Teens with ADHD

Don’t Freak Out! And 13 More Rules for Navigating Teen Behavior Challenges

Too strict. Or, too wishy-washy. Lecturing constantly. Or hardly communicating. Inconsistent parenting strategies can exacerbate unwanted behaviors, especially among teens with ADHD. How to create the right pattern at home.

A teenage girl with ADHD feels ashamed about her symptoms and sits quietly alone
Parenting ADHD Teens: Communication and Homework

Parenting teenagers with ADHD is no easy task. Luckily, University of Massachusetts researchers have identified four strategies that parents generally rely on that actually fuel behavior problems among teens with attention deficit disorder (ADHD — formerly called ADD).

All talk, no action. Parents yell, scream, argue, and threaten, but do not follow through with consequences.

Letting teens set the tone. If the teen is calm and respectful, so is the parent. If the teen complains or acts up, the parent follows suit.

Adopting a “whatever” attitude. If a parent is tired of getting into snarls, she disengages. Born from letting teens set the tone, this is a poor way to deal with important issues.

Using inconsistent discipline. Parents use harsh or extreme disciplinary measures erratically, mainly when they’ve had enough.

[How to Steer Your Teen Without Hovering or Nagging]

Effective Parenting Strategies

These simple, effective principles will help you control your emotions when parenting a teen with ADHD.

Test different discipline approaches. Walk the line between being too strict and too lenient. Use problem-solving and negotiation to give your teen input and responsibility. Try a strategy, evaluate, and redesign as needed.

Don’t talk too much. Let emotions calm down before speaking with your teen. Always listen more than you speak. Be brief and be gone.

Communicate with your partner. Both parents should be on the same discipline page, and each should support the other. This stops the teen from manipulation and from pitting parents against each other.

[Get Your Teen Ready for Life]

Plan ahead. Know which issues matter most and are non-negotiable. Discuss them and your expectations — and have preset consequences.

“I’ll think about it.” These four little words move the discussion from the “have to have an answer right away” mode.

Ignore minor issues. Homes become combat zones when parents complain to the teen about everything.

Don’t beat a dead horse. If your teen has already paid for his misdeed or screw-up (lost his new digital camera, say) or has been disciplined by a teacher or the police, ask yourself, “Is another consequence needed, or am I ticked off and out for vengeance?”

Don’t take arguments personally. Ignore your teen’s “you don’t trust me” protests. Monitoring is a parent’s job. Expect flak — and don’t take it to heart.

Network. To know what’s going on in your teen’s world, step into it. Go to school events and talk with other parents.

Show your love. When your teen walks through the door, do you bark or smile? Let your eyes fill with light, and make your words loving. Put problems on the back burner.




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  1. The biggest question I always have when reading these types of articles is HOW DO I NOT FEEL EMOTIONALLY VIOLATED?
    I remember fussing with my parents and not intending to hurt them but that doesn’t help me. I am still so very hurt.

    1. I know exactly how you feel. My daughter’s words have dug deep over the years. Some I don’t think I will ever be able to forget. Because they DO emotionally violate us. We are humans. We sink 110% into loving them and they backlash when things don’t go their way and can be emotionally abusive. What I remember is that she is likely “flooding”, a phenomena whereby the emotion of anger saturates their brain, literally leaving no room for rational thought or judgment. It’s like a virus attacks our computer. I remember her maturity is 3-5 years behind. I remember she lacks impulse control and will keep being this way until I walk away and give her time to simmer down. Once she is calm, often the next day, we talk. It is so important to reconcile the relationship. Tell your child “you must have been really angry to have said that to me.” This usually leads to an apology. They don’t want to lose control. Then I help her find coping strategies she could use next time these feelings take over (like have a special word that gives u both permission to walk away until things are cooler). Then I remind her I know she will do a better job controling herself next time. ADHD is a regulation disorder, so understand your child’s limitations and accept them where they are. It gets better. You are more equipped than you realize, and love always wins.

  2. My brother is 14 and he’s coming off his medication for bipolar disorder but continues to take medication for adhd. He’s been doing good but lately I’ve noticed that he’s become defiant. In school he’s fine he has amazing grades. At home it’s a different story. He does things when he feels like it and it’s a constant struggle every day. I don’t know what I could do to keep him from getting mad so much or saying that I never understand him. I know he’s a teenager but this is all new to me. Any suggestions?

    1. I don’t know why he’s stopping his bipolar medication, but that could very well be the reason for his mood changes and increased anger. Talk with his doctor about what you’re seeing.

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

      1. We stopped the medication because he was sleeping to much. To the point that he couldn’t concentrate on his homework. He would come home from school and just sleep wake up to eat dinner and then sleep the whole night. I don’t want him to go back on the medication, so we’ve been trying natural meds instead. I’ve noticed that he doesn’t get as agitated as long as he’s on a schedule and knows what to do.

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