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Parents of ADHD Teens and Young Adults

ADHD daughter hiding messing dishes

So, I just wondered if anyone else out there ever experienced this:
I recently was cleaning off the top of my kitchen cabinets - this required getting on a step stool to reach and/or see over the top of the cabinets to clean.  There I discover a slew of dishes - plates, bowls, food half-eaten, half-packaged,...all apparently thrown up there in what??  An escape out of taking care of it properly from my 17-year old ADHD daughter??  When I asked her about it, she denied it, said she didn’t remember it, then said she hadn’t done that in a long time.  Really?  Because there were two lemon poppy seed muffins - one with a ‘1’ candle on it; the other with a ‘7’ candle on it - there were for her latest 17 birthday (back in January)..... I was beside myself.  That she felt the only way to take care of these things was on top of the cabinets which I’m assuming was more effort than actually taking care of them the proper way….  Very frustrated as like I said she’s 17, going in to being a senior this next school year and I’m feeling like she’s not very responsible or mature.  Have any of you experienced anything like this?  What is the best way to handle cause it has me really depressed and saddened. 


You are not alone.  My daughter is 14 and I routinely find utensils, dried up lemon and lime feels (she likes to suck lemons/limes), candy and potato chip wrappers, emptyice cream cups, half eaten cookies/cakes, unfishished plates of dinner, etc. behind the living room couch, behind her bed in her room and most recently I went to look in the alcove above her closet for a basketball and found there were utensils, cups, dishes, food, wrapper, etc all thrown up there.  I am actually planning to go home and completely empty out the alcove to remove all the garbage that she has put there before we get infested with mice and other vermin.  Her routine response is either denial, memory loss or silence.  It may seem crazy but it’s good to know she’s not the only one.

Posted by Jeanette66 on Jun 19, 2017 at 6:03pm

I know it must’ve been a really unpleasant surprise! But it’s important for you to keep it in perspective (because feeling “depressed and saddened” is only going to make you feel worse and is not going to help with the situation.)

I think that a common reason a lot of kids hide things (including the truth) is because they are lazy in that moment (my son would hide dirty clothes in his room rather than have to walk down the hall to put them in the laundry room). or because they want to avoid perceived negative confrontation/consequences.

Maybe she hid the dishes etc. (and then lied about it) because in her mind, there was a consequence she was avoiding. Or maybe maybe she was told to clean up or told she couldn’t have whatever it was and in a knee-jerk reaction, she chucked it up there. It’s really anyone’s guess; there is no way to know for sure.

And if time has passed, she very well might have forgotten she did it, but then when confronted by you (and with you being understandably upset), her knee-jerk reaction was to lie and say she didn’t do it.

But again, all of this is speculation; the only one who “knows” why is your daughter, and she might not even really know.

All you do know is that she is not living up to your expectations of how mature and responsible she “should” be at her age. It’s important that you keep in mind that kids with ADHD are behind developmentally by several years.. So perhaps you will have to modify your expectations and/or set limits and boundaries accordingly with her…until you feel confident that she is ready for 17-year old limits and boundaries.

Maybe it is good that you had this eye-opening experience because now you can recalibrate in your mind where she is developmentally! Better you find out that she processes like a pre-teen on some things NOW when you’re dealing with relatively harmless things, rather than later with life-changing or dangerous things like allowing too much freedom with friends, the car, with dating, etc.

So my best advice to you is for you to take a deep breath and remember that you cannot control what she does or doesn’t do, but you can control your reaction to it. The more you handle these weird situations calmly and with a level head, the more likely she will be to “Come clean”—no pun intended! grin

Sometimes what helps me is to tell myself that it’s okay to not address things in the moment when I’m upset; it’s perfectly okay to allow myself to take a day or two to calm down and process things before confronting someone.

Also, it always helps to keep in mind that “this too shall pass!” One day you will look back on this and laugh, I promise! I do with my son all the time now!

Hope this helps!

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

Posted by parentcoachjoyce on Jun 19, 2017 at 6:16pm

Thank you both for not only letting me know I’m not alone, but the helpful advice of recognizing this for what it is - and not going to deep into depressionville.  This was just one in a string of disappointments that came at the end of the school year which was not the way I envisioned my daughter’s accomplishments to go.  So it was kind of the last straw and it kind of pushed me over….  I have actually thought at one point that at some point we would look back at this and laugh (on many of the things that right now hurt very badly with where I wish she was - academically and successfully), any idea of where that will be?  When was it for your son?  Right now looking into senior year which I even have to wonder if she’ll even graduate.  She was already failing some classes, and after she finished the last semester, she failed one more.  And even moreso, in the end she was scrambling trying to get last minute papers done, but then would forget to turn them in or with one, stuck them under a door (for one teacher) right before the end of the day, but after he left and I’m the one who suggested to her to at least e-mail the teacher to let him know since he wasn’t there… *uugh*!!!  Anyways, its just so hard to see that we’re just not on the same path as other mothers & daughters preparing for their senior year…. So hard :(
Thanks again for your words of encouragement and thoughtfulness!!  VERY appreciated!!  smile  You brought me back a little to where I should be.

Posted by JJMom4ADHD on Jun 19, 2017 at 6:39pm

Hey, Have you listened to the utube presentations by Russell Barkley, PhD on ADHD?  One statement stood out for me: Those with diagnosed with ADHD function as if they were 30% younger than their actual age.  In other words, the 16 year old driving the family car, is in truth, tooling around the neighborhood…. at the age of 12.  Babysitters? if their current age is 12….. therefore, an 8 year old could be watching your baby. 

The dishes above the cupboard ?  Why not.  Out of sight.  Out of mind.  May be part of the ADHD dis-function for not finding anything In our house yet we work together, side by side.  Why should I be the one up on the ladder taking the recently found dirty dishes off of the upper cupboard?  It’s a family affair.  There is no WHY DID YOU DO this?  It just is.  While I may inquire “What could you have done instead?”  √ Okay?

Posted by Lean~In on Jun 19, 2017 at 9:34pm

Yes, good point!!  I need to remember that.  And not let that ‘shock factor’ get to me…. Thanks for the reminder!!  Finding the things was such a SHOCKER and we were so investigated on WHAT ELSE was up there,...that we just continued pulling stuff down.  SHE was however the one who took care of and washed the dirty dishes.  I should have taken a picture of it seriously, would have been a good laugh, down the road.
And about the driving,...I’m seriously worried about that!!  You are so right!!  And while she seems to have done well with the drivers ed course, passed her test and seems very astute while driving, is still a HUGE worry for me, especially if after a while, it gets to be old hat and she starts to let her guard down, know?!  And her focus,... it just takes a split second to lose focus and have something serious happen.  I hate to be such a hovering parent, but until I can feel that she truly can handle it - with impulsiveness and loss of focus or attention,....  I mean, when do you know they’re ok to drive??  She only has her permit now, we’re going to be stretching that 30 - to 50 hours ALOT - if I can handle her driving my car…. *eek.  But, yeah, that’s a scary scary thing,...don’t know how other parents with ADHD kids do this…. :-\

Posted by JJMom4ADHD on Jun 20, 2017 at 2:46pm

Just wanna say,....I appreciate everyone here!!!  :-D

Posted by JJMom4ADHD on Jun 20, 2017 at 2:53pm

***I highly encourage you to post this question to ADDitude’s new discussion forums, as well. I think your question would get a lot of attention in the Behavior and Discipline forum: ADDconnect is transitioning over to this new forum now.***

You definitely aren’t alone. My son does this in his room. Sometimes it’s laziness, sometimes it’s because he was sneaking food he was supposed to ask for. There’s always food, food wrappers, soda cans, silverware, dishes in the crevices of his bedroom. It was so bad under his bed we had to put the mattress and box springs on the floor.

We’ve told him that we would be less upset with him having food he wasn’t supposed to than to squirrel away gross old food stuff in his room, but it doesn’t help much in the moment.

We put a medium-sized trash can in his room next to where most of it happens, and we try to do a quick sweep every night to keep it from getting out of hand. That helps, but if we don’t stay on top of it daily it turns into a nightmare very quick.

It is shocking to me also that it doesn’t bother him. But, I remind myself that it’s the way his brain is different, and he’s not *choosing* to live that way. I don’t let it get me down—I just resolve to keep working at changing the behavior.

I am terrified of what his home will look like when he lives on his own though. wink

It could be some OCD:

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

Posted by adhdmomma on Jun 21, 2017 at 1:13pm

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