Reply To: 12 Year Old w/ ADHD & ODD Refusing Therapy

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Penny Williams

I would caution you against using words like “chooses” to describe a child with ADHD (or autism). Kids do well if they can. If they aren’t doing well, there’s a reason, and it’s never just wanting to do poorly or wanting to anger parents. So, he’s not really “Choosing” to not do his work. I’d even say he’s not “choosing” to not go to a therapist. He’s had an experience that makes him fear that information he holds very personal will be shared. Fear/anxiety can make you do all kinds of crazy things to avoid what worries you, including getting angry and lashing out, and making blanket concrete rules, like not talking to adults about personal stuff ever again.

This is definitely a tough position to work through. Normally, we’d advice to work with a therapist or counselor on something like this. Clearly that isn’t the answer for your son.

So, let’s go at it from the other side. What IS he willing to do? Who IS he willing to talk to? If someone came to your home to work with him, would he be more willing? What about a mentor? He’s not expected to tell a mentor any personal information or anything about his personal struggles, so he may be able to build a trusting relationship with that person. Then, he may see that he can trust some people with some information, and that opens the door a crack.

You’re not going to change this all at once. It will require very small increments of progress and not pushing at all.

I’d start a conversation with, “I hear that you’re not willing to try therapy right now. My concern is that you work toward being able to confide in someone at some point. What do you think about trying out a mentor? We can look for someone who works in [whatever your son is interested in… video game industry, maybe?] and you can just learn more about something you’re interested in. What do you feel about that?”

You are going to do SO MUCH BETTER by working with your son instead of insisting that he do certain things. Collaboration with our kids is always more successful. Ross Greene’s approach is almost magical!

Time for Plan B? 10 Tips for Dealing with an Explosive Child

ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism