Reply To: Alternative for Failing College Freshman

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Penny Williams

Honestly, I should have advice on avoidance, but I’m finding it difficult to improve with my own son at the moment. I think the extra difficulty lies in the fact that it’s learned helplessness — a coping mechanism they’ve learned over time. By the teen and young adult years, it can be very ingrained and habitual. Avoidance is born not just from fear of failure, but also from a pattern of failure (whether it really was failure or not – perceived failure is powerful too).

What I’m doing right now is trying my darndest to get teachers to help me hold my son accountable. He has a brutally stubborn habit of saying he finished work and turned it in, true or not. I’m working with teachers to confirm completion and watching his grades online like a hawk. Then, I’m calling him out when it’s not true. And I’m pushing him to let me help him more with homework — which he puts a ton of effort into resisting, because he knows it takes longer if he actually has to try to do well on things. What’s sad, is that this is a highly intelligent kid who wants to succeed. He’s just been programmed over many years of school struggles and inappropriate messages that he’s lazy at school, to the point that he doesn’t think he can do well and please his teachers, so why bother.

It’s more difficult for your daughter, because she’s an adult and away from home — you simply don’t have the influence and control needed to help her turn this around. At this point, she has to accept her ADHD and accept the help. You can’t force her to do that. And, the more you nag about it, the more she will likely resist (our kids don’t want to do what we tell them, they want to figure it out on their own). All you can do is continue to let her know you’re there to support her and help her in any way she needs. And, maybe, let her know you won’t pay for her to continue to do poorly — set a minimum GPA (most majors require a C average to get the degree) that you’ll pay for. Sometimes an approach like that works, and sometimes it backfires.

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