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Dear ADDitude: How Can I Help My Chronically Late Teen Be On Time?

“Our 15-year-old daughter loses track of time and refuses any reminders to stay on track. She’s late to school most mornings and will soon be assigned ‘Saturday School,’ but I don’t think this will make an impression. She doesn’t respond to consequences and doesn’t seem concerned.”

ADDitude Answers

Individuals with ADHD often struggle with time management. This article, Running Late? Adult ADHD Time Management Tips, explains how to improve time-management skills.

Also, communicating with your children once they reach the teenage years is not exactly the easiest thing to do! Parenting Teens with ADHD: Discipline and Behavior Tips offers some great communication advice to parents, which you may find helpful in talking to your daughter about being late to school.

I hope this helps!

Posted by Kate
ADDitude community moderator

A Reader Answers

My 16-year-old is the same way. She is constantly late, not only to school but to most activities she is involved in, even the fun ones with her friends. Her friends usually wait for her but I wish they wouldn’t a couple of times so she gets the picture. I’d love to hear from other parents.

Posted by Yankees

A Reader Answers

It is probably clear to you now that you are correct and consequences may very well not make an impression. However, setting up a reward system for good behavior often has much better results. ADDitude has published several articles on how to set up reward systems, like:

8 Simple Steps to a Well-Behaved Child
Rewarding Good Behavior in the Classroom

Some of my clients who are parents of children with ADHD have had excellent success with this.

Posted by [email protected]

A Reader Answers

This sounds exactly like my situation. My daughter is 15 and she has to be at school the same time as her younger brother (who also has ADHD), so when she misses the bus I have to drive them both — and like the other poster, I make her be the one that’s late. It makes me crazy, because it’s not due to her getting up late (usually!) but because she can’t manage her time. She has more than an hour to get ready but when I look in on her, she’ll have 10 minutes to get out the door and she still hasn’t eaten breakfast, brushed her teeth or put any shoes on. She’ll still be choosing her outfit, putting on makeup, etc. (even though I’ve tried the “put your clothes out the night before” thing, but yeah, good luck with that).

Posted by rjmumsie

A Reader Answers

I don’t disagree with natural consequences or punishments, however the question that always comes to mind with punishment is “what is this teaching.” Usually nothing. There are a few kids who really don’t care, but most do — and then things to be different. In the same way that we advocate for our kids, we need to also help them learn to be solution detectives — solutions that work for them, with their strengths and deficits. A clock in the bathroom may help one person, but for another it means nothing, especially if they never look at it.

As an adult with ADHD with no sense of time, I was FOREVER frustrated with being late and never knowing why. I did care, I was embarrassed, I was stressed. Then I figured out I had no sense of time, and I started being the time detective. I timed EVERYTHING I did so I could learn how long it took to take a shower, drive to work, or the grocery store. I had to look at what robbed me of time and got me off track. I really had NO idea! No wonder I was always late!

For mornings I had to work out a time schedule (for myself and then with my daughter as she became more independent and who also has no sense of time) listing EVERY activity with a time AND use clocks and timers to stick to it. We worked on it together during non-stressful times. It wasn’t magic. It took a while, we have had to tweak it numerous times, and we get off schedule sometimes — but it’s SO worth the effort. By the way, I did this WITH my daughter, not for her. She needed to buy into it and believe it could be helpful. Plus, ultimately, I wanted to teach her a life skill.

I find this same solution extremely helpful when we are planning for other things, including how we are going to spend our day, or get something around the house done. It isn’t in the same detail, we may only spend 5 minutes doing it, but the pre-planning always helps keep things running much more smoothly.

If your brain doesn’t work this way, it is hard to understand why this might be necessary, but trust me: it is! When your brain struggles with planning and time, “You only have 15 minutes” is only frustrating — not helpful. My husband also has ADHD, but has no issues with time. I had to convince him that pre-planning was really worth the effort. But it really is. It is so much nicer to spend my energy working with my family for solutions rather then rushing around screaming at each other.

By the way, that clock in the bathroom, I had to tell my daughter “when you get out of the shower, do a quick time check to make sure you are on schedule” — never crossed her mind.

Posted by docheidi

A Reader Answers

OHHHHHH-so-typical! Just like our 15-year-old! I’ve chosen to “back out” of the daily drama of trying to keep her on task and getting to school on time. The only thing I’ve received in return for all my efforts is high blood pressure. Now I say nothing except, “Let me know when you’re ready to leave” in a calm voice. (I’ve tried the yelling and the threatening and the consequences, but nothing has worked to improve her timeliness). Most mornings, she’s late to school or has just a minute to run to her first class (which is all the way across the campus). School policy? X-amount of tardies gives her Saturday school. Hey, I just realized, she’s already passed the 10 mark and I haven’t heard from the school yet…hmmm, I better give them a buzz tomorrow.

Posted by ceebee