Reply To: ADHD 15 yr old Stepson


I wanted to put in my two-cents..
I’m not a boy with ADHD, I grew up as a girl with ADD- so some things I can’t speak to- but one thing did stick out to me that I have a thought about.

The “won’t do something unless they get something out of it”. Now, I was a girl, and the way I was raised also pushed me to be very aware of social rules and conventions. So, I often had to be reminded to do things (I can forget at the speed of light!) but I always tried to follow directions and it was explained to me why.
We wash our hands because everything from the toilet to the telephone is filled with germs, and people also don’t like the thought of that hand touching near private parts and then..un-washed..touching the door handle and everything else?! True horror. And we don’t want to get sick.

But the part I wanted to touch on is this: A difference in how our brains work. When you start a project, or start doing the dishes or laundry..of course there are reasons we do them, they need to get done..but after all that work is do you feel? You see, I grew up hearing about taking pride in your work and “the feeling of a job well done” but really..I usually don’t feel it. I don’t feel some happy or positive feeling when I’ve finished a job well done. The reward center of my brain isn’t giving me that. The medication helps a bit, but when you just know: “This is going to take a while (even 60 seconds can be a long time for a kid) and I won’t be happy doing this, and after, I’ll be just as unhappy..maybe worse! Now I’m mentally tired, and stressed.”
I think those things because that’s how it goes, and that makes it hard to be motivated to do those things, especially to start.

So when “normal” brains do a task, upon completion something in the reward center of the brain activates- maybe they feel proud of themselves, or were told someone was proud of them in the past when they did that task. But for me? Nothing. I have to reward myself and I think in the past I was also reminded a lot to do things and then praised or thanked for doing them. That helped perhaps. But it wasn’t the words, it’s the tone, and actually meaning it.

School was hard for me, so when I got home I just wanted to decompress. I didn’t think about plates or dishes or any of that. Mom nagging that we didn’t offer or just do it automatically didn’t help either. But when she’d come over and say “Dad’s coming home late tonight, so can you do the dishes before he gets home? That way he won’t have to do them later and he’s had a hard day at work, so I bet he will feel so relieved that he doesn’t have to do them if they’re already done” – man, I HAD to do them, then. I still remember his smile and the tone of his words “Thank you, sweetie” when he got home. He always did sound relieved.

To me, chores were more mentally/emotionally hard than physically. So I can’t do something “just because Mom said so”, I need to know that it isn’t just a whim. So, some things might be possible to re-frame with that in mind. No one wants to do work for someone who appears lazy, either. So do things with them, and frame it as “many hands make light work” and/or show them in some way what it means to you when they complete that task. -Because, I can’t imagine where I’d be without all the encouragement and support I had. My brain didn’t encourage me. But others did, and that probably helped me more than even I realize.

I still forget things. My mother used to help remind me “do you have /blank/?” And then “Are you sure?” If I answered too quickly, and then I’d have to check. I have my own mental tricks these days, and I can run through that mental checklist myself- but if the list is too long (more than 2-3 items) I might have to make a list. A lot of things I probably have down as habit too.

I have only locked my keys in my car when I had to put something else in my keys-hand. This happened a few months ago, around my parents and my Dad then made me a copy of my key and suggested I keep that spare in my purse (it’s a long cross-body strap type purse, so I wear it and don’t forget it). I swear I am a functioning adult! But I do still really benefit from help sometimes.