the point you try to make, and I agree that a lot of people wrongly think their kids have ADHD. But that has NOTHING to do with the medication. ADHD isn't an opinion, just like cancer, aids or down-syndrome isn't. This isn't an discussion, it's stupid.

  28. […] to some, I’ve had mental illness my whole life. They couldn’t calm me down. I was this energetic but sensitive boy that just couldn’t seem to pay attention to anything that didn’t interest […]

  29. Lin says:

    I love the story of Gillian Lynne, a ballerina, dancer, actor, theatre director, television director and choreographer (she worked on the musicals Cats and Phantom of the Opera). Here is her ADHD story told by Sir Ken Robinson:

  30. Helen Krummenacker says:

    Engaging lessons and adults who model a positive attitude toward leaning are important. I believe I have ADHD, but it didn't keep me from liking most of school. I just pretended my math lessons were code deciphering as a spy. I got every assignment done on time– but I often didn't turn them in on time, because I couldn't remember where I put the paperwork. No one ever mentioned it to my parents because it was obvious I was doing the work, I was just "disorganized", meaning I couldn't ever remember where anything important was.

    What we really need is to make our society more friendly to ADHD. It isn't *actually* a disability, except insofar as our social structure makes it one. If we were all hunter/gatherers, the neurotypical people would envy the ADHD people– who notice all the little sounds of scurrying animals, the stealthy movement of something big just out of sight, the change in air current that means a flash flood in two hours.

  31. Karen A says:

    Yup, "Just say no Parents". And don't say yes either to insulin for his diabetes, or ventolin for his asthma …. I'm sure most parents put a lot more effort into looking at nonmedical treatment first, than was put into these onesided comments. One friend's child is not enough to base these sort of assumptions on, a bit more research would have helped here.

    As ADHD-ADULT said, plain ol hyperactive children WILL NOT respond to Ritalin. It ONLY works if there is a chemical imbalance in the brain.

  32. Mrs. Dinet says:

    Parents need to be PARENTS! Imagination and creativity are nurtured, but disrespect is impossible to deal with in our classrooms. Yes, yes I hear the yelps of horror, but just sit in a classroom sometime…you'll see

  33. maria says:

    i have 3 children… with my second, i noticed someting was different, he was extremely hyper, but i just chalked it up to him being a very active child. friends and relatives(and some professionals) told me to medicate, i refused… instead i did the diet thing and taught him to self-control while in school… this worked for him… my third child, well, that was a totally different story… when she was as young as 2 we noticed a problem… by the time she started school, we had tried everything except medicating…. when she was finally diagnosed with severe type 1 and type 2 ADHD, the doctor said it was one of the most severe cases she had seen… we began her medication, and it was like a miracle… light and day… she was able to finally learn in school, and make friends, and enjoy the school experience… she was able to engage in normal family activities….. but she was still herself, loving, caring, and helpful… but now she could be that person without the meltdowns because one detail was out of place…. but she is not on ritalin… she is on focalin… there are many other meds for ADHD, and i am grateful for the medication…

  34. Pat says:

    I really love Elephant Journal, but it REALLY gets me to read these blanket opinions. Instead of writing off something which actually DOES work for people, emphasize that there are many options out there besides Ritalin. Body chemistry is what it is. This article is akin to claiming alcoholism is a disease of choice.

    Waylon, you are good, and you can do better than this. Critical thinking is critical for issues like this. Time to consider a serious and substantive rebuttal.

    You are right in feeling sad that some people want to use drugs and take the easy way out. But the tone and tenor of this opinion piece appears just a bit too righteous. I support the writer above. I work at Sewall Child Development Center. Parents do their very best and some feel horribly guilty even when a prescription does become the right thing to do. We are lucky to have so many options and so much amazing science at hand to help solve some complex issues. Don't write off these options and the care of parents this easily.

  35. Ugg, there seems to be a lot of misinformaiton in these comments and the article. The idea that ADD and ADHD are "just" caused by TV and sugar is misguided and inappropriate. The idea that parents choose medication because they "just don't want to deal" with "normal" kid behavior is insulting. For some kids, more exercise and less sugar, or gluten free etc will help their problem. If so, terrific. But, if not, anyone who has spent time with an ADHD kid knows how horribly they and their families suffer. Did you know they are more likely to drop out of school or get into car wrecks? If you cling to the idea that "all meds are bad" and if we just got fresh air and cut out sugar, then you're advising people to jeopardize the futures and safety of some ADHD kids. Don't give medical advise unless you're qualified to do so.

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  37. jeanne says:

    Annmarie, we had the same situation and after me fighting giving meds for years, our son is now happier, more confident, and likes school again. I found this whole piece interesting but so many of the comments smug and judgemental. Ill informed. And yes we do supplements and watch diet….

  38. fitmom says:

    My daughter is ADHD, has at least one processing disorder and I think is on the spectrum (but a doctor told me she was too pretty for that so what do I know?!!) we tried meds for 6 months. They killed her appetite, hurt her stomach and made her miserable. So, she is unmedicated. We try and keep a clean diet. She is almost 12, can make some of her own decisions, we try and help her make informed ones. The food we have at home is healthy. She packs a lunch. Life is hard to navigate. She looks like Kate Upton, has had a bad bullied year already, cannot keep a friend, but no one will listen to me when I say she is struggling- cuz, ya know- she is pretty. No one ever realized I was struggling- I am athletic and a former model. I was a National Merit Scholar as well. Failure was not an option for me. it was one of my obsessions..

  39. Annie says:

    Wow, as an adult with serve ADD, married to a man with ADHD, and our 2 kids with ADHD I am offended. I have seen and experienced the affects of ADHD/ADD. We are a different family because of eventually going on meds. We eat healthy, have not got TV connected, only watch DVDs as a whole family, I am a stay at home mom who understands complementary and alternative medicine, I am a 2nd year reflexology student (2 year cause includes lifestyle, anatomy, physiology, pathology, 5 elements, etc). And still the best solution for all of us was medication. So I hope you realise the offences I may have by someone using a blanket statement (cartoonn) to imply that I am being a bad/lazy parent because my children benefit from medication for a condition they have probably inherited from my bad genes.

  40. BrightBlue says:

    I agree. We seem to elide the experience of clinically debiliiating ADHD with kids who are "hard to handle." Certainly parenting skills, a healthy diet and plenty of exercise should be tried first, and quickly. But, if those things are in place then drug therapy (yes, we CAN call drug therapy that because that is what it is called in the medical world) in the appropriate intervention. Our good hearted, wholesome, natural parents can sometimes jump too quickly on the "ADHD is all about diet and artificial flavors" bandwagon and do serious damage to their kid's education, development, social life and the family structure (imagine being the sibling to someone who cannot seem to stop yelling, running, breaking, hitting — hard to get an ounce of attention in that family, plus parents who are overwrought, frustrated and ashamed). We mustn't minimize the real impact that clinically diagnosed ADHD has. Any parents who "put their kids on drugs" are only half at fault — a DOCTOR must prescribe and if doctors are prescribing because parents want them to, they should have licenses taken away.

  41. BrightBlue says:

    Only doctors "prescribe" drugs. Parents cannot prescribe ADHD medications. So, perhaps the problem is with doctors who are under-informed about proper diagnosis or don't know to send a child to a psychologist and a psychiatrist to get to the bottom of behavior problems and assess for ADHD?

  42. BrightBlue says:

    Additionally, the TITLE to this is "just Say No, Parents" this doesn't really imply that this is about being more thoughtful and mindful about the use of medication, but that we should say "no" to drugs. This is a reactive stance that can do harm to those children (and adults!) who really do need this medication to function.

  43. azure says:

    I agree BrightBlue! I am about to go into practice in Psychiatry and think that the title is very misleading. ADD/ADHD is far more complicated and causes far more problems than this author portrays here. What children with ADD/ADHD truly suffer from is falling behind in school, alienating their peers, and social isolation. Yes, it is difficult for parents with the ADD/ADHD child to deal with the hyperactivity but what I have actually seen in practice is that MOST parents do not want their kids on medication, but they have reached their cap on having to watch their children struggle day in and day out at school and in social situations. Most of these parents have tried everything at home to help because they do not want meds. Therapy does not fix ADD/ADHD. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Therapy can aid in adding coping mechanisms but does not cure it and neither does diet and exercise. Healthy diet and exercise are things that EVERY parent should be practicing. This blog is written from a very uneducated and bias perspective and should not be taken for face value.

  44. Kirsten says:

    Waylon Lewis, I’ve come to think of you as a kindred spirit in positivity and intention. I think perhaps the title of this piece underestimates your readership and sets a very pessimistic bar! As a public school teacher turned unschooling mama, I assure you, the choir is growing! 🙂

  45. tiedyedowl says:

    This hits on two major problems we have. One is mentioned here: The over medication of children and adolescents. ADHD is over diagnosed and a lot of kids whose problems could be cured with diet and exercise, are instead diagnosed with ADHD and medicated. That is wrong and a huge problem.
    The other problem, that is not directly mentioned, but hinted: ADHD does exist! There are kids who need medication! This isn't a bad thing, or a parent's failing, or a lack of diet and exercise. This is a mental disease that is out there. I am an adult with ADD and I am grateful to the medication I'm on for it because it helps me concentrate ON my imagination and creativity. It doesn't take it away.

  46. Mary says:

    According to the DEA, the US consumes 98% of the world's Methylphenidate (Ritalin). Further, schools are rewarded through the Individuals with Disabilities Act to label and drug children in schools with up to 10's of thousands of dollars per head. So we are rewarding this solution to drug children. In laboratory testing, Ritalin and cocaine are indistinguishable. While ingesting speed can absolutely modify behavior, it does not mean that our children have cocaine-like deficiencies. It is unfortunate that the very real behaviors that parents are desperate to help their children overcome have been diagnosed by a pharmaceutical industry. For any other chemical imbalance in medicine, such as insulin for diabetes, you must actually take a test to determine that chemical level. Not so with ADD and ADHD. There are many, many falsehoods propagated by the industry and they prey upon the parent who wants only the best for their child. That does not negate the very real behaviors for which the parent seeks help. It might mean that their are true underlying conditions that go undetected due to the failure of any kind of actual medical testing in this multi-billion dollar industry. Drugs have always altered behavior. That doesn't mean they are solving the underlying problem.

  47. Brad says:

    It's a fake strip. There's no way it's real. It looks like the copyright is 1996, which is *after* the strip ended. This link shows 3 variants on this fake:

    Plus, I doubt Watterson would have ever done a strip like this. It's completely out of character for the series. (Some think it's the final strip, but it's definitely not.)

    But, yeah, it expresses an idea that parents should really think about. As the parent of a child whose has a vivid imagination but also some behavioral struggles, it definitely hit home for me. (We're not medicating him, if anyone is curious.)

  48. Carole Schaefer says:

    My youngest son was and still is full-speed. All his teachers wanted him to be medicated .

    I told all of them, stop trying to sedate him and make him run before his class Everyday my son ran a mile (started in kindergarten to 4th grade) then moved up to central school.

    By the end of the fist 9 weeks there was about 15 boys running before school and none of them medicated.

  49. Michaela says:

    I agree that many kids on medication need it. But it is also definitely being over prescribed. It just seems silly to me that they decrease recess/pe and increase academics in schools and wonder why kids can’t sit still…..