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Parents of ADHD Teens and Young Adults

Consequences to behaviors


This is my very first post! 

I am a mom of a 14 year old boy who was diagnosed with ADD when he was in 1st grade.  I recently (4 Years)  married into a blended family of 3 additional step children (all teens).  My husband is huge on discipline and I am not 100% on board with his style of discipline.  He is quick to yell and quick to take away something from the teen for their behavior. His 3 kids have always been around this type of discipline and get what pushes his buttons and have become very respectful for the most part understanding the consequences of his discipline.  My son on the other hand for some reason just “doesn’t get it”!  He continues to be disrespectful in the way he talks to me and continues to “ignore” the expectations of the rules of the house.  He is always the one being yelled at for his lack of consideration.

On the flip side…he is extremely well liked at school and by parents of friends, does pretty well in school and only recently has gotten reports from his teachers of behaviors that are “unlike him” (disrespect, argumentative)  His personality is different then the 3 other kids in that he is either ON or OFF on any given day.  When he is ON…he is kind, loveable and very mature as well as engaged.  When he is OFF he is “in his own world” not really caring about respect and expectations.  I really don’t get it!  When he is ON he is absolutely delightful.  He was a fantastic baby, toddler and child!!!!

This past year he has gotten that teenage ATTITUDE!  He is VERY impatient with me when I correct him and ask him to do something for me.  He uses a lot of words with me like….“OK OK” or…“I don’t care” or…“No Im not!”... and has to ALWAYS have the last words.  When he is disrespectful or doesn’t follow thru with instructions…what are you all doing for consequences to their action??? The ADD doctor that we are working with wants short consequences so that he “remembers” WHY he is being punished.  Should I be constantly taking something away?  He wants to go to drivers Ed when he turns 15 in August…He is FAR from being ready!  Use this as a consequence?  Just wondering how you are all disciplining your teen with ADD.  Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Tying good behavior/grades to driving is not a new concept.  Some driving schools even have contracts that parents and kids can sign spelling out what behavior/grades have to be met for the child to earn the privilege of driving so many hours per week.  Check out the book “AD/HD & Driving: A Guide for Parents of Teens with AD/HD”.  It has some good tips and good contract ideas.

Posted by Abner on Jun 10, 2014 at 6:23pm

Thank you Abner!  I will check out this book!!

Posted by Blended Family on Jun 10, 2014 at 6:26pm

As was suggested, Drivers Ed can (& should) be one of those things that he just has to EARN.  It’s a privilege, not a right. 

I too come from a blended family.  My parents were ahead of their time (this was way back before much research had been done on this type of thing & recommendations made).  All the guidelines of successfully merging two families will tell you that it is imperative that discipline only comes from the biological parent.  You don’t discipline his kids & he doesn’t discipline yours.  Period.

His kids may be used to the Drill Sergeant mode of parenting (as “evidenced” by their compliance—based primarily on fear of getting yelled at & punished) but Drill Sergeant mode, in the long run, creates lots of resentment & emotional distance.  Drill Sergeant mode is even less helpful (and more harmful) for ADHD kids.  Drill Sergeant mode suddenly being thrust upon a kid with ADHD only because Mom married him is a set-up for creating some of the worst kinds of oppositional-defiant behavior imaginable.  And then you marrying him will become an additional source of resentment.

I would highly recommend that you seek a marriage counselor with experience in blended families to lay down that law because Drill Sergeant parents don’t tend to take kindly to hearing they need to completely back off of any form of punishment being instituted on step-children.  Drill Sergeant parents who are instructed to NOT discipline one child tend to go a bit oppositional defiant there (& compliance may convert to a bunch of passive aggressive covert behaviors)...

Posted by BC on Jun 10, 2014 at 7:35pm

Thank you BC…I certainly will take a step back to consider what you are saying because I do agree.  Marriage counseling is something that is needed and I will certainly move forward with.  With that…what kind of discipline would you suggest with an ADD teen?  Short consequences?

Posted by Blended Family on Jun 10, 2014 at 7:49pm

I have found a phone contract that we have both signed. I pick the 3 thing I need to have dail/weekly to continue to pay for a phone.
Also I require certain requirements to get himself out of the house in the am without my assistance. This , on a weekly basis, allows him to go to an after school club. I have heard to pick maybe 3 things you won’t tolerate, and the consequences for each, with your son in a sit down discussion, then post them. You did this, the consequences are this…..and don’t sweat the other stuff until these few things are accomplished. Not saying it always has worked, and at times chaos ensues, but it has helped immensely.

Posted by JulieBmotherof3 on Jun 10, 2014 at 8:36pm

Thank you!!!  I will check out the link…these are all very helpful suggestions!

Posted by Blended Family on Jun 10, 2014 at 9:10pm

Are you confident your son is at his personal best level of medication? Pas I read your description of your son, it sounds like my 13 yo without her Focolin. On her meds she is able to take a moment to pause-listen-not snap at others. Follow directions, follow through, and be considerate. Without the meds it is like I am hitting my head on a brick wall. If your new husband has not been educated about ADHD he will not be able to appreciate that your son can’t fall in line like the other kids. I think he could listen to Dr. Berkley’s YouTube talk called Essential Parenting about Adhd and be enlightened. I agree with the counseling which maybe comes via a licensed social worker specializing in ADHD techniques and understanding.

Posted by Springflowers on Jun 11, 2014 at 3:14am

“Short” is better than some long-drawn-out punishment phase (example: grounded for two weeks straight).  But more important seems to be the length of time elapsed between Action & Consequence (if negative consequence, aka punishment, is what you’re using).  That’s what needs to be short.  Example: Misbehavior on Monday begets Grounded Next Weekend is just too long out in the future to be instructive.

But, ADHD or not, I’m just not a big fan of punishment.  Most kids genuinely want to please their parents and the knowledge that the parent was NOT pleased does have an effect.  Noticing when they do the Right Thing and pointing that out just gives them more desire to please. 

Of all the kids I grew up with the ones who were the most deviant and mis-behaved were the kids with really strict parents.  Really strict is just as bad as letting them run wild & do whatever they want.

Posted by BC on Jun 11, 2014 at 5:19am

Hi Blended Family!

To quote expert Dr. Ross Greene, “Kids do well if they can.” Your son has ADHD. Expectations have to be adjusted and your yard stick has to be modified in light of this. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be an expectation of appropriate behavior and a discipline system that works to motivate him, I’m saying that you can’t expect a system that works for neurotypical children to work with a child with ADHD.

I’m going to share some resources you will find helpful below.

1. Look into Dr. Ross Greene’s approach to inflexible children through reading his book, “The Explosive Child,” visiting his website that is full of free resources at, and listen to the archive of his past ADDitude Magazine webinar, full of strategies for parenting defiant children, here:
2. I just heard a webinar with Dr. Dodson on Defusing Defiance and he offers some excellent strategies. You can listen to the archive here:
3. There’s a free download on called, “Best Discipline Strategies for ADHD Children.” It offers 50 useful tips and strategies.
4. has an entire section on Discipline & Behavior as it relates to ADHD. I know you’ll find more useful ideas in the articles listed there.

ADDconnect Moderator, Author & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Jun 11, 2014 at 4:22pm

You didn’t specifically ask this - but speaking from experience I would offer this advice on driving.  Set a number of hours - 200?  500?  that your son much achieve with his learners permit before you let him get his license and drive alone.  My son is so impulsive and risk taking - he’s been in 3-4 minor accidents, speeds, tailgates, etc.  WE get the reports from his twin brother.  I really wish I would have required more supervised practice from him.

Posted by ymasnave on Jun 11, 2014 at 8:22pm

Wow…thank you everyone for all of the advice.  I have some action steps now!  Much appreciated!

Posted by Blended Family on Jun 12, 2014 at 12:03am

Another book you might find enlightening (because it reinforces the notion that yelling at your kids to gain their compliance might “work” in the short-term, but has very negative effects on the overall family dynamic—often doing more to create defiance that wouldn’t have reared it’s ugly head if the parent had set the tempo, led by example, & remained more calm themselves) is “ScreamFree Parenting” by Hal Runkel, LMFT.  There is a companion book that uses the same basic theories, “ScreamFree Marriage.” 

What I found to be so enlightening (I’m pretty sure it was in this book…been several years & I can only find my copy of “SF Marriage” right now, which I cannot help but note I only made it through the preface…) was how Runkel analyzed the kind of thinking that leads to this kind of stuff (screaming/yelling at your kids)—as attempts to gain total control over another person’s behavior, with total compliance, of course, being the ultimate goal. 

It’s similar to obedience training in dogs where the end goal is to produce a dog who does exactly what you tell them to do & immediately when you tell them what they should do.  The trainer determines what behaviors they wish to see and which behaviors they wish to extinguish then embarks on the quest of molding & shaping certain behaviors.  It is important to note, HOWEVER, that the most effective ways of training dogs is ALWAYS through the use of rewards for all desired behaviors and pretty much ignoring any/all unwanted behavior.  Dogs are like people in that sense—they want to please, they enjoy praise (& yummy treats), and they are social pack animals who instinctively know who “alpha dog” is and that pack-order means following whatever “alpha dog” establishes to be The Pack Rules. 

A dog who constantly gets yelled at by their human trainer (who often simply has very high expectations &/or is not effectively communicating what those expectations are) over time becomes more fearful & guarded, less spontaneous & adventurous; a dog who gets beaten will actively seek to create distance (appearing anti-social) and eventually becomes vicious, lashing out at the slightest provocation. 

I kind of digressed there on dog training, but it has a lot to do with my own fundamental beliefs & understanding about parenting since I learned about training dogs long before becoming a parent.  Those types of simple, black & white behavior management techniques are great for toddlers & young children—clear & consistent boundaries enforced with predictable & certain consequences are the way I parented my two boys from the get-go, and it paid off greatly!

Back to what I learned about parenting from this book & wish that more parents (particularly males of the Drill Sergeant variety) recognized about their expectations of children’s behavior.  When even these children who’ve been parented with consistent boundaries & predictable consequences become teenagers things start to get a little bit more gray, and parents really need to take a step back and re-assess some of those zero-tolerance policies.  There’s just no doubt that zero tolerance for running out into the middle of the street is the only rational & effective approach. 

The concept of “disrespect” is a big gray area, IMO, and it is also what drives many of the school-based behavior problems/conflicts that will get our ADHD children labelled as trouble makers or problem children.  It all goes back to those extremely patriarchal & authoritative days when children were expected to never, ever disagree or even voice a dissenting opinion to anyone in a position of authority.  The “you better do as I say & don’t you dare even think about giving me any lip about it” mentality.  In this mentality a teenager who is told, “Go to your room!” is expected to comply, period.  A teenager who does actually comply with orders but who shuts their bedroom door a little too loudly in the process or mumbles anything under their breath during their retreat gets labelled as “disrespectful.”  The Drill Sergeant parent immediately reacts by issuing yet another punishment—“Now you’re grounded for the rest of the day!”—in order to let them know who’s boss.

The Drill Sergeant parent who is on the sidelines and merely views another parent NOT immediately reacting to something as simple as the door being shut too loudly and promptly instituting some form of punishment (which these days is all too often euphemistically referred to as being a “consequence”—even by the classic Drill Sergeant parents) will be criticized for being way too lenient…letting that child walk all over them.  Now an ideological battle between the parents ensues. 

I suspect that some of your battles fall into this very gray area of what behaviors are clearly disrespectful and/or non-compliant and what the “proper” consequences (punishment) should be.  For example:

“He uses a lot of words with me like….‘OK OK’ or…‘I don’t care’ or…‘No Im not!’... and has to ALWAYS have the last words.”

Taking a step back and looking at these different responses in light of what the circumstances were that preceded them will help you determine where you stand on these subjects (are they CLEARLY disrespectful or non-compliant?) or were they pretty “normal teenage responses”?  What might have been your contribution to that response?  Example: if you’d been nagging repeatedly for him to do something NOW, but never just making sure it got done NOW, was the “OK, OK” his response to finally being sufficiently nagged but never actually “required” to do some task he never really wanted to do in the first place?  Are you comparing his response to being nagged (told once) to do something but not immediately springing into action to the teenagers who are neuro-typical AND used to responding in a “How high, Sir?” type fashion?  Or who might need to be told a few times as well, but who wouldn’t dare utter something as provocative as “OK, OK”—at least not loudly enough for the person in authority to actually hear it? 

In short, are you being made to somehow feel deficient for not producing the “perfect specimen” of total & immediate compliance due to your lack of properly instituting Drill Sergeant Parenting tactics? How much of this has turned into some sort of a competition of whose kids consistently display “proper” behavior?  How much of you clearly losing that competition is due to nothing more than two parents with totally different expectations?  How much of your seeking out more effective “consequences” for a child who “ extremely well liked at school and by parents of friends, does pretty well in school…” has to do with there now being a spotlight on you & on him, taking inventory of all the minute differences?  If the two of you moved into their house and are now simply being expected to conform to all the pre-existing rules & regulations then that new regime being imposed on him may be the only thing that is now creating what other outside parties perceive as being “behaviors that are ‘unlike him’ (disrespect, argumentative).”  Children & teenagers (ADHD & not) who are suddenly immersed in a different culture but compared to the children & teenagers who have grown up in that culture will usually fall short.  Even if they never hear any of the actual comparisons they will certainly sense them.  Him being alone as the only member who is acclimating to a new environment & being held to new standards is going to be a very lonely and confusing place for him. 

I know; been there and done that at age 8.  I was the only member of the more “prestigious” group of well-behaved & academically advanced children who had either been raised in the home of (or only birthed by) the Drill Sergeant.  My step-sisters hated the new rules that had already been thrust upon them even if my dad was technically prevented from being the intermediary.  I got dumped in this type of a war zone by virtue of the fact that I was the only one in our family who was not all grown up & attending college when my next oldest sibling went away to college.  It was NOT pretty!

Posted by BC on Jun 12, 2014 at 1:20am

Hello to All.  Our son who has ADHD really started to be oppositional when he started to go through puberty and early teens.  He is 14 years old now and we tried meds, but he hated it, said it made him different and he did not like that.  Not sure why, but one thing that I noticed was that kids with ADD or ADHD do not have the same “social filter” as regular kids or people for that matter.  My own feeling, is that the “unfiltering” comes from a release of emotions that build up to a “blow-out” point and then they are let loose.  Best of Luck !!!

Posted by Lancetownend on Jun 13, 2014 at 2:52am

I can attest that the teen years do bring issues of their own whether your child has ADHD or not.  My ADHD kid used to be so drained from school and being “good” at school that at home he’d let go sometimes.  A school guidance counselor once told me that was not unusual as home is where they feel safe and can let go of the strain from trying to fit into a certain behavior at school.  I thought about it and realized that sometimes at home he was so tired (like I would be around 9pm from a long day that I couldn’t always think straight and I could get really grumpy and short with the family).  My Non-ADHD kid is a complete social butterfly outside the family—-again sort of recharging his batteries at home—-when all we get are “uh-uh"s and such.  I’ve told them both I understood .... home is the safe place but if they could muster some respect I’d appreciate it.  I don’t think they always realize that we need to be shown the same type of respect they seem to give others so freely——but it’s really hard work for them.  I admit I used to be the drill instructor parent….I don’t know why I changed, but I finally realized I needed to chill out and let things slide a bit.  The world was not going to end if things weren’t don’t just as I wanted.  I wish I could tell you why or what triggered the change——maybe I finally got tired and realized I needed to cut everyone (including myself ) some slack. 

As for the driving——my ADHD kid is real black and white, so is a real rule follower.  By virtue of our oldest child being the “oldest” in her class by birthdate and not wanting her carting all her friends around because she got the first dr’s license…..we instituted the following rules on top of the graduated license rules for our state:  permit could be gotten at 15 1/2; no practice driving until classroom instruction was finished and you must get an A; practice driving would be an entire year—-all four seasons before driving on your own; absolutely NO passengers EVER until you are 18; no riding with anyone until you are 18.  The kids all knew we’d take away the license if there were any issues with following these rules——that we’d told our parent friends to tell us if they ever saw any of the kids driving in an unsafe manner or accepting/offering rides.  That was one area we would not budge on as the potential for harm is so high.  We explained it all to the kids in a matter of fact way and they all agreed.  So far the only one involved in an accident has been a non-ADHD kid.  (knock on wood).

Posted by greyhairedmom on Jun 23, 2014 at 6:32am

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