ADHD 15 yr old Stepson

This topic contains 8 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Eve 4 days, 5 hours ago.

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  • #119572


    Hi All,
    Have recently married a man who has a 17 yr old and 15 yr old, both with ADHD. Both taking meds , youngest I know is Ritalin. The problem I have is distinguishing between symptoms and bad parenting. Have researched quite a bit. Since I have entered the family, their screen time has reduced a bit, from after school to 2/3 in the morning. Now internet is shut off at 11pm. I know this is still too much.
    But things like not washing hands after the toilet, or wearing the same clothes for a week. Or continually taking seatbelts off, or being late (unless they are motivated ie they want something at the store. Lack of motivation for school or a job. It’s now summer holidays and it’s 24/7 tv or movies. What can be done about all this? Considering they have ADHD

  • #119588


    Think about behavior as a symptom. Why do they not wash their hands after the toilet? Why do they wear the same clothes for a week? What are they chronically late? There are reasons behind these behaviors, and they are likely tied to ADHD. They are not character flaws o moral failings.

    Executive functioning deficits common with ADHD make sequencing, planning, organization, and working memory more difficult. All of those things go into these tasks you’ve listed. They probably forget washing hands because it feels like they are finished with the task after toileting. My son is the same way. He will do it with a reminder to go back, so it’s not a refusal. Also, many boys and men I know swear they’re not touching anything germy when they pee — which is totally false! They’re touching germs to aim and touching germs to flush.

    Wearing the same clothes for a week means a lack of awareness or a lack of prioritizing the reasons it might be important to wear different clothes each day. Or, it could be something sensory or certain clothes make them comfortable and then less anxious.

    Remember, ADHD is a developmental disability and those with ADHD are typically 2-3 years behind same-age peers in a lot of skills and developmental areas. The means your boys are 12 and 14, at best, in a lot of ways. That’s a big difference in expectations.

    Our therapist once told me that kids with ADHD will “misbehave” knowingly as much as their neurotypical peers. The rest can be attributed to ADHD.

    6 Truths About Child Behavior Problems That Unlock Better Behavior

    When I was a kid, I sat around and watched a lot of tv. I don’t have ADHD. I’m a successful, functioning adult. Kids need a break to emotionally heal after a school year. They work so hard and struggle so much in that environment.

    If you want them to do more activity, encourage volunteering, a part-time job, or an active hobby like biking.

    A phrase I remind myself of often, and use as my parenting compass is: Your child isn’t giving you a hard time, they’re having a hard time.”

    Your Child Is Not Giving You a Hard Time. Your Child Is Having a Hard Time.

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

  • #119590


    Hi Penny,
    Thanks for your response. I guess what I’m stStruggling with is adhd vs defiant behaviour. Ie the reason younger doesn’t wash hand is because shit (excuse) isn’t dirty, or bringing his bird downstairs and letting it poop on the couch. What I’m saying is, is that everything is attended to when something is in it for them. Like when they are called back downstairs to clean their plate after dinner, I’m told I’m petty because it was two feet away and I could have done it. I’m talking about electing to take seatbelts off while enroute even though they know physical and financial consequences if something were to happen. I’m talking about straight A students when they elect to hand in the work and lying about not having homework to do. I understand the hyperactivity, inattentiveness, lapses in time and subsequent bad time management. But surely not all I’ve mentioned above is a result of ADHD? How do you differentiate and then how do you discipline considering the ADHD?

  • #119749



    ADHD is not that we can’t pay attention. It’s actually the exact opposite. We feel and hear thousands of thoughts a second. We are basically on overload everyday all day. So we may seem distracted but we are paying attention. The ADHD brain is amazing, and inspiring, and creative, however we can also be very hard to deal with.

    I have ADHD. I am a 33 year old male and I’m married now, and I have a bachelors degree and work in sales. I wanted to come on here and give you an understanding of what it is like for a boy/man with ADHD. First of all we are often misunderstood quite a bit. I remember being a kid and always feeling confused, and lost and alone. I remember feeling different and knowing that I was different. I remember hearing things like oh he is developmental delayed, or oh he is lazy, or not smart. I would try to avoid saying any of those things. I would try to understand how they feel, and what they are thinking. They are probably not changing clothes because they are occupied with other things they find entertaining. I used to wear the same clothes for a week as a kid, I still do now at times. The way I get past that now is I have a reminder, and I have my wife tell me to remind me to do something if I haven’t done it by a certain time.

    I also noticed that you said something about them only doing things thats in it for them. This is still true for me today, I will not do things that I know I need to do because I don’t get anything out of it. This is actually common for people with ADHD. They are most certainly not trying to be defiant. They don’t understand why its a big deal to clean their plates when they are done because in their head they finished the task, and now they are on to something else.

    From my experience you can’t discipline a child for doing something they don’t know how to do. What I mean is that if you do not have ADHD and you have a neurotypical brain you can do things that need to be done because that is what you are supposed to do. This is because you can think logically and your parents and society and what not have told you and taught you what to do. With ADHD we can’t do that. We physically and chemically do not have those things in our brain. We are unable to control our impulses and feelings. As we get older sure we can keep them under control at times but it’s not ever going to go away. People with ADHD are different and will never be like neurotypical brains, so trying to discipline them like one is only going to harm them. Their are a lot of good articles on this website to help with disciplining the constructive and right way. So if you discipline a child with ADHD for doing something you think is normal you’re only hurting them. Instead ask them what is going on, and give positive encouragement and reinforcement when they do things right. I also know that if I’m getting a reward at the end of doing something I’m more likely to do it. It has to be a genuine reward and something that they pick. In order for us to want that reward we need clear instructions and detailed. Maybe try something like if you do the dishes and change your clothes then you can have TV for an hour. Something like that where they know why they should do it. Then at the end of the hour stand in front of them at the TV or break their focus from what they are enjoying, and then tell them the next thing that needs to be done. This way they are getting things done, and are still getting what they want.

    The reason they can get all A’s is because that topic interests them and they get in what is called hyper focused mode. What that is is where we are literally tuning everything outside and for that brief period of time our brains are working like a neurotypical brain. We can get so much done in this time, and often times we can forget to eat, or bathe. If they are finding something that they enjoy then encourage them to continue to do it, and use it as a reward for doing a basic chore. Another thing I tell myself is that i’m just going to do this one dish. That one dish then turns into 2 and then before long I have finished all of what needs to be done. This is because we were given a simple task, then when we start we get “hyperfocused” to a point and complete that thing.

    As far as the taking the seat belts off while in the car, that is normal for ADHD kids. I used to do dumb things when I was a teenager for the rush, because again in our brains we don’t have the proper dopamine or serotonin as neurotypical brains, so when we do impulsive and exciting things it increases those levels. While I’m not saying it’s OK to do that I’m saying that is part of ADHD.

    You mentioned the white lies as well. The reason for that is because we don’t like to disappoint people and we take rejection hard so in our heads we tell a lie because at that particular time it makes us feel good. We also will do this to avoid feelings. The reason is because we feel feelings much more intensely than others and when they hit us it can literally consume our entire minds. At times it can even give us physical symptoms such as chest pains, and sweaty hands, at least for me. When we let someone down we think about what are they thinking of us.Do they want to be around us anymore, I can’t believe that I did this. Then we feel immense embarrassment, and then a sense of failure. If we can’t do this then why should we do anything else because all we do is disappoint our loved ones. As I got older I realized that is probably not what people think but I still find myself thinking like that on occasion.

    So I hope this has helped answer some of your questions. ADHD people are fascinating and smart and really successful when they have the proper tools to help them succeed. I wish you the best of luck and just remember how lucky you are to be surrounded by such bright young men!

    • This reply was modified 5 days ago by  Andyn86.
  • #119761


    Hi Andy, thanks for your lengthy response. Must have taken a while. I guess what I’m trying to say is how did you get to university if you never completed any school work? Did someone have to stand over your shoulder every day for hours EVERY TIME something was due? When you have a shift at work do you tell your wife you covered it when you didn’t and just not shown up to work? Do you remember to turn the lights off and clean up after yourself every single time without fail, once you knew you were in real trouble. Is it ok to lie about homework so you can play video games 24:7? Because I have understood that’s it’s all good and well if they are interested in the reward but other than that I can’t expect them to get anything accomplished. It seems the only way to get them to do anything is absolutely lose my shit and yell. In addition there was a lot of lax parenting before I came along. Husband acknowledges this. 21 yr old’s boyfriend actually said to me my mums house is perfectly clean but I don’t know why when I’m hear I don’t give a f***. At the same time I know two youngest have ADHD. So I’m struggling with how to differentiate between the unmotivated behaviour unless it involves video games, and lack of life skills (that were never previously taught by parents) and the ADHD. I’ve looked up subjects like when your teen opts out re school. And advice given is say ‘ultimately I would like you to get a’s and b’s but do you think a c will get you a good gpa?’ But that won’t work because we are not doing anything unless someone is standing over their shoulders. Do you have homework? No. A week later.. why is this a 0? (Shrug)

  • #119765



    Yes it did take a while for me to write that post but it is ok lol. So I graduated from college because i realized it was something that I wanted to do. In high school I was extremely smart still am. I could get A’s and B’s and never open a book, but I never did the homework I got too bored. I remember one time I was taking spanish so in order to try and teach myself Spanish I played a video game in Spanish. It worked for a little bit. Anyways I regress. I did have someone stand over me and lecture me in high school. It was miserable and I hated every second of it, and that’s why I didn’t go to college until I was 26. I tried right out of high school but it took all the fun from me because my parents stood over me and treated me like a 15 year old. When I was younger I would tell my parents I was going to work and I would go somewhere else and lie about it. It’s not that I didn’t want to work, but it’s that my brain was acting like a 16 yr old when I was 19, so that part is somewhat normal. As an adult right now I’m not happy in my job but I figure out why I like it, and that I will be able to get what I want, aka money to be able to go on vacation etc.
    As far as when something was due, yea that’s still a problem in my job. I have deadlines I need to hit in sales and I will forget about them, and then I will get in trouble from my boss. That disappointment is the worst feeling ever for someone with ADHD. It eats you away. However I have learned and am still learning to write things down. I write stuff down when I think of it at work and then I can look back at it and be like oh yea I need to do this or do that.

    The yelling is the WORST THING EVER that you can do for a kid with ADHD. They literally can’t think like you and don’t understand why you are yelling or what they did wrong. This will only lead to resentment and rebellion because they feel well what is the point. I screw up I get yelled at. I make a mistake I get yelled at why even bother trying to do things. I think you should have a conversation with them and ask them what they are struggling with and then help them and be understanding. You can’t yell no matter how much you want to. My mom did this when I was growing up and it lead to resentment and depression and other things. Instead of yelling help them understand the skills that they need to be successful.

    You mentioned the unmotivated behavior, it is there because honestly they aren’t motivated. Why would they be? They are getting yelled at for making mistakes, they know they are different they feel misunderstood. Would you be motivated to change if that was happening to you?

    As far as the lights and stuff go, I constantly need reminders to do that stuff because I forget. Luckily my wife is understanding and she will tell me I’m dissapointed or what not but won’t lecture. The worst thing you can do is lecture because an ADHD brain is very observant and we know when we made a mistake or let someone down and then we beat ourselves up.

    I hope this helps, and just remember they are not like you, so you have to think differently, and enable their creative and bright side to come out! Good Luck!

  • #119772


    Sorry the unmotivated behaviour was before I came along, when they could do whatever they wanted. They get petulant and upset when you tell them to clean their stuff in a calm manner. Is there anything I can expect them do do?

  • #119776


    In addition, re the lights. I started removing lightbulbs. Now they don’t forget. So is it adhd or bad parenting? Still I’m finding it very hard to differentiate. The 15 year old cocks his head whenever I talk and I understand that I’m very influential at the moment. He has never been taught social skills and parents still treat him like an 8 year old, which is not fair to him. So yes I am a wicked step mum/ogre who has their best interests at heart (some for me, I don’t want hands that have just wiped a bum on my fridge) but no one claps louder than me when they succeed. I offer career advice when they seem to have an interest and for example offer to pay for private programming classes etc. again and again I can’t differentiate what is adhd and lax parenting where kids are in front of computer 24/7 on school vacation or 8 hrs a day on school days and have never been taught how to wipe a bench or clear a plate. See where I’m coming from?

  • #119797


    Hi, I completely identify with your post. I am trying to learn/ understand how my 16 yr old son mind/ADHD works. I have tried implementing tools: not yelling/ remove myself when he is in meltdown mode / find incentive to motivate, etc… But nothing really changes. I use to give him $6 if he left the house on time-got to school on time n took a supplement(brain support),then i found out he was smoking pot, ive stopped giving him $$. I also understand my son will need constant reminders-which only aggravate him more. Currently, Ive taken away his computer/phone n keys. I know its excessive but i don’t know what else to do. Our constant arguments: are going to bed late because he’s on his phone or computer – when i ask him to give me his phone in order to remove the distraction, he would explode into a rage. Morning n evening routines are always argumentative. Since Ive taken away these things we haven’t argued about use of computer or phone. He is organizing his dresser n trying to clean his room, since he has nothing else to do. I took his keys away because when he skips school – he comes home n brings his friends, eventhough i have told him or tried to implement house rules: no cutting class n no friends at the house, especially- when im not home. His Dad n i are separated, thank goodness he goes to his Dad house every wkend,which gives us a break from each other. Ofcourse when he is at his Dad’s house, he is compliant n when i tell his Dad about his behavior with me, his reply is- he doesn’t do that at my house,which only make me feel like an unfit parent.When i tell my son if things dont get better at school or his behavior w/me -He might be better off living with his Dad. He becomes angry n accuses me of not loving him. He tells me he doesn’t like going to his Dad’s house. I know my son is hurting n is crying out-but we can’t seem to find balance or peace. despite the fact that we have heart to heart talks,we come up with plans to help him achieve his goals. We feel confident thing will work out with new plans. The moment we start – it fails. He is failing all his classes. When i ask him about homework he tells me either hes done it or teachers didn’t give any. But online school portal say otherwise. He was evaluated at school n diagnosed with ADHD,an IEP is being prepared. Since he will be going to summer school, They hope to start implementing it during summer school. Its been a long/exhausting/heartbreaking road. Im also trying to find out what works. Im going to 12 Step support groups to keep me sane. I feel guilty/sad/confused. Im sure my son feels it 100x worse. Im looking for therapy n parents courses. I’ve printed out providers who participated with my insurance all of them are nurses – the few that I’ve called dont treat adolescents. I feel like a hamster in a wheel. So, when is it ADHD or Bad parenting? I’m looking for the same answer.
    Hopefully we all can give each other strategies that has helped. I know they might not work all the time but im willing to try everything. I love my son unconditionally – he is an amazing soul. But i can’t enable disrespect n bad behavior. I want to learn what are reasonable expectation. I know its not his fault – how he processes information, however his homework needs to be handed in even if its wrong/ he should pick up after himself/ get to school on time n stop being disrespectful to me, when i enforced house rules. Im exhausted just by writing this.
    Thank you for your post n everyone comments – i hope we can find the answer soon and support each other-Parenting Our Amazing kids.

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