Reply To: ADHD 15 yr old Stepson


So I have opinions. I have ADD inattentive. My son is 9 with ADHD and my daughter is 13 with ADHD. My dad probably has ADHD and my brothers.

I’m going to say something unpopular. These boys sound feral. Not taking a shower as a teenager is unacceptable. Not washing your hands is unacceptable. Is this a judgement? Sure.

Here’s the deal. A lot of us with ADD don’t want to be filthy, smelly, a social pariah. But we get stuck. Ask your husband, has his sons ever said anything disparaging about themselves? It is not spoken of enough but the number of 7-year-olds with ADHD that say they hate themselves and want to kill themselves for socially inappropriate behavior is astounding. This doesn’t go away. It often just goes underground in the teen years unless handled directly (therapy sessions, medication, coaching). These boys sound depressed.

Another opinion. Saying “bad” parenting is the wrong approach however. Parenting kids with ADHD is hard, especially if you have it yourself.

The coaching that needs to happen occurs quite slowly and it sounds like these boys haven’t been working on it. You take one task at a time.

I read a book years ago but can’t remember it’s name. But it recommended taking on one challenge at a time and problem solving TOGETHER how to overcome.

It needs to be something they can buy into (as teenagers there are very few of these left) so unfortunately flushing the toilet will not be the first on the list. There needs to be a rational, sit down, conversation, with no emotions (no yelling across the house) when you discuss the challenge and identify not necessarily consequences but suggestions about how to handle together.

For example, wait for a natural consequence where boy X is kicking himself. Maybe your partner notes that Boy X missed out on a cool activity after school because he forgot his Nintendo Switch, or headphones, or iPad or whatever. Something he totally is motivated to do, but just f’d up on. Maybe you, your partner and his son unpack this issue and talk about what could have gone differently during a rare heart to heart.

Son says I wish I would have thought through my day and what needed to go in my back pack the night before… Then your partner asks if he did this every night, would you avoid similar discomforts in the future? He admits yes, he would. BINGO! Your elbow your partner with ADHD to remind him – this is what we were waiting for the first family task.

You say awesome, we can help you with that. How can we support you? (I dunno he answers)… you suggest, I can set a reminder on my phone and your dad can talk through your day at 9pm and make sure your bag is packed. Would this work for you? Or, let’s be honest, would that piss you off… What WOULD work? Be genuinely curious, take your time, it needs his buy in. His ideas will always be best.

Now consequences. You don’t need to ground him if he doesn’t follow through, he’ll forget stuff at school again, and be kicking himself. No worries. Instead, suggest if he sticks with it for two weeks, you’ll take him to his favorite restaurant or pay half of a video game or…

My point is overcoming inertia is HARD for ADHD and all an ADHD coach does is help us overcome inertia by supporting what we want ourselves so that inertia turns to habit. Then we add another challenge and slowly make it become a habit.

This is what a “good” parent does when potty training a child for example, the difference, and frankly it makes all this much easier, is that instead of making a sticker chart YOU think will work, you need BUY IN and PROBLEM SOLVING from your kid. Since these kids are smart and can think for themselves, they are fully capable of choosing their tasks, problem solving and consequences themselves.

My point is start small, discrete (don’t add ANOTHER thing to the 9pm check in, just “do you have your tablet”), support him where he is at. Don’t do EVERYTHING. In fact it is sort of nice to let yourself off the hook as a parent, remind yourself we are working on this not homework, not washing hands, not seatbelts. We are starting here. That is good enough for now.

If he has one thing he is successful and in control of, it gives him confidence to add others to his efforts and things start to speed up. But start small. It also potentially adds a new type of conversation to your household that he might value in the future.

Good luck.