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Parents of ADHD Children


My son was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 4, and he is now 6 1/2. He is on Vyvanse. He’s a smart, sweet, sensitive and loving boy and I know that his ADHD gets in the way of his best intentions. However, we really struggle with the morning routine. It’s so stressful every single day, and we always end up at odds or in tears—both of us! He always wakes up wanting to snuggle and warm up to his day, and that is wonderful. But, school has a strict start time and he needs to follow that, we both do. Even when we wake early to allow play time and more leisurely entrance to the day, it always ends up as a struggle in the end. A power struggle, and he becomes very unreasonable. For example, I still have to dress him and he gets distracted at every single item of clothing. He starts to play with something, anything, which makes it hard for me to maneuver his moving body. Or he starts a conversation and that immobilizes him; then he must finish the story or play until he will cooperate. If I address it, he shouts that he is getting dressed.

I tell him when the words he uses are not appropriate or when he needs to focus, but his response is to lash out and to lie, cover his ears, slam the door. He says he is trying, and I know he is so then I feel bad, like there is some magical thing I am missing. But between the rude back talk, lies and uncooperative attitude, I feel SO defeated. I love him and work each day to be patient and loving, but so often I fail because the odds are not in my favor. I get frustrated and I let him know :(  It feels impossible to be patient and to think out of the box in 100 different ways each day to help him ... but I do it 99% of the time. Still, I feel awful when he gets upset when I finally break and raise my voice or tell him I don’t accept his behavior, the worst is how sensitive he is to being guilted—yet he seems to choose to disobey house rules while expecting no repercussions. It’s a Catch-22. Let him get away with some misbehavior, he takes a mile. Discipline him, he blames his sister or covers his ears or tells me to stop talking; After asking him to do something 7 to 10 times and physically having to take thing after thing from his hands in order for him to get dressed, etc, it seems clear to me that he is making things challenging. He disagrees. By the time we eat—and he requires three pieces of toast with butter and cinnamon served one at a time hot—he is again zoning out and touching and playing with toys instead of eating (stressful bc he is underweight due to the Vyvanse), running out of the room to complete an impulsive desire, or saying rude things to his sister (3) and singing loudly off in his own world. I always start with quiet reminders, physical cues, etc, but he still does not cease the bad behaviors before 7 to 10 requests, and those finally met mean It feels like nothing connects with him and I feel like a major failure with him. He often has question after question when I attempt discipline seeking loopholes, and he finds loopholes in everything, which makes discipline a great challenge. Again, discipline results in defensiveness, deflection and drama. I just wish I knew how to do better with him. I love him so much and I don’t want to fail him. He loves me, too, and wants to please me but seems unable to control his impulses. Some say people wear their hearts on their sleeves. He wears his heart and his brain right out there on his sleeve, and for him limitations are so hard. How can I adapt myself and the environment for him so I can fit into his brain-scape and all of us can return to the loving unit we are?


First of all, you’re a wonderful mother caught up in the worst of the drama of ADHD. You may feel like a terrible parent much of the time, I did, for not knowing how to fix, help, or stop, the craziness, but you’re not.  Reading the typical parenting books, trying the typical parenting techniques, or ever expecting the typical responses, gets us nowhere and makes the situation worse. It doesn’t work that way with an ADHD child and you’ll just end up hitting your head against the wall all the time.

I have one son and didn’t have to cope with the complications of siblings, but it must be incredibly hard. My son had both his dad and I at the end of our rope. What I wished I did more of is just letting go of the expectations, even reasonable ones, and saving us the hardship, yelling and tears. It’s horrible to live that way. You love your child so much and yet they drive you to distraction to the point that you have trouble being able to show it.

ADHD children have such a low threshold for changing from one activity to another, staying on task, controlling their emotions, and all of the things you listed. Mornings are the hardest, followed by bedtime, and then probably by homework time, and along the way mealtime. And going anywhere they don’t want to. I think that about covers it. ADHD is described as ‘age-inappropriate behavior’ so our expectations are often just too high. Disciplining them for what they can’t control is often pointless and not fair to either of you.

It’s all run-of-the-mill ADHD behavior so just let it go. It gets easier as they get older but elementary school can be incredibly stressful. These kids have a disabling condition that displays itself in ways that are hard for us to accept since we’re responsible for their behavior, or supposed to be.

What I wished someone had told me at the period of time that you’re in now is to just not worry about it. I spent so much time and energy trying to make things they ‘way they were supposed to be’ that it took a huge toll on both of us. Instead of everyone pushing me to try and make my child behave, including the voice in my own head, as would be expected I wish that I’d just accepted that getting ready is going be to crazy, that if he didn’t do his homework that would be just fine, and given in to how he’s feeling instead of making him do things he wasn’t up to doing. It sounds like the antithesis of what ‘good parenting’ should be, but parenting an ADHD child is different. You won’t have the answers or solutions, so accept the drama for now and love him as hard as you can. If I’d let go more often my son’s childhood would have been a lot easier. And happier. That was my experience anyway.

Posted by Havebeenthere on Nov 29, 2012 at 12:23pm

I think every parent of an ADHD Child has been where you are and has felt defeated, and sorry sometimes even for their own breaking point responses.

I can only pass on what I know could help. Getting dressed is either sleep in your next day clothes or go dressed as you are when it is time to leave. If they are still in jammies then his peers will fix that problem by making fun and he will not be doing that again. It works!

Eating in the morning is now a kids pedicure shake. Our Peditrician recommend it and even wrote a Dr. Note that it is to be given in the morning. This way the school can not say they can’t drink it in the classroom. It gives the protein they need to get them going and help with the weight issues. Having cinnamon bread is now a reward if he gets ready on time.

I find with my daughter she will respond to positive phrase and rewards. If your son is responsive to this then making a rewards chart outlining the three most needed changed behaviors and a consequence that they helped to choose in advance is good. A list of rewards can be also put on paper in advance so they can choose the reward. What is important is to not set the child up for failure and let them feel success. Cuddle time in the morning is a reward. Focusing on and finding positive should always outweigh the negative.

Making up a house rules list is a must. Going over it as many times as you need to and explaining what will please you shows them what it looks like. No guessing on their part.

Making an AM/PM schedule for them to follow. Is a big help. 1) brush teeth 2) brush hair. It may sound simplistic, but no matter how old your child is through this journey it is there to help them and save from yelling and negotiating. Just point to the list.

I had learned these things in ADHD parenting classes. It is comforting for me to have a resource and keep going back to various parenting classes because raising an ADHD Child is so darn hard and very stressful. Over the years don’t forget to take care of yourself when it comes to stress overload.

I am currently looking into Transcendental meditation for my daughter as well as my

Good luck

Posted by Ms. Irish on Nov 29, 2012 at 1:06pm

My little one is 9 years old and was diagnosed with ADHD 4 months ago.  We are currently in the process of fine tuning her medication regimen.  Mornings can be stressful if we don’t plan ahead of time.  She is very distracted in the a.m. and wants to sing, dance, write songs, tell stories, etc.  She will start to get dressed, forget to finish putting on her shirt and look for me to tell me a story about something she remembered.  I no longer fuss, yell or get frustrated.  I don’t want her to go to school upset or anxious because it will be the precursor to a terrible school day.  What I know do is wake her up about an hour earlier that she is expected to wake up for school and give her her medication (she is on 18 mg of Concerta now).  I let her go back to sleep and make sure that I have gotten myself together and everything is packed and ready to go for when she wakes up.  Once she wakes up, we race.  Brushing teeth and getting dressed are now a race between her and myself.  If she wins she gets a star she can turn in when I pick her up from school for a snack of some one-on-one time with me later on in the day.  I think the racing satisfies the need to release a lot of built up energy in the a.m. and we continue the idea of the race on as we leave the house.  She is so focused on “winning” that she stays focused and productive.  By this time the Concerta has kicked in and she is better able to manage focus.  She is also on 10 mg. of Fluoxetine and .5 mg. of Risperdal which help manage her anxiety and mood.  Finally, I end the morning routine with a gigantic kiss and hug, whether she’s in the mood or not and tell her I love her….she needs to know as she goes in to the school that she is loved and supported and tat we are good not matter what.  Best wishes to you and your little ones.

Posted by Jeanette66 on Nov 29, 2012 at 7:01pm

THANK YOU! I love all the suggestions and I appreciate the wonderful, much-needed support. I know we all work hard to adapt to what seems an atypical parenting experience—more like extreme parenting—and I appreciate those of you with more experience to share, providing me some eyes into the future or just sharing your story so I know we are not alone. I always remind myself that my singular goal is the happiness and confidence of my son, but meshing the real world with this goal is the challenge and I am the one who has to adapt sometimes and just tell the “system” to bug off because caring for my son’s heart is much more important than any clock—maybe a post-it note on my forehead will help smile. Your suggestions are so useful, and I am looking forward to getting started right away. Today we had a good morning! smile Thank you, thank you, thank you! Much happiness to you all as you start the holiday season.

PS - Jeannette, the race idea is perfect because my little guy LOVES races/race cars/games. I never thought of that!! Thank you.

Posted by alybee76 on Nov 29, 2012 at 7:13pm

Wow. All of your posts almost made me cry. Alybee76, I have been going through the exact same situation with my six year old daughter. We end the mornings with yelling and crying, and I spend the day at work guilt-ridden that the day started as it did. She is on medication and is doing so much better at school-But it seems like at times I receive the brunt of her, frustrations,and pent up tensions, especially in the evenings.  After reading all of the posts, I am going to concentrate on us just getting to school, and consider that accomplishment as a small victory. I am so glad that I am not the only one who could describe their relationship with their daughter as complicated or “love-hate.” I am a single parent, and I always describe raising an ADHD child alone as exhausting and frustrating most of the time. My daughter has a wonderful quirky sense of humor,  I always try to keep in mind the “good” times when things get rough.

Posted by jjosey1 on Nov 29, 2012 at 7:20pm

I agree with all of you. I went through this scenario with my son when he started pre-school and kindergarten, and first grade, and second grade, and third grade, need I go on? It is such a difficult time period, simply exhausting. All I can say is, the morning routines, the races, the struggles, will one day be a thing of the past that you will look back on with a smile and sometimes with a cringe. My son is now 16. He now gets himself up and completely ready to go! Yay!  Talk about a milestone! Holy cow! After years of struggling in the morning, there is no more struggle. It is wonderful. It will get better for you and him. =)

Posted by Laughsalot on Nov 29, 2012 at 8:25pm

Hey Moms…quick note of encouragement.  My 9 (soon to be 10) year old has ADHD. Kindergarten was a complete nightmare.  Every morning ended with tears and usually myself or husband carrying him to the car to take him to school.  First grade got a little easier…no carrying…but once he got to school…very stressful as we watched him settle into class…he had difficulty following the morning routing…putting papers away, sitting quietly, putting snack away, etc.  2nd grade was better…got to school on time, etc.  3rd grade is great.  Gets up and likes to take a shower in the AM - so that is a great motivator to get out of bed.  Plus, I give him a “chicken ride” just a name we made up for carrying him on my back to the shower…i goof around in the process by dancing…teasing, etc and it gets him there and started on his morning.  I still help him get dressed as needed…and on the weekends I let him get dressed all by himself becuase he can take as long as he wants…  I give him protein in the morning…this seems to help tremendously (I’ve noticed a pattern of more difficult days when he does not have protein in the am).  I give him hamburger patties, chicken, etc.  And whole milk (xtra fat).  He won’t eat fruit so I steam vegetables - which he will eat.  The goal is to give him a big, healthy meal becuase he will not eat anything during the school day.  But then eats a big healthy dinner…. 
We sill have difficult days (last night after a long birthday party was one of them…).  But overall, when I reflect back to Kinder he’s made so much progress.  Just KNOW things will get better and along the way you will have set backs…  You’re child will eventually be able to dress themselves, etc…but it may not be on the same timetable as other kids their age.  And that’s my final point…try not to compare them to other kids their age…it’ll just frustrate you.  Behaviorally my son is much younger than his age…but intellectually and from a curiousity standpoint he sees the world in ways that are beyhond his years… Focus on their strengths and know things get better.

Posted by Nica on Dec 02, 2012 at 7:49pm

My son and I have had BAD mornings, so-so mornings, good mornings, and great mornings!
He is 11 years old with ADHD, ODD, and Anxiety Disorder.
A couple of things that I have noticed that help with mornings…1)he chooses his breakfast the night before ( could you make waffles in the morning or can we have breakfast tacos?) 2) if he takes a shower in the morning, it wakes him up 3)He sits in the livingroom, eats, and watches his favorites recorded shows.  4)Now that we go to a school that has standardized dress - getting dressed is easier.  These are just a few things that have helped us.
Yes, cooking breakfast is harder - but I get up at 530-545 to make the extra effort because I have found that it makes it smoother for us - less time spent deciding on what to eat.  He won’t leave the house without eating.

Posted by mmartin on Dec 05, 2012 at 9:03pm

I’ve dealt with this dilemma for the past 4 years.  Here are my tricks to get out the door in the morning (1/2 of which are designed to save me stress too, as a single parent trying to get to work on time).

1.  Wake him up 30 mins before we go out the door.
2.  I dress him (instead watching his high jinx)
3.  Dressed before even going downstairs
4.  Downstairs—meet me at the sink for meds; eat standing up at the counter (with me hovering) and brush his teeth @ the kitchen sink (sometimes with me forcing the issue smile
5.  Walk out the door

No TV, no toys, no last minute HW—- none of these things helps me get out the door without a drama ...

As an aside, regarding homework: 

My epiphany—we are in 3rd grade and the HW battles were ruining both of our lives.  I looked at how the grades are weighted, discussed our 504 with the teacher and she agrees—if he’s grasped the concept, we can skip the HW.  Sooooo, 100% spelling, no HW; 100% on the math test, etc—the same.  One less drama ... and yes, albeit that next year’s teacher may not agree with this tactic—but we’ll cross that hurdle when we get there.

Posted by KH62 on Dec 06, 2012 at 12:41am

Really great thread..So helpful!!

Posted by ALHE on Dec 06, 2012 at 10:16am

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