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Parents of ADHD Teens and Young Adults

Highschool Sophomore Son more interested in gaming than school

I need some ideas / suggestions on how to get my son more interested in school and how important it is to keep his grade up to be able to attend a college we can afford.  He only puts effort into his school work when it is absolutely necessary (i.e. when he starts to get a bad grade in a class). We just brought him to his first college visit and he showed no interest in what the school had to offer. He hardly interacted with the counselor when she was talking to him. He was more focused on the hot chocolate than what the counselor had to say. He will do things himself if it has to do with gaming but if we ask him to do something that doesn’t involved gaming, then it is like pulling teeth.  He procrastinates a lot. He is doing ok in school but we know he can be doing much better if he focused more on his school work than gaming. 


I am experiencing very similar problem with siphomom freshman, and he has already failed an English class and multiple courses have Ds.  He is a talented musician, but gaming rules and destroys is life now.  He is on multiple stimulants & Intuniv, so I am at a loss.  Considered addiction placement, but it is interrelated to his severe ADD.  I am hopeful there is a positive reply.  I just wanted you to know you’re not alone.

Posted by upsideoutlook32 on Mar 31, 2017 at 2:45pm

Unfortunately there is no easy answer. Kids with ADHD are developmentally several years behind their chronological age and some need every bit of those years to catch up and start thinking about things other kids their age think about, like college. 

One thing need to consider thought is that he may never be ready (or interested) in college; but if he is, it will have to be on his time frame and for reasons that are important to him. For example, my son had no desire until several years after high school when it finally clicked for him that in order to meet his goals, he would need to get a degree. (and ironically, he—the kid who hated school—is now a teacher!)

No amount of me pushing would have sped that process along.

It was hard, but we told him that he was welcome to live at home after graduation if he was either going to college full time or working full time. He didn’t like those options so he ended up moving out after HS graduation and couch-surfing at various friends houses…and it didn’t take long before he realized he did not want to live that way. But again, the decision had to be his when he was ready.

As far as the video game question, the bottom line at this point is that you can’t get him “more interested” in school than video games—to a teen there is no comparison! One is fun and the other is ‘work’! But what you CAN do is limit time on video games so he’ll have more time available to think about and do other things.

One bright spot is that you say he does kick it into gear and focus when he needs to (as you said, when he gets a bad grade) so there is a part of him that wants to do well. The rest of it will come when he is ready developmentally and when the consequences of remaining the same (or his choices) are too great for him.

It was hard for me when I went through this, just like it’s hard for all of the parents I work with who are in the same boat. But what I found helps the most is to adjust our parental expectations of what life “should” be like for him as an adult. Of course we all want the best for our kids, but sometimes they will choose a different path than the one we envision for them, and they will have to learn some very hard lessons on their own. Also, another valuable lesson I learned is that it’s important to keep your relationship with him strong; (find things to LIKE about him, spend time with him, etc.). If you can release the resentment and let go of the “I told you so’s” and just be an unconditional loving resource for him (when/if he asks for input), then down the road he will be much more likely to ask and use that input and advice.

Hope this helps.

I wish you the best,

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

Posted by parentcoachjoyce on Mar 31, 2017 at 3:20pm

First I’m British - so it’s A levels not High School and my ADHD ‘child’ is my daughter. I’ve been battling this battle for a few years and I have lost. She’s dropped and failed some exams already and she’s trying for the remainder. She’s not gaming - it’s social media, you tube ( makeup tutorials) - and Kardashians.

It’s completely dismaying and I’m not going to say otherwise. I don’t mind what my daughter takes as an interest (people think I’m not accepting her lack of academic interests), but there is nothing besides these activities.
I think hands off is best - you have presumably expressed your opinions and given your advice - he’s heard it all before and the risks of repeating are severe for him. For you, you’ll be rigid with frustration. For him, presumably his self esteem is quite low, presumably he has some sort of mental health issues (anxiety? depression? despair?) - even if well hidden. The best you can do in my experience is make sure you’re not adding to those problems. If you can find something to praise, go for it. If you can be kind and loving (whatever it costs), go for it. When you can’t, get yourself out of the pressure cooker - stay with someone, have friends around.
And wait till he finds out what he might be interested in.
Compassion to you from me,

Posted by Notwaving on Apr 01, 2017 at 1:24pm

This topic speaks to me!  I agree with having time limits! Our son is so much more outgoing and talkative when we have him on time limits for electronics. 

The hard part is school work because many schools have work on the computers now and he will open up many tabs for games or youtube; and it looks like he is working BUT when someone comes to check on him, he quickly goes to another tab or just swipes to a new desktop!

This is very frustrating.  I just had a thought now as I’m typing—we have apple computers so I can have him sit at a bigger monitor-one he cannot hide-when he is doing his homework.  Then I can easily see the tabs and what he is working on. 

My son’s teachers are talking about making him use a computer with a bigger monitor at school so they can see what he is doing, and it may come down to using only pen and paper just like the good ole days! 

I also like the ideas about finding more praise to give. 

Tony D069-I just noticed that you mentioned your son is only a sophomore.  You never know what will happen in a couple of years, maybe your son will show more interest in going to college.

  I can also vouch for kiddos with ADHD being a couple of years younger (emotionally) then their peers. Our other son turned 18 in October 2016 and has no desire to drive and JUST got his first job last weekend!  Don’t feel like there is any pressure to be on a time line for a college career, driving or getting a first job. 

Good Luck and take one task at a time, at least that ‘s what we’re doing!  Our 18 year old will be graduating later than his peers BUT he’s on his own time and this turned out to be what is best for him.

Posted by pricemama on Apr 02, 2017 at 12:32am

You just described ADHD. The neurotypical brain is motivated by importance, interest, and urgency. The ADHD brain only produces motivation from interest and urgency, NOT importance.

So, as long as he is disinterested and/or bored (which is usually the case for kids in school), he will not have the intrinsic motivation you desire. It’s just not the way his brain works.

Instead, look for ways to harness his interests. How can he use his interest in gaming to look to the future, college and career? My son (8th grade) is also very much into gaming. He participates in the robotics club and takes technology classes at school. My daughter (not diagnosed with ADHD but likely) is an artist who also enjoys gaming. She is going to college this fall to get a BFA in animation and illustration, with the hopes of working in the gaming industry. She is HIGHLY motivated in this area, because it speaks to her interests.

The ADHD brain craves stimulation, not having enough to manage focus, etc. Video games provide that fast-paced stimulation that the ADHD brain needs more of. And it’s often an area where kids with ADHD excel, for many reasons.

You also have to remember that grades aren’t everything. There are schools with programs for students with disabilities, who consider that when looking at admissions applications.

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

Posted by adhdmomma on Apr 03, 2017 at 2:05pm

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