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Parents of ADHD Children

How do you cope with raising an ADHD pre-teen?

Last night was a complete nightmare in my household. My husband and my 12 yr old daughter whom was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 6 got into a fist fight. I feel so lost. She’s disrespectful and talks to both of us with disrespect. I’m tired of trying to mediate….Help!


That’s rough.  We’re not there yet (our daughter is 10), so I can’t offer any advice about your experience.  However, during our 18 month long diagnosis phase 4 years ago we had some great help from professionals with how to deal with our daughter’s low tolerance for frustration.  I share the links to that in hopes that it will help you today.
BOOK:  The Explosive Child by Dr Russ Green

These all talk about something called Collaborative Problem Solving and it’s a way of parenting/supervising kids of all ages.  It works so well, that here in Ontario, Canada, it is the method used in group homes, taught in organizations who help parents of troubled kids, and is used by Children’s Aid Society across Canada.

It’s a simple concept, but it takes some effort to implement and follow in the home.  We had an in-home worker help us.  There is a lot of info on the websites, and you start with doing the Thinking Skills Inventory - you and your husband each do it. 

As well, (and I don’t mean to sound preachy as I’ve been there and lose my cool way more times than I wish to admit to!) your husband and you need to do your best to remain calm in the face of her outbursts/challenges to your authority.  If you don’t remain calm and show her by your example how to behave, she may not ever master that skill. 

Remember that our kids with ADHD have executive functioning issues.  As a pre-teen, NORMAL kids push back and question authority as they become individuals separate from their parents.  Kids with ADHD struggle with this even more.  Add into the mix that kids with ADHD are usually less mature emotionally than their peers and you have a very volatile potential on your hands.

I don’t know if you have anything available around you in your community, but if you do, reach out to resources.  There is no shame in asking for help. 

Hope things get better for you soon.  It’s SO hard.

Posted by Wynka on Sep 05, 2013 at 5:40pm

Thanks so much! I’m going to look for this book and check out the websites. It IS INDEED hard. Many tearful nights and prayer. I wholeheartly agree with you when you state we need to remain calm during her outbursts. He (who was an ADHD child) cant seem to tolerate her disrespect when in fact you would think he would understand the way her mind works. You have been very helpful Wynka.

Posted by neastew on Sep 05, 2013 at 5:47pm

I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. I have a 14 year old son with ADHD and yes - there are many challenges. We’ve had quite a few holes in the wall over the years.

I highly recommend family counselling. It moved us from the “battle of the wills”  (“how dare you say ..” or “do as I say or else”) to more cooperative interactions. The effect of ADHD on your child isn’t going to change anytime soon - you are the one that has to change if you want more peace in the family.  That does not mean you “give in” to your child, rather you approach it all differently. Let some stuff go, stand your ground on others. Sometimes the more you react - the more they will do it.

Here’s an interesting quote from Dr. Amen: “Behaviorally, many children, teens and adults learn to get other people upset with their difficult behavior. They learn, on a purely unconscious and biological level, that when there is turmoil between people, it stimulates their brain, making them feel more alert and awake”.

Also - read, read and read.  There are some excellent books out there, many of which are in the library.  My favourite is Dr. Russell Barkley “Taking Charge of ADHD” and he also has a great free YouTube video “Essential Ideas for Parents”. I also like “ADHD - Living without Brakes” by Martin Kutscher.  Pam Dawson has excellent books on Executive Function problems (usually associated with ADHD and very important for school work).

Get a referral from your doctor for counselling. Is your daughter on meds?  It’s been a lifesaver for us.  My son is on Concerta.

Good Luck and don’t give up on your daughter.  Remember - when kids are the most unlovable - that’s when they need your love the most!

Posted by staypositive on Sep 05, 2013 at 5:49pm

I have a 10 year old son with ADHD.  As he got older I saw a change in his attitude with regards to disrespect.  He usuallg gets bossy when he needs something.  In turn I straight out refuse talking to him until he looks at who he is talking to.  It seems to work, for now. 
I know how very hard it is when you try to explain that we are the parents and they do not really care, but stick to it.  You’ll find ways around it.  I would get your husband to helpor do something your daughter likes to do.  Such as Cooking, bike riding, etc.  Sometime some quality time together when it is just the parent and child helps. 
Good luck!

Posted by Lovebug on Sep 05, 2013 at 9:56pm

Disrespect isn’t an ADHD trait. I wouldn’t tolerate it in my ADHD child and I’m ADHD. It shouldn’t be tolerated or have excuses made for it. I can assure you that won’t help.
I suggest some ADHD specific parenting classes, family counseling and ADHD counseling for your child. Look into “Your Defiant Teen”. Take control back.

Posted by adhdmom2000 on Sep 06, 2013 at 6:12am

I would suggest that you Don’t Mediate… In front of your kids, parents are a unified team.  You address this stuff with your husband behind closed doors. But even if your husband is saying or doing something (moderately) wrong.. You back him.. You correct it later, alone, and you come to an agreement on what is proper parenting.

Unless the kid is being hurt, you support.. as your husband should do for you. 

If you do not…  your kid becomes an equal partner in running the house.  She is not a partner.. she is a kid. 

I had adhd as a kid (still do) and my parents held me to the same standards as everyone else in the house.  It was tough.  But long term, their discipline prepared me to get an advanced degree and some fairly high profile/high salary jobs.

My two cents… for what it is worth

Good luck…

Posted by LakeLife on Sep 07, 2013 at 1:46am

I am in the same boat. I tend to agree with post “stay positive”, when they have nothing to do they start picking on siblings, then I get involved and everything goes down hill. She does not say disrespectful things to me, she just ignores my requests/orders and gives me the looks of disrespect. She is a good kid and when she is on her meds. I would consider her the perfect kid. (not that meds make her good, they just help her think before she does)

I would like to try these books too.
I understand why people go to counseling,(I am a counselor) but I struggle with her knowing what the right thing to do (she does, we have talked about it) and the inability to do it (She has trouble expressing her thoughts in school work, wont it be just as hard in relationships)

Has counseling helped with other families who have impulsive ADHD and learning issues?

Posted by sarafina on Sep 07, 2013 at 7:25pm

Counseling helped us when my daughter became defiant.  The counselor was used to dealing with defiance and other hard behaviors and she did the gentle confronting, which worked better than us being locked in a power struggle. she was also able to help me change my ways of interacting and help my daughter and our relationship. I will add that while this may not be an ADHD trait I think many kids with ADHD exhibit defiance about this age, I think it is due to their sagging self esteem from the many struggles they face academically and socially.  My daughter also benefited from an anti depressant and some social skills group as well as an ADHD camp this summer. I think you are wise to start working on finding what works for your child now before the teen years and added stress. I also liked The Explosive Child and the website
of luck to you!

Posted by marais on Sep 09, 2013 at 10:28am

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