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ADHD, playing me, or something more?


I’m going to kill my son. (Not literally. Don’t call the cops. But I seriously feel like being violent sometimes!)

He is 11 and in grade 6. This is his first year at middle school. When he was younger, he would do silly things without thinking, would move a lot and have melt downs. At some point (grade 4 or so), those things weren’t normal for his age anymore. His teacher suggested having him tested for ADHD, and he was deemed mild to moderate. With plenty of sleep, regular meals, and some adjustments, he was doing fine at school (still some issues with impulse control, but grades were still high As and Bs).

This year is totally different. It’s like he’s self destructing. Issues with friends seem ok, it’s the school work that’s an issue.

He’s outright refused to open his math book to work in class. He acts like he can’t find answers when his teacher tells him where to look. And homework… dear Lord! It’s so painful!!

He had a math test that he got a C- on. They were supposed to retest during lunch. He sat for less than 10 minutes then left. His teacher asked if he didn’t want to look it over again and he said no and left. The other kids took the full hour, some even coming back after school to finish.

He had to do corrections on that math test, so we were working on it just now. He flipped out at everything I said. They’re working on decimals and he’s saying he doesn’t know how to subtract. He’s fighting me and telling me the way he’s doing it (very obviously wrong) is right. And he won’t give in. I’m trying my best to be calm, not dramatic, and patient, but I feel like punching something! I’m trying to help him, walk him through it, break it down, but he’s belligerent, rude and smashing things. And as soon as he’s done we’re supposed to go to a movie! A movie he really wants to see!!

I’m totally drained. I have no idea what to do. He can’t treat me like this, but I don’t know how to make him stop *and* get the work done!

I went back to our doctor and asked to be referred to the ADHD clinic at the hospital. My husband and I went to a seminar there and of anyone, I think they know what they’re talking about. But I’m worried they won’t accept him…

Is he getting worse? Or is this just a preteen bid for control no matter the costs?

Replies

Wow! It’s like I wrote this myself. I have the same situation with my 11yr old son. I feel your pain. It’s very frustrating for the entire family and for our son as well.  I’m researching child psychologists hoping that will help.
I know he wants to be a good listener and slow down but he’s having such a hard time controlling his impulses. I would appreciate any suggestions.

Posted by Rusto01 on Nov 11, 2013 at 11:40pm

I was having this conversation with my husband concerning our 11 yr.  This summer we took him off the meds as a trial period; in our opinion he did fine and we decided to keep him off them.

Middle School has definitely been an adjustment and our issue isn’t his refusal to do the work but rushing thru the work, making careless mistakes, and a few missing assignments.  His report arrived and he got 5 A’s and 3 B’s.  I am proud of him as he is in honor classes but also feel that he could do better if only he studied or took his time.  He refuses to go to study hall as he feels he doesn’t need to.  He doesn’t like it when we critique his work and always makes excuses for various things.

I haven’t heard any complaints from the teachers but the conferences are coming up in a few weeks and I will know more.

I sometimes wonder if he needs to go back on the meds.

Glad that I am not alone in this!

Posted by knrdodd on Nov 12, 2013 at 12:28am

I can’t offer any firm ideas.  But I can tell you:  you are not the only ones, and trust your instincts!

Don’t take no for an answer if you know there is something going on.  And no, not all kids have these behaviors.

Remember, no one likes to feel out of control, even kids.  As parents, it’s our obligation to help our kids and give them the tools they need, not what someone else needs.  Good luck!

Posted by Pdxlaura on Nov 12, 2013 at 12:43am

We had a similar problem. School was fine until grade 7 - then tons of homework fighting, poor grades etc. We had him further tested and found out that our ADHD son also had a learning disability. 

Apparently his teachers in the younger grades were able to “carry” him along academically speaking, but in grade 7 the school starts introducing “rotation” - different teachers for each subject. This was too much for him. Anger over homework, refusing to do it etc.

After the testing we all sat back and said “Oh - so THIS is why it is all happening”.  I’m not saying your son has a learning disability, but you might want to have him tested.  Apparently it is fairly common with ADHD kids.  No wonder they hate homework!

Good luck.

Posted by staypositive on Nov 12, 2013 at 3:14am

He may truly be having trouble with the work. ADHD and in attentiveness can cause them to fall behind in school. It’s a good idea to have him assessed. Also,rather than argue with him about who is right, you may just compromise and let him think he is right. Once he learns how to do the work,he will realize tht he wasn’t right,and you can nicely point out to him the argument that they two of you had previously.

Posted by Speduc8r on Nov 12, 2013 at 10:48am

Puberty might be playing a role.  Hormones starting ot rage which also brings new attitudes.  Not to mention all the challenges middle school has to offer for any student.    I found that things changed dramatically for my oldest son in middle school.  Students are given more freedom to make choices and essentially, there is less structure (or hand holding depending on how you look at it).  Another son is in 8th grade and been struggling for over a year (sounds just like your son)... I believe some of his struggle is because the work is harder.  He actually has to put thought into rather than just learning it by being in class and he gets frustrated very easily.    We are now looking at if he has ADD after testing him for just about everything else.  Back to your child, does the school have resources?  Our district is very open to accommodations and there should be someone who has a lot more knowledge and has worked with kids like yours.    You are not alone!

Posted by momof3boys2013 on Nov 12, 2013 at 3:39pm

I have not done this, but I have seen countless ADDconnect members suggest getting a tutor for just this situation. Sometimes it’s much more of a battle, because there’s also an underlying battle for independence and control at that age. When a neutral party comes in to advise on homework, it’s not about that person taking control, as your child may feel that it’s about with you.

My son is 11 as well, in 5th grade. I decided a couple years ago that homework and “good” grades weren’t worth ruining my relationship with my son over. And they aren’t worth making him feel like crap over either. My son has a learning disability in addition to significant ADHD, and I am just not willing to spend all my time with him in the evenings battling over homework. I now make sure he completes it, but I do NOT check his work unless he asks me for help.

I do not have ADHD, but I was satisfied with A’s and B’s as a student. I certainly could have made straight A’s if I put in more effort, but I didn’t posses the intrinsic motivation to do so. I understand our kids’ perspective on that for sure. Adding in ADHD and learning disabilities, of course they don’t have the motivation to do whatever it takes to get the best grades, they are already working doubly hard just to do well enough. That’s how I feel about it anyhow. grin

Penny
ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Nov 12, 2013 at 3:54pm

Wow!  Your son sounds exactly like my own!  Mine is 12 and in 6th grade.  He has ADHD, LD in math, and Severe Mood Dysregulation Disorder.  Homework with him makes me want to run away from home.  Just like your son, he is defiant, more than just rude, disrespectful, demanding, destructive, and aggressive.  I want to just not care anymore, but of course I do.

I fought very hard last year (& currently again) to get him an IEP in school.  This does help, however I believe the school uses it more as a tool for showing he gets mostly As and a couple of Bs, rather than him actually KNOWING the material.  I can give him the exact same problems he did in school and he has absolutely no idea how to do them.  He apparently gets to use his notes on tests.  WHAT?!
So, it’s back to the drawing board for the IEP. 

It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels like throwing their kid into the wall, or wrapping duct tape around his mouth so I don’t have to listen to his non-stop negative, berating, disrespectful non-stop outbursts.

Posted by amillionpets on Nov 12, 2013 at 4:18pm

staypositive - They didn’t catch the learning disability until grade 7?!?  What is it?  How do you think they missed it?  What kind of grades did he get before grade 7?

Posted by Rai0414 on Nov 12, 2013 at 5:27pm

Thanks Penny.  For the past couple years it was about maintaining As and Bs for him.  This year he’s getting Cs and lower.  He’s never gotten grades this low before.  On that math retest, he got a C- initially, and 49% on the retest.  I’m not as concerned about the grades themselves as much as them showing that he’s not grasping the concepts and/or meeting expections as far as the quality of work he’s expected to do that this point. If he doesn’t get this now, how on earth is he going to survive highschool?!?

He says the work is too hard and he just won’t do it.  I pointed out this morning (after another one of his rants that he wouldn’t do school and didn’t care what grades he got) that failing means staying in grade 6 next year without his friends and that we really needed to come up with ways to help him.  I’m not sure he thought of that.

Posted by Rai0414 on Nov 12, 2013 at 5:37pm

amillionpets - How does your son have a LD in math?  I’m not sure I’ve heard of it before.  What does it mean?

Is he getting As and Bs because they’re making it easy on him?

Posted by Rai0414 on Nov 12, 2013 at 5:40pm

He’s overwhelmed momma.  You are trying to help him, that is clear.  But you are trying to help him in a non-ADD brain way.  It is not about the test, or the subtraction, or about whether he is doing it right or wrong.  Inside his brain is chaos.

You are frustrated because that is what happens when your expectation smacks up against the reality of his brain.  You both need a break from the intensity.

He is at an age where you can talk to him about what is going on and let him know that you see he is struggling and you are looking to get him help.  And as you look for help, give him a little slack.  If he is not on meds maybe this is the time to consider them?  It is obvious by your post that he is not able to focus.  Kids will not sit in a room and struggle over and over and feel badly about themselves in front of a bunch of their peers so that is why he walked out.  And with you he will push as far as he can to avoid trying and failing to control his brain and focus on something he is just not able to focus on.  I mean, it sucks being yelled at by your kid, but that also means he feels comfortable with you.

But what you describe is typical not well managed symptoms of ADD.  And I would bet he is feeling like a loser and awful about himself, probably even feeling different from his peers.  So then when he gets home and you are frustrated with him, where does he get understanding and compassion for how he is feeling?  He’s not doing it to spite you, he is struggling.  We, who do not have ADD, cannot know what it feels like to have that chaos inside our heads.  But my husband likens someone telling him to focus (he has ADD as well as our daughter) to someone telling you “Lose weight, 5 lbs, right now!”  It is impossible, you know full well it is impossible, but they are yelling and threatening consequences nonetheless and the more you protest that you can’t do it, the more they yell and get angry.

What I’m trying to say is you need to protect your relationship with him.  You are supposed to be his security, his understanding, and his love.  Leave the teaching of math to the math teacher or if necessary a tutor, or a friend.  You put your relationship with him in peril if you push too hard because, I would venture to guess, from his perspective you just don’t understand him and what’s more, if he tells you he is struggling and you continue to push, he may feel that you don’t care what he is going through.

When you get some help for him to manage his ADD then you can share what you learn on his behalf with his teachers and the school so that they can hopefully accommodate him better.

Best of luck.  Keep looking for those resources, more pop up as ADD becomes more widely understood.  We are all in the same boat that parents of high functioning autistic kids were about 30 or 40 years ago before it was understood.  Except those kids were just called the “weird” kids.  Unfortunately, because of the symptoms of ADD our kids are labeled the “lazy, defiant and/or bad” kids.

Hang in there and get help.

Posted by YellaRyan on Nov 12, 2013 at 8:08pm

Rai0414, I had this exact altercation with my 8-year-old son over the same type of homework problems, subtracting decimals. We started the homework late that day when he medicine had warn off. It wasn’t long before he was screaming and throwing books and I was ordering him to shut his mouth and calm down. I have ADHD (inattentive) so we were like two bucks rutting during mating season. But, what worked for us was I had to guide him on how to overcome this wall. I stepped back and took a deep breath, or two, or twelve, and asked him to join me in taking deep breaths and suggested that we take a break and come back to it later that night. I let him play on the Wii for 20 minutes (or he could watch his favorite tv shows, his choice) and then we went over the problems together step by step. We did some problems without the decimals in it (so $3.41 - $2.96 = $0.45 was 341 - 296 = 45). I learned that the extra symbols were throwing him off. He then completed the rest of his worksheet and I could tell he felt better and was even a little proud.

When we (ADHD people) stare at the same problems over and over and repeatedly get them wrong, our brain builds a wall to block us from thinking about it. The only thing we can do to overcome this wall is to redirect our attention to something else for awhile. When the frustration has temporarily settled and our mind isn’t clouded, we are ready to try again.

Also, consider letting him wear headphones to listen to music while doing his homework. It’s helped me in the past and I’ve seen improvement when my son wears them while doing work. Make sure it’s mellow and relaxing music without lyrics such as classical or electronic ambient. It could be that your son is bored doing the work and lacks motivation. Music stimulates the brain so that might help during homework time. If successful, maybe the school could let him wear headphones while working on written assignments and exams in class.  Maybe you could have him see a music therapist?

YellaRyan illustrates a good realistic approach to school and learning.  Plus, all of the previous comments are also great suggestions.

Posted by Swim on Nov 13, 2013 at 4:19am

Swim, that’s exactly how I tried to help him too! (Trying it without the decimals and then putting them back in.)

My worry with the break when things get tough is that… well it seems like it’s all tough now. He’d never get it done! I already try to break it down (do 3 questions or this section and then you can have a break), but the attitude starts the second homework does! And where does parenting come in? I mean, I can’t let him get away with talking like that or freaking out like that or I’ll have a selfish, lazy brat on my hands! (These are the thoughts that run screaming through my head as I’m battling to take deep breaths as he’s throwing the chair over.)

Today was a much better day. He refused to wear his jeans, and it was a battle to get him out of bed without all the drama, but he ate his lunch today, got his math homework done without me wanting to punch a wall (albeit with answers from me and his big brother on two of them, but they were stupid questions anyway! What *is* it with all the estimating and guessing in math these days?!) and it wasn’t a painful night. Well… until bedtime when he threw his trash can around his room when I was explaining that he couldn’t stay up later than usual because he’s still having a hard time getting up in the mornings.

I dunno… I can’t make sense of it…

Posted by Rai0414 on Nov 13, 2013 at 7:24am

I don’t think I know what slack looks like. He’s a really bright kid. Last year his math teacher said he was one of the best. This year it’s like if it’s not super easy, he won’t attempt it (as in, will lose his mind if he has to attempt it… and guess what? It’s school! He *has* to! He can’t just stay home (though he tries to every single day). He can’t not take math. He has to attempt it!

How do you manage symptoms of ADHD? His teachers are checking his planner, we have routines, we’re all trying to be patient and review things over and over. What else can be done?

My friend is ADD. She was undiagnosed as a kid (except they sent her to learning assistance for help reading instructions) and she went through “the dumb classes” (her words, not mine) where they just pushed you through. She hated it and tried to switch to the main stream in grade 11, but of course she was so far behind by then… and plus she was still ADD. She realized a few years ago on her own that she is ADD. And just this year her son was diagnosed at age 16. She says she just hopes he graduates. They are very anti medication and say things like “I love his personality! I would never want to change it!” If I tell her any of my frustrations with my son, I sort of feel like either I’m making too big a deal over it, or using it as an excuse.

Where was I going with that?  Oh! Just that I don’t want my son to “just graduate”. I want him to succeed and I know he can! So if you tell me the answer is to not worry about homework, or to let it slide, or to not push… well, I just honestly don’t know what that looks like, at least not in any way that would be good for him. It feels like giving up on him. It feels like that would be reinforcing his wish to not do anything that’s hard for him. Y’know? (And read that like I honestly don’t know, not like I’m fighting you… ‘cause I honestly don’t.)

Posted by Rai0414 on Nov 13, 2013 at 7:46am

@YellaRyan,

You described this so spot on and with such a deep understanding of ADHD and what our kids go through! Awesome!

Empathy is crucial when working with and parenting ADHD kids. They need to know that you understand what they are going through, that you hear their concerns. Then they will know you are a safe-haven and are only concerned with their feelings and their best interest.

It is monumentally tough to show empathy with ADHD kids sometimes, but remaining calm and making a concerted effort to be empathetic will really begin to turn the situation (and your relationship) around.

Penny
ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Nov 13, 2013 at 1:05pm

I don’t suggest not pushing homework in the context of “letting him slide” or “not having to do the work.” My suggestion is that the ADHD is keeping him from being able to perform as a neurotypical kid the same age and intelligence can. Therefore, the work should be tailored for your son. If he can’t get through 20 math problems a night without a major battle, ask for a school accommodation for modified assignments. That may mean he does 10 of those problems (the even or the odd) , and that shows his teacher if he knows the material or not.

Your child may be intelligent, but ADHD damages the skills necessary to show it. And you can certainly be intelligent and have a learning disability. Whatever the reason, there IS a reason your son is not doing well and it is very unlikely it’s laziness if he has ADHD. Dig deeper and figure out what the real problem is.

Penny
ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Nov 13, 2013 at 1:13pm

Ahhh… So glad I found this thread today.  In the same boat as you Rai0414 and this morning was a doozy.  I do feel oftentimes like I’m being played, and there has to be some element of that going on, don’t you think?  What kid WANTS to do homework?  And our kids have the excuse (or reason) that it’s harder for them. 

Still.  YellaRyan is right and I need to keep coming from a place of love.  I’ve been reading a lot about mindfulness practice helping brains with ADD.  My son is not open to that right now, but I think *I* may need to be the one to do some meditation before dealing with him and see if I can channel some compassion.

I think a big part of my own stress is fear.  If 6th grade is this hard, what will become of my son in high school, college, adulthood?  I escalate into future problems that haven’t even happened and take it out on him.  My son hates school, hasn’t really made any friends (how are they supposed to make friends when there are thousands of kids at the school and all their classes have different kids in them?) and I work so much I’m not always available to him.  ARGH.

I know I need to try and separate myself from that worry when dealing with him, to remember that I do love my son and his special brain, and that my goal now is to get him through TODAY.  Through THIS WEEK…. That’s all that’s on my plate now.

The confidence of these kids is so easily shaken and undermined… If I can just get him to believe in himself again, to help him succeed, then we made some baby steps towards a better place.

But it’s a daily struggle and I’m thankful for all of you who share your stories and make me realize I’m not alone.  Too bad we can’t meet for coffee! smile

I wish us all peace and patience!!

Posted by lizmas17 on Nov 13, 2013 at 5:56pm

“I think a big part of my own stress is fear.  If 6th grade is this hard, what will become of my son in high school, college, adulthood?”

Lizmas17, that’s my fear too!  But worrying and stressing isn’t going to help that.  I need to just focus on now and the rest will work out.

I wish we *could* meet for coffee!  It seems like so few people actually understand… I really appreciate having a place to come, even if it’s only to hear “I totally get it!”

Posted by Rai0414 on Nov 13, 2013 at 6:10pm

“Whatever the reason, there IS a reason your son is not doing well and it is very unlikely it’s laziness if he has ADHD. Dig deeper and figure out what the real problem is.”

Thanks Penny.You’re right.  Bottom line, things aren’t good and there’s a problem.  I need to figure out what it is.

I think a good step for that will be seeing the doctors at the hospital clinic.  I’m worried he won’t get in (it’s in a different health district and I’ve been told it’s for the highest priority kids), but there’s nothing I can do about that.  I guess my backup plan will be going back to the first paediatrician we saw and hoping her aversion for medication means she just doesn’t like it as a first response, and not that she never sees it as an option.  (Not that I believe drugs are the only way, but I don’t want it ruled out either.)

On the shorter term, my son and I are meeting with his teachers and the school counselor tomorrow.  No idea how that will go, but at least they seem willing to work with him and seem to care about how things are going, so I’ll take that as a positive.

This morning my son woke up and got ready for school with a great attitude and almost without help!  I don’t know who this happy child is, but I hope he stays around!  I’ve missed him…

Posted by Rai0414 on Nov 13, 2013 at 6:19pm

Seriously, it’s like a mirror image!

It could be that there was a bump in his routine that day. I still may not have enough information, nonetheless, I have more suggestions for you:
Make sure the morning, afternoon and evening routines are consistent.

Check the weather for the next day and set out his outfit together.
Make sure he knows what you expect from him. Be clear and explain the details. “As soon as you get home from school, unpack your backpack and place your work in this exact spot. Once you complete your homework, you may watch tv or play games. You may have a snack before you start. And if you finish your homework by 5pm, you can have a treat.”

It will take time. The entire school year last year was a struggle to get him to do his homework. But, the last four weeks he goes straight to his homework table and finishes his homework without me saying anything. Success! The only times this doesn’t work is when we have to go somewhere right after he gets home from school. Then it’s back to resisting.

Here are some Additudemag references that may help:
A Routine That Works for Your ADHD Child - http://www.additudemag.com/resources/free-downloads/10205.html/routines-for-adhd-kids
Homework Help! A System That Works for ADHD Children - http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/1034.html
Morning Routines for ADHD Children: Rise and Shine for School - http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/2536.html

Rewards work wonders. Also, my son doesn’t like wearing jeans either, lol.

Posted by Swim on Nov 14, 2013 at 7:25am

Sounds to me your son’s trying to be the controller of the family, the one in charge, feeling his cheerios his is.  Just keep showing him who the boss is and don’t ever give in or he’ll be a control freak with a mean streak.  Back in the day they didn’t identify adhd until around the age of 12.  Even if he doesn’t have adhd he has angry issues and adhd medications can help with that, they can calm him right down fast.  Don’t need to use them everyday just when he’s trying to control you or having a fit, like around homework time.

Best of luck and remember your the Boss, you and only you make the rules.

Posted by BexIssues on Nov 23, 2013 at 11:46pm

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