Son has no interest, no motivation. I’m out of ideas.

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    • #40118
      Penny Williams

      This discussion was originally started by user JAmurphy in ADDitude’s now-retired community. The ADDitude editors have included it here to encourage more discussion.


      I am beyond frustrated. I’ve been trying for nearly 13 years now to find something that interests my son, all to no avail.

      I’ve tried sports (individual as well as team), martial arts, music, arts — you name it.  He doesn’t want to do anything. He won’t even come with me to walk the dogs. He likes science, so I took him to a neat crystal shop yesterday and bought him some neat gems and rocks, along with a “blooming rock” kit, but I just asked him to come to the kitchen so we could set it up, and he said “no thanks – not now.”  All the items we bought will just sit in the bag indefinitely. I know. I’ve been through this a million times.

      I’ve suggested a few people for him to call this weekend, but we all know how few friends there are for our kids to choose from.  He’s gotten to the point where he won’t even bother calling anyone.  If I have a gathering including kids he gets along with, he has a great time, but he won’t take any initiative on his own to make/maintain friendships.

      He is a happy, goofy kid, but all he wants to do is play video games and watch videos about video games. He is walking around the house today carrying his Kindle and wearing his headphones

      I’m in tears again because I’m so frustrated at trying to get him interested in ANYTHING, and I’m so scared for what kind of life lies ahead of him when I can’t get him to find any sort of motivation within himself for anything. I have to prod him when it comes to academics, I have to prod him when it comes to social time. I have to prod him to put down the electronics and pick up a book. I have to prod him to engage in something he DOES like, like building something or drawing something, and the activity usually doesn’t last long.

      He is very thin, doesn’t eat much, and has hypotonia, which makes him even more prone to inactivity, but, without physical activity, the hypotonia will never get any better.

      I’m just so frustrated. I’m really just venting, but I’d love to read suggestions, if anyone has been through this and has found success with any methods or ideas.

      Thanks for reading.

    • #43353
      Kevin Ju

      This reply was originally posted by user knrdodd in ADDitude’s now-retired community.

      You are not alone in this! This is a constant battle in our home. My son has tried every activity and then soon becomes bored; currently it is tennis and guitar. He does try to maintain good grades but doesn’t study like I feel he should. Our counselor suggested that I check his grades every week (on Friday) and if he has a “C” (our guidelines) then he loses privileges. This works in our house. Right now he is working on a school project (it is 6:30am) that he could have done on Saturday. Good luck

      • #51789

        Sorry, replied to the wrong post.

        • This reply was modified 4 years, 5 months ago by M.Ryan.
    • #43355
      Kevin Ju

      This reply was originally posted by user adhdmomma in ADDitude’s now-retired community.

      Hi @JAMurphy!

      Once again, we sound like we have the same son. My son has other interests, but he’d rather play video games (Minecraft mostly right now) while also watching videos of others playing video games. He carries his iPad all around the house watching them. It drives me crazy, but I decided to find out why so I could at least understand it.

      My son also has HFA/Asperger’s. He is often very uncomfortable. That, coupled with racing and jumbled thoughts is tough for him to endure. So, he started watching videos constantly, as a way to focus and quiet his brain. He told his therapist and I that a couple months ago and it was such a big ah-ha! His dad (pretty certain undiagnosed ADHD) has to listen to music every waking moment, work and all. I now understand why he does it too, because it makes his brain focus on one thought, the music.

      As for preferring to play video games more than anything else, I think that’s because those interactions are a lot easier than in-person social situations for kids with ADHD. It can also take place in an environment they can control to be more comfortable (noise, temperature, clothing or lack thereof). Plus, they are good at technology and video games, when they are not good at other things.

      Yes, we are bombarded with messages that screen time should be limited, etc. But, I am of the opinion that isn’t necessarily true for everyone. And my son doesn’t play 24-7. He goes to school many hours a day and works really hard to keep it together those hours. Then he comes home to homework and chores. Sometimes he plays outside with a neighbor. Sometimes we have appointments and errands. Yes, it’s far more than 1-2 hours of screen time a day, but he’s not holed up in his bedroom doing nothing but video games and screen time around the clock.

      I am pretty strict about what he can and cannot play though. While he turns 13 this week, he is not allowed to play anything like Call of Duty and the like. No realistic shooting games, etc.

      Anywho, all that to say I’m right there with you, and I don’t think it’s as bad as people tell us. And remember, the ADHD brain is motivated by interest and urgency, not importance.

      Moderator, Author on Parenting ADHD, Mom to pre-teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #43359
      Kevin Ju

      This reply was originally posted by user JAMurphy in ADDitude’s now-retired community.

      Thanks for the input, all.

      Penny, I completely agree with you. My son gets way more screen time than he should, but I also understand the reasons why he enjoys it so much, so I think he actually needs it to some extent.

      I had read info like you posted about using it to help the brain focus, but I hadn’t thought of that lately, so thanks for the reminder.

      I’m okay with the extra screen time as long as everything else is taken care of. The priorities have to be right, and currently they are not. I found that he is ignoring some school projects and failing to put in the right amount of time on studying for quizzes, etc., just so he could play more. That’s not gonna fly with me, and his grades are fluctuating more than normal because he’s not focusing enough attention on studies. For that reason, screen time will be going down considerably between Monday and Thursday nights, but he will get the time reinstated on Friday – Sunday. He’s got to learn to get his priorities right.

      It’s so hard, because I know all the benefits he derives from the games/videos, but he also has to learn to buckle down despite his difficulties. When real life suffers because of the games/videos, adjustments have to be made.

      If he were more willing to go outside and play and do some physical activities, I wouldn’t be so worried, but he does nothing anymore. I can’t get him to go for walks, bike rides—nothing. I wish we lived in a neighborhood where there were kids around. I think that would make a HUGE difference.

    • #43363
      Kevin Ju

      This reply was originally posted by user coop522 in ADDitude’s now-retired community.

      JAMurphy, wow how alike our homes are. How alike our boys are! My son is 14 & is literally a carbon copy of your son. He will not participate in anything after school or on weekends. Everything is “boring” & “a waste of my free time”. Time is all he has! If free time were money he’d be a zillionaire.

      I’ve come to accept that it is so hard for him to keep it together for a long day in high school so I’ve tried to lay off him when he’s irritable after school.

      I came on here to ask if anyone else is having the problem of bored, blasé, unmotivated kids. I guess I’m not alone but man, it still feels awful &, at times, hopeless.

    • #47231

      I agree with a lot of what the others have said here but would like to add one more thing: I think that many times these kinds of issues (him preferring solitary time with video games instead of social activities, sports, etc.) are not “problems” for the kids, they are just problems for us parents. And until something is a problem for him (i.e. when he gets results or consequences he is not happy with), he will not be motivated to change or do things differently. The desire to change has to come from within him.

      I know you want the best for him and you are just trying to help him. But remember: you are not always going to be around to “prod him” or control things in his life. It’s important that he learn how to motivate himself and make choices that get him the results he wants in his life. Will he fail if you don’t prod him about things? Maybe. But if he does, think of it this way: that’s how he will learn and grow to become an independent adult.

      I think the best thing you can do for now is keep your relationship with him strong (find things to like about him, spend time together doing things he enjoys, etc.) so that when/if he gets to a point he wants to change something in his life, he’ll respect you and trust you enough to go to you for help and suggestions.

      And in the meantime, you don’t have to “feel awful and helpless”. How you feel is a result of your thoughts so there is a way to feel better despite what he does or doesn’t do: by changing your thoughts. For example, instead of thinking that something is “wrong” and has to change and that you have to be the one to constantly prod him or to fix things, or that his life is going to be horrible if he keeps going the way he’s going….try thinking, “this is just him and when/if he’s ready, he’ll change.”

      PS I had similar issues with my son when he was a teen. No amount of prodding etc. changed things. Years later, I asked him about it and here’s what he said, “Mom, I just had to get there on my own, in my own time.”

      Hope this helps!

      Joyce Mabe
      Parenting Coach, school counselor, mom of adult son with ADHD, author

    • #48781

      My son is EXACTLY the same. He graduated from high school last June and tried community college for a semester but that didn’t work. he just quit his second job in two years. I refuse to give him any money so I hope that being broke will motivate him to get out and get a job, but who knows. This was my nightmare when he was younger and he wouldn’t join any teams/ clubs/ activities and it seems it is coming true. Now he is not in school, does not have a job, has no friends he hangs out with, just plays video games and watches videos of other people playing video games. my heart is breaking.

      • #127275

        Thank you for your post!! I really needed to read this today!!!!

      • #135025

        Since this was posted in 2017 I am interested in finding out if anything has changed with your son? My son is 21 and is going through the same thing. Thanks.

    • #48783

      What about coming up with a contract stating the conditions for him being able to live there now that he’s out of high school (e.g., full time school or full time work, certain chores, certain amount of “rent”, etc.) Also, if you are paying for internet, devices, etc, then that is something else to re-think. As an “adult”, he needs to realize those things cannot be taken for granted anymore; they must be earned. I agree that until/unless he truly has a reason to change, he is likely to keep doing what he’s doing.

      I know it’s hard to consider the alternative if he breaks the contract. No parent wants to risk their kids being homeless. But at this point “hoping” he gets his act together might not be enough for him and you will be doing him a favor by showing him how things are in the “real world”. Enabling him at this point is not going to help him at all.

      That being said, remember that kids with ADHD are several years behind developmentally, so regardless of the fact that he graduated from high school, he is probably still at a 15-16 year old level in some ways. This doesn’t excuse things but it does shed some light on why he’s not in “I’m an adult now and ready to take on the world” mode yet. He’s likely still in a 15-16 year old mode of “video games are more fun than jobs.”

      Still, a contract outlining your expectations and clear boundaries is a step in the right direction.

      Joyce Mabe
      Parenting Coach, school counselor, mom of adult son with ADHD, author

    • #51506
      Uncle Dharma

      This sounds a lot like me when I was a teen.
      I just was not interested in doing what other kids were doing.
      I am not competitive, and have no interest in being pseudo-competitive and maintaining the status quo. By that I mean “Let’s race the far side of the oval and back” … and confirm that Andie is still the fastest runner in the class. Pfft
      Hanging out with other kids restricted me in so many ways. For example: designing and building model airplanes, which is hardly a team sport, and the other kids were hopeless at it and had no motivation … LOL

      My motivations in life are so different to many people. To most people actually.
      One friend from high school and I would design and make model planes. He is now a designing engineer and for fun he builds his own full-sized planes to get in and pilot.
      The other school friend I keep in touch with was mad about computers in the early days and went on to design computers with a big company.
      As for me, I worked as a geologist. When away from town there were few restrictions and we all just got on with the job. I now do some guest lecturing at a high school.
      After that I did computing at uni and have been working in that for years now. Decades actually.

      Currently, I am finding it difficult to get motivated to finish a project. I start many then … something else interrupts me.

      My best jobs were ones where I was asked to do a task, then LEFT TO DO IT. Luckily, I have managed to find this style of work over the years.
      I love working in a big team where I do my set of tasks that support the project.
      Having to conform to some team culture that is not related to the aim of the project, and is more like “Let’s race to race to the far side of the oval and back”, never interested me and still doesn’t.
      As a person with ADD, I find it very difficult to conform to a culture that makes no sense.

      It is 6:30 pm here and now I am motivated to shower, get dressed, and start my day.
      Bye for now.

    • #51578

      Those of us with ADD are always going to struggle with low energy, and that makes it difficult to get enthused and stay interested in something that has no purpose other than killing time. Maybe the trick with these unmotivated teens is to find that thing that matters to them. Not something to kill time and make friends, but something where they can see that they made a difference for someone else. When I say “someone,” I don’t only mean humans, though I don’t rule them out, either.

      I work a full day, and then spend most of the night rescuing snakes (and occasional toads and mice) from rural highways. Pick up one rattlesnake and watch a car go right through the spot where he was 30 seconds earlier and there’s a feeling that’s hard to put into words. It amounts to looking a living being in the eyes and knowing with absolute certainty that he would have been dead if you hadn’t been there. Many of us with ADD end up feeling like we don’t fit in and therefore we don’t matter. In a moment like that, you KNOW you matter, because you’re holding the living proof in your hands, and that’s a hard feeling to walk away from. Now, I’m not suggesting that you have your teen son go out and dodge cars and grab rattlesnakes! In fact you should probably not mention this post to him…

      The general idea, though is to see if you can find something that makes him feel like he’s making a difference, rather than just looking for hobbies to occupy his time. The other thing about giving him a mission is that a shared mission makes people bond more strongly than a shared interest, so despite his best efforts he WILL end up connecting with people.

      Lots of words. Sorry! It was hard to get the concept across concisely.

      • #51632
        Uncle Dharma

        yes Anomalocaris.
        The activity HAS to be relevant to the ADD person.

      • #135159

        Hi, this post is old now but I just wanted to tell you it touched me deeply. You’re a great human being. Thank you for writing this.

    • #51592

      Hi, just reading this and it sounds all too familiar to our household. We have a 15 year old. Just curious if any of you or your children have tried medication or counseling? Thank you

      • #51651
        Penny Williams

        Yes. My son takes ADHD medication and we visit a therapist when needed. He was diagnosed 8 years ago so we don’t do consistent therapy like we did when he was young, but it was super helpful then.

        In fact, the AAP recommends a combination of medication and behavior therapy for best treatment outcomes.

        ADHD in Children: Symptoms, Evaluations, Treatments

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

    • #51633
      Uncle Dharma

      Dear beachlur,
      I use dexamphetamine.
      It helps me to focus and is great at work.
      It also helps me to get going in the morning.

    • #51685

      This is an unpopular opinion, but I recommend taking a complete break from all electronics – do an electronics fast for several weeks. No videogames, no phones, no screens. After an initial difficult period, I have a feeling you’ll be surprised by the improvement in interest and connection with your son. I did something similar with my ADD son and it was remarkable. I followed the plan outlined in Victoria Dunckley’s book. I HIGHLY recommend it.

    • #51795

      Some possibly helpful reading:
      “There’s a good kind of distraction and a bad kind. Here’s how to tell the difference between them” (
      “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Video Games” (

    • #51875

      I agree with the recommendation to take a complete electronics break. It was SO difficult to implement with my son (10, not diagnosed, but exhibits many symptoms and behaviors of ADHD – impulsiveness, lack of enthusiasm for much of anything, negative self talk, etc. etc). He raged, and screamed, and cried, and begged. But after a week, he was agreeing that he felt better, and major meltdowns began to fade, and he went outside to play with the kids next door without prompting. I have always limited his screen time, but this total reset really helped us regroup.

      Also, I have found that finding ways to be deliberately playful has helped us immensely. The more playful we all are, the easier it is for my son to stay in control and enjoy life. We went to a trampoline park the other night for their neon jump party, and it was amazing. He smiled and stayed engaged the whole time, and is already eager to go back. I didn’t just take him and watch — I jumped with him. Playing together really helps us connect.

      There’s a great book, Playdhd, by Dr. Kirsten Milliken that has helped me look at play as a resource. She has a great Facebook page as well, and is starting to do Facebook live events on Tuesday evenings. Play is so important – and she has some great ideas and suggestions on how to be more playful to help manage ADHD.

    • #51517

      I read this article the other day: “There’s a good kind of distraction and a bad kind. Here’s how to tell the difference between them” . To summarize it, it matters if you use media to go toward something (learn or achieve something) or to go away from something (mask out anxiety, can’t think of anything else to do). If you determine that your child is going toward something, he is interested in something, so I believe you can stop worrying so much. By all means, keep trying to expand his world — this is what parents are supposed to do. I just think you’ll go much further if you use his hobby as a starting point more than something to run away from.

      Here is a blog entry that may give you a different perspective on video games: “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Video Games“. Pam Laricchia’s blog is about unschooling, which I don’t do because it wouldn’t be a good fit for me and my kid. However, I find that the unschooling philosophy in many areas reflects what I found to work with my kid the best, and Pam is an excellent writer. Many unschooled kids are left in a sense to do “whatever they want”, and it’s a relief to find out that they seem to be functional adults afterward. Peter Gray wrote this book called “Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life“, about inquiry-based schools where kids are left to follow their own interests, is also a fascinating read (and lest you think that all kids will ever choose are careers in video games, the kids mentioned in this book had very diverse careers — one even chose to be a mortician!).

      As Uncle Dharma so eloquently stated, it takes all kinds of people to make this up world. Do I know people that make a living playing computer games? Yes, I do! I even met somebody that was making money video-gaming competitively. I also met an avid video game player that started in the game industry, then realized how much money stock market traders make, and became a floor broker. Apparently it’s like playing video games! I spent an entire childhood reading everywhere, including while walking on the street (I stopped reading while crossing the road after narrowly escaping being hit by a car). As this post shows, I still spend most of my free time reading, and I find it easier and easier to direct it in useful ways as I get older.

      Parenting is hard and there are never any guarantees. But intense worry can really sap your soul and color the relationship with your child, which might perceive it as disapproval for what he is doing. If you find something that both of you will enjoy (even if it’s not necessarily educational, like going for ice cream on Sunday mornings), I believe it will bring up joy in both your lives.

    • #170364
      A mom

      My goodness. It sounds exactly like my 11 years old. He was never diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. He does alright in school with As and B’s (6th grade), but he is generally not interested in anything other than computer games. We’ve tried all kinds of sports,music, activities. Nothing sticks and everything seems boring for him. I play board games and I tried to come up with fun ideas to do with him, but he either rejects me right away without even trying, or he does it once and loses interest. I am not sure what to do. It is really frustrating.

    • #171307

      Hi- I have a 14 year old who needs prodding for most things. Yes, even things he likes. I was fortunate enough that he has stuck with hockey. However, to get him to do clinics he always had to have a friend to do it with him- this always helped- I always volunteered to be the driver to all of these things because I wanted to make it easier for the other parents so he could have his friend come with him. I think 1/2 of this is easily bored but the other 1/2 for my guy anyway is anxiety- If I could get someone on board to do it with him , he was more willing to do it/ try it. The prodding is exhausting but if you can find something that you know he would probably like if you can get him there – try seeing if there is a friend who might want to do it too. Sometimes I have exposed him to things that he ended up liking such as fishing, hitting balls at a driving range and renting a ball machine to play tennis( I always offered to bring his friend most of the time his friend came but sometimes he would do it with just me), but when asked if he wanted to take lessons .. it was always .. no I’m good. That being said fast forward a year or more and a couple of friends have taken up golf and now he wants to go out with them and is willing to take a lesson – he feels pretty good about it because of all the times I took him to the driving range. In a nutshell- if you are willing to do the leg work and there is a buddy you could ask – he might go and maybe later he’ll come back to it with greater interest and maybe a little confidence because he has some background – If I never prodded my guy he would just stay in his comfort zone sometimes within reason the battles were worth it because more often than not he admittedly liked the things we did and got some well rounded exposure ..

    • #178795

      My son is also 14, ADHD, and obsessed with watching YouTube videos, including those of other people playing video game. I’ve had some progress this summer by setting some choices such as picking between math tutoring once a week or a house project afternoon once a week. Or going to a day camp a couple weeks this summer or volunteering with me once a week. He wasn’t enthusiastic before we went, and was super crabby about getting up to do it, but he ended up enjoying the volunteer work and has been fine with going again the following weeks. For the house project we managed to sparkle and paint his room to cover up the years of writing on the walls. I’m finding that by setting up choices (A or B) rather than asking him “do you want to do this cool thing I thought of” has been helpful. Setting an expectation for the summer that he would either find a job (pretty tough for a 14 year old), go to camp, take a class, or do things with me helped set the groundwork for this.
      Then the rest of it is me trying to change my internal dialog. I tell myself we are spending 6-10 hours a week doing planned activities together, we have ended up doing other random things enroute to the planned activities. So he still has WAY too much screen time, but it is a little less than it would have been.

      I also totally agree on the friends coming with to make an activity more attractive. That trick works for us too.

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