Ask the Experts

Q: My Son Refuses the Help He Desperately Needs!

Nagging. Yelling. Taking over. None of these strategies works with a teenager, especially one with ADHD. Instead, use these tips to begin partnering productively with your child.

Q: “My son resists any attempt to clean or organize his room and desk. He also stuffs things into his backpack and forgets what’s in there. He doesn’t want our suggestions or help, and he’s 16. Any thoughts?” – StPaulMom


Hi StPaulMom:

I feel your pain. So many of my parent coaching clients come to me with the same frustration. Since I don’t know the specific details of your situation, I’m going to focus on giving you ideas you can use to reframe your approach.

1. Ask if it is a good time to talk. Sounds crazy, right? But it works! My clients tell me that once they stopped “parenting” (the nagging-yelling-I can’t take it anymore-part), and started “partnering,” their whole dynamic shifted. You say your son doesn’t want your suggestions. Let’s actively engage him in this process while you cede some control and ask him what he thinks might work for him instead. This includes taking into consideration how and when he bests communicates.

For example, he might prefer talking with you after dinner and not right when he gets home from school. My parents also have had a lot of luck moving these conversations outside (fewer distractions). So try breakfast on a Sunday morning at your local diner or walking the dog together. Putting space between you and the environment that is frustrating you always helps to dial down the emotion!

2. Set clear and concise parameters. I’m assuming there are things you son likes and wants. He’s 16! I’m all about responsibility-privilege. Meaning, you need to set parameters and let him know what consequences are in place if he doesn’t achieve them. Make consequences clear, concise, and direct. Make sure your son knows what is expected of him and that he is accountable. Then sit back and say nothing. Create a space where he can step up so you can take a much-needed step back.

[Free Download: Transform Your Teen’s Apathy Into Engagement]

Good Luck!


ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to the ADHD Family Coach here!

Updated on October 8, 2019

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