13yo son = household chaos

Home Welcome to the ADDitude Forums For Parents Teens & Young Adults 13yo son = household chaos

Viewing 12 reply threads
  • Author
    • #81300

      My 13yo son was diagnosed with ADHD at age 5 and has been on meds since that time due to his high hyperactivity. In these 8 yrs, we’ve struggled with him creating chaos at home: taking items (scissors, knives, hand tools, etc), leaving food in his room and family areas, making general messes in all rooms with paper, tissues, toiletries, etc. When asked why, he says ‘I don’t know’. We used to attribute these behaviors in part to his immaturity, but he is THIRTEEN and still spewed his sister’s shampoo all over the shower stall last night. We establish consequences and things are better for a time, but never really great. His psychiatrist wants to decrease his meds, which makes us very leery, as the meds seem to be a major mediating factor in his impulsivity.

      Any advice??

    • #81333
      Penny Williams

      Remember that ADHD is a developmental disorder, so his skills in many areas are that of a 9-10 year old. Also, executive functioning deficits common with ADHD can cause disorganization and “messiness.” I’ve learned with my own son that he really doesn’t see the messes — it’s a lack of awareness because his brain doesn’t “see” that way.

      Your Child’s 7 Executive Functions — and How to Boost Them

      What I am doing is calling my son back and asking HIM what else he thinks he might need to do before walking away for good. Usually, he’s able to spot the mayonnaise still on the counter, or the wet towel in a pile on the bathroom floor. I’m bringing his awareness to the fact that there’s more to do and helping him to start thinking through the process of cleaning up or finishing up before walking away.

      It’s a process and a very, very long one.

      Less Messy in 30 Days!

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

    • #81809

      My son is 11 and this sounds very similar. We’ll get the house completely clean and like clockwork, he comes around and pulls things out that he hasn’t played with in years. I feel like when things are tidy, he doesn’t know how to process that and he thrives on chaos. He is on meds and it doesn’t really make that part of things better. I wish I had more advice other than to say that I think it’s a normal part of how an ADHD mind works.

    • #81813

      I have a 14 year old daughter that was recently diagnosed. We also live in complete CHAOS. She lives completely in the moment following whatever she wants at that moment. Trash, expensive items of clothing, her homework, it doesn’t matter what it is, everything ends up being thrown all over our home. We live in a state of crazed searching about half of the time trying to locate whatever she has lost at the moment that she thinks she has to have right then. I have been calling her back to pick up, shut off lights, ask her what she missed, for 8-10 YEARS. Yes – that’s right – YEARS. I want to think this will improve, but I have days where I worry that I’m losing hope.

      I work outside the home 40 hours every week and have a commute that is about an hour each way every day. We are unable to have people over. Our home is a giant source of shame.

      I guess my point is, you are not alone.

    • #81814

      pmerrill! We have similar instances. Especially right as we are about to walk out of the door for school, he’ll be on a mission to find something (ie baseball cards) that he hadn’t even been talking about and when he can’t find it and I tell him that “It will turn up.”, he goes into panic and desperation that his “life is over” and he will “never ever” find it. Getting out of the house is very difficult. I cringe any time people just drop by, because I generally leave the house a mess because if I pick up, I’ll just be doing it again the next day.

      It’s nice to know others are experience similar things and that this might be their “normal.”

      • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by jenzingaro.
    • #81841

      Thanks to everyone for your feedback! I know there is hope because he’s actually become quite proficient at tidying up in the bathroom after his nightly shower and in the morning after getting washed and dressed. The carrot (or stick, depending on your perspective) was telling him he could have his phone only after the bathroom passes my not-all-that-high standard.

      School continues to be a struggle. Thank goodness our school district is very good about supporting him, including a twice-weekly check-in and review with an IEP person. Nonetheless, most of his schoolwork is done at school so we’re unable to keep close tabs on completed vs missing assignments… until we check the school site and find a flag that something is AWOL, and by then it is often too late to be found or made-up.

      I very much appreciate this forum… it is so easy to feel like we’re alone and incompetent parents, especially among family / friends / co-workers with non-ADHD kids.

    • #81896

      I just discovered this site…and to say the least, I am elated! I have a 14 yo boy who is ridiculously gifted and talented but wants nothing more than to sit on the computer or game console. What is an appropriate amount of time for him to game? Should I have him earn game time? How do you know as a parent when your “corrections/punishment” is over the top? Thanks is advance….Frustrated

      • #82032

        I was very thankful when I found this site too! My son sounds just like yours. Mine is almost 13. We set strict limits on both YouTube viewing and video games. He would play/watch 24/7 if we let him. For video games, he gets 30 minutes. He can earn extra time by doing extra work, or reading for 20 minutes (for example). As for YouTube, if it is a time where he would be watching TV anyway, we will let him watch for maybe an hour at the most. Then he has to pull away and DO something. As for earning the game time to begin with, yes! My son hates to shower. So, in order to play, he has to take his shower. He also has chores he has to get done in order to play (dishes put away, pets fed, room tidy, etc). So game time is NEVER free in our house! It is an earned privilege! Hope this helps, even if just a little.

        • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by sarahb1102.
    • #81908

      I have never posted on these forums before but I can SO totally relate that I thought I’d let you know that you are definitely not alone. Between my oldest son with ADHD, I’m pretty sure my husband also has ADHD and my 9 year old daughter who is not yet diagnosed but I’d bet money she has it too, my house is a disaster most of the time. The weekends that they are all gone away (usually camping as they’re all in the Scouting program) is 2 days of bliss for me as I will tidy up after myself and enjoy… only to have them return on Sunday and utter chaos once again ensues. It makes me beyond crazy. Thankfully I do have 1 kid who tidies up after himself and my oldest is finally starting to pick up after himself, sometimes, though I don’t even want to get started on all the homework that has been lost or not handed in, permission forms that have gone missing, etc., etc. He is borderline not going to graduate if he doesn’t find everything soon and hand it in to be marked!

      I often feel it is them vs. me when it comes to even little tidying and that is so mentally exhausting. I don’t expect perfection by any means and I am definitely not the tidiest person in the world but if you have a snack, put the dirty dish in the dishwasher, don’t just leave it on the table or couch. If you take a wrapper off something, it goes in the garbage, not on the counter beside the garbage. I don’t feel that it is asking too much!!

      Anyway, good luck to you all in this constant struggle!

    • #81913

      I’ve created a system to mitigate the disaster that is my house. Here are a few examples:
      I have laundry hampers in my living room, boys’ bedrooms and bathrooms. I was tired of wet athletic clothes on my area rugs. It’s 50/50 if they make it into the hamper, but it’s 100% that I’ll be less upset taking something 5 feet instead of upstairs or to the basement.
      Toothpaste was ending up everywhere, so I only put out travel size toothpaste. Smaller tube= less mess.
      Food was ending up everywhere, so I do a nightly check of my couch cushions and under the coffee table looking for food and wrappers. I do a morning check of his bedroom, looking for food and food wrappers. I’ve gotten in the habit of sitting in the kitchen after dinner to make sure that food isn’t going out.
      Dresser drawers are labelled, because everything was going in every drawer. He has to fold his clothes and match his socks in front of me or they will vanish and end up who knows where.
      When it comes to homework: I check the school’s software daily. I compile a list of homework and put it into an app called “Todoist” for my son. I also send that list to his IS, so she is aware of everything due that week. I will e-mail teachers to let them know that homework has been completed and that they should get it from him. (this is an upgrade from me scanning and sending everything). When he says that he completed something at school, I will e-mail that teacher and ask for confirmation that they have that assignment. His teachers have uploaded a PDF of just about every piece of paper they pass out in class which is a tremendous help. In the past two years, I’ve printed a ream of paper worth of lost assignments, readings and study guides. Because it’s in his IEP, he can turn any assignment in up until the end of a marking period without penalty. Without that, even with all the work I do at home, he would be flunking high school. I have no idea what is going to happen in 2 years when he’s supposed to graduate. The IEP team can’t answer that question either. I want to step back from this, but it is impossible. I went a week to see what would happen and it took two weeks to get all those missing assignments in.

    • #81927

      omg. my place is usually a disastrous pigsty! it’s embarrassing. i think it’s true they don’t “see” the mess or maybe it doesn’t bother them as much. my daughter is a walking tornado. her room is disgusting. it’s like a trash compactor under her bed and closet and just as bad everywhere else. i can’t even begin to describe it. last year, it took me and four friends for days to clear out and clean up. i got rid of about 90% of her clothes (she did have lots) and spent hours organizing. not long afterwards, it was getting messy again! i don’t even know how it gets so messy. i don’t know how she can sleep in her messy bed and i’ve even found food etc under her pillow and spilled snacks, concoctions of i don’t know what all mixed together in cups and mugs in different parts of her room, items strung together, tied together and put into bags and drawers here and there. i find things spilled everywhere and find utensils, baking supplies etc. i’m still missing my cookie sheet and one beater from my hand mixer among other things. rotting food and unrecognizable food in lunch containers shoved in the back of her dresser and mixed into dirty (or clean?) laundry. with my daughter, it’s not only the add, she’s also got that crazy scientist, creative artist brain and just generates mess! she just can’t make a simple hot chocolate, it becomes a major production and then leaves the mess! now that she is 13 (turning 14 in june) add in the attitude, rudeness, huge defiance, temper tantrums and meltdowns are bigger and even scary. i believe she has the odd comorbid with add but at school for the most part or in front of friends, she doesn’t exhibit these toxic behaviours as much as at home. the verbal abuse is bad. she has a resource block at school that she hates and says that she doesn’t need (she does need it badly). without it, i know nothing would be handed in and she’d be failing. she’s had to re-do so many assignments because they all get misplaced and lost. at least there is someone on the school side helping to keep her on track which is so helpful, and i follow up at home. it’s exhausting. ever since she’s been little she just takes off when she gets mad and this impulsiveness has led to the police getting involved. it’s still a fight for her to take her medication every morning. so now, instead of fighting with her and running to work late, i let the school know if she didn’t take it and she’s supposed to take it in front of the resource teacher who has some. lately, i found out she’s been spitting it out b/c she doesn’t like that it kills her appetite and she wants to eat. i have to administer it one at a time because she’s dumped the whole container in the garbage before. for chores, i’ve made many lists and tried to list it out by day. i restrict her internet access or simply just take away the laptap or tablet. she is hooked on instagram and would be on it all day if she could. she has no sense of time and then gets angry if i tell her to get off it. a couple weeks ago she broke the hard drive on the laptop when she got mad and slammed the lid down then pounded on it. she says it’s not her fault (blame blame blame) because her brother made her mad and i made. her mad. her older brother doesn’t have adhd but is not any better in terms of attitude and behaviour lately which directly affects his sister, and me too. then there’s the whole issue of screen time. don’t even get me started! the house is usually in a state of chaos because of my daughter’s messes or because of things getting trashed due to tantrums or both. i don’t clean up after that anymore and make them do it since they’re both old enough, after they’ve calmed down. my daughter used to not care if friends saw the house or her room but i think very recently she does care somewhat because she said she didn’t want her friend to come over because of her room. anyways, tip of the iceberg. i feel for you all. you are not alone and in reading this it helps me to feel i’m not so alone either. so thank you all for sharing. my kids are literally killing me.

    • #81939

      Hello~ I would like to suggest checking out a book called “Smart but Scattered Teens” by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare. There is also an edition focusing on children. There are questionnaires in the book for parents and teens/kids. These determine a person’s Executive Functioning Skills strengths and weaknesses. They give suggestions on how to improve the weaknesses. Google Executive Functioning Skills if you are not familiar with these. I have a son with ADHD (age 13, Dx formally in 1st grade) and am also a K-8th grade school counselor. I have attended a workshop done by the author Peg Dawson. It is one of the best I have been to in my 23 years of being a school counselor. I highly recommend it. Sheepishly, I have to say I have yet to do it with my own son. Might help with the same issues many of you are dealing with! I use it with my students…I think when I consider doing it with my son, it feels very overwhelming, and I kind of expect him to fight me on it, as he fights me on most things. Nonetheless, I believe it is valuable information. I encourage parents to look into this.

    • #81941

      Hello –

      We have chaos as well – 11 y/o with ADHD, husband with ADHD, mom with Aspergers and 8 y/o with Type 1 diabetes….

      what I can say:

      1) pick your arguments.
      in our house, we usually use paper plates, bowls and often plastic utensils. It makes clean up easier.
      2) kids need some skin in the game.
      – its amazing how much better he ate and cleaned up once he learned how to cook
      3) natural consequences are important
      – rule… if you don’t set the table, then you can’t eat. If you don’t run the dishwasher, then the dishes are dirty when you want them and you have to hand wash them in the moment. Takes a while but seems to make a difference.
      4) If you have to put money into having g housecleaner, then the money is not there for other things. Essentially put it on account. If my house has 5 rooms plus a shared bathroom (with four people total), and I paid $120 to get it clean, then $20 is his/her share for the bedroom, and $5 his/her share for the bathroom. If he is ok with that $25 going essentially against his account, then he makes that choice, and can’t spend it on a new cool science project.
      5) Privileges are _earned_ and for a specified length of time, not forever. So a reward for completing homework isn’t that you get to do homework in your room for an unspecified length of time, its that you completed and turned in 90% of your homework this week so next week you can do 1 hour of homework per night unsupervised in your bedroom. You can negotiate from there up or down.
      6) only work on one or two things at a time. If you try to work on everything you will drive yourself – and everyone else nuts!


    • #82571

      Hello AB mum,

      Both of you sit down. Explain that not only does he have rights, but as parents you also have rights. He is now too old for a reward chart. Suggest a contract of agreement.
      Discuss say 6 things that annoy you both (3 concerns each) Both of you sign. Review after 2 wks. Cross of the thing that has improved and possibly add other concerns that need to be addressed. It is about working as a team and respecting each other.
      Good luck.

Viewing 12 reply threads

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.