Helping Preteens With ADD Succeed: Parenting Strategies for Defusing Tween Power Struggles

Whether your attention deficit tween is acting up in school, starting to run with the wrong crowd, or trying to exert more control over his life, the years between early childhood and adolescence can be turbulent. How parents can avoid and resolve conflicts.

Is Your ADD/ADHD Tween's Desire to Have More Control Turning Her Against You?


Many conflicts are rooted in the adolescent’s budding desire to control things. But parents are so used to coaching children through routines that they refuse to cede ground. In turn, kids with ADD/ADHD push back.

Problem-solve together to help your child have more control over her life, without losing yours. The best way to avoid confrontations is to team up. Instead of dictating orders, see if you can solve problems together. Day after day, Joe’s dad told him to stop playing computer games. Joe would answer, “OK,” but continued to play. His dad would start shouting.

Joe explained that he didn’t stop right away because he was trying to finish a level. He agreed that, when his parents asked him to stop, he would, as soon as he completed the level. Dad agreed not to nag. Complying with the plan earned Joe extra computer time.

Ground Rules for Negotiating Rules with Your Preteen

1. Address your tween's behavior problem calmly. Be clear about your expectations, not critical.

2. Don’t “overtalk” when you communicate. The rule should be that you give more “talk time” to your preteen than to yourself.

3. Find ways to help your child feel powerful. Ask her to help you solve problems. Solicit her advice on buying toys for her siblings.

4. Teach her to disagree without being disagreeable. Set an example by not raising your voice when you find yourself in conflict.

5. Stick to a structured routine. If your child knows that he wakes up and does homework at set times every day, there’s less room for argument. Managing his own schedule will help him feel like an adult.

6. Be clear about what’s not negotiable. Putting on her seatbelt in the car and other safety issues are not.

Despite your best efforts, you might find yourself drawn into a power struggle when you’re tired. If so, leave the room. After the flurry, go back with new ideas and a reminder that you love your child. 

More Advice for Parents of ADD/ADHD Tweens

Middle School Survival Guide

Adjusting to Middle School

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TAGS: ADHD Accommodations, 504s, IEPs, Talking with Teachers, Teens and Tweens with ADHD

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