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Parents of ADHD Preteens

No Motivation

My 13 year old son seems so unmotivated.  He always takes the easiest way.  He never wants to help with anything around the house.  If he does, he does a very poor job.  When it comes to school work, he always does the bare minimum.  He’s in shape and a good athlete, but when it comes to sports practices, he always takes a short cut…like not running around the furthurst post as instructed or not doing push ups or sit ups if the coach has his back turned.  He has plenty of energy.  As long as it’s fun and it’s something he wants to do, I can’t get him to stop.  It’s so frustrating because I feel like he is not living up to his potential.  How do I get him to care and to put in more effort?  I’m worried that he won’t ever be able to keep a job.


I don’t have any magical advice, unfortunately. I just want to let you know you’re not alone.  My son is exactly the same, and I know how disheartening it is because you KNOW what your son is capable of when he tries.

My son used to be straight As, good at tae kwon do, etc., but he just stopped trying at everything the moment it all got a bit more difficult.  Some harsh teachers who didn’t know how to work with ADD/LDs didn’t help, either, but the motivation and effort are totally nonexistent.

I worry, as you do, about everything. School, college (will he even be able to go to college and be what he wants to be?), jobs—all of it.

I’m reading everything I can about trying to find the underlying causes for the lack of motivation and lack of awareness as far as how things work in life for the rest of us, like maybe there are sensory issues in play of which I’m not aware, or emotional issues, or maybe it’s all neurological and the issues with brain activity are solely to blame.  I’m looking into everything, seeing different doctors, but so far I’m also at a loss.

I wish I could afford to take him to the Amen Clinic to see what they could turn up!  I’m grasping at straws, I know.

If you come across any methods that work for you, please share, and I’ll do the same! I wish you lots of support and luck!

Posted by JAMurphy on Jul 24, 2014 at 10:16pm

Thank you for your response, JAMurphy.  Definitely sounds like we are in the same boat.  It’s just so frustrating.  It seems like all of his friends already understand that hard work pays off.  He just wants to skate on through life…  I’ve tried explaining it to him so many times and so many ways, and he just doesn’t seem to get it, or he just doesn’t care.  All I can really think of is that maybe because he is behind developmentally a couple of years (as they say ADHDers are), maybe he just hasn’t hit that stage yet where it all clicks.  So frustrating.  I love him to pieces and I want him to be successful and happy, but if continues like this…I just don’t see it happening.  Please share with me any method or information that you ever come across.  Best of luck to you as well.

Posted by redondojen on Jul 25, 2014 at 1:43am

I have a 14 yr old daughter that is the same way.  She used to work really hard at school and sports, but last year (when she turned 13), it all just stopped.  I noticed it during basketball last year, she spent her 5th-7th grades putting forth so much effort, wanting to always play and she was a decent player.  Then, this year, as an 8th grader, she would of played the whole game, only to be the first to ask coach for a break!  So frustrating!  As for the grades, she was perfectly happy with her B or C’s, even D’s.  As long as she wasn’t failing, she was happy.  An example is the Constitution test, they took a practice test in class, she got a B.. So instead of studying, she thought she would do fine and she ended up with a C-.  I’m glad to know she isn’t alone, but really want to know if this will ever change for them?  Like you both who posted before me, I worry about high school, college and her keeping a job as an adult.

Posted by brina3008 on Jul 25, 2014 at 2:35pm

What appears to be a lack of motivation is part of ADHD, executive functioning really. You have to be able to weight rewards and consequences to motivate yourself, e.g., “If I work really hard at basketball workouts, I’ll be a better player. If I’m a better player it might lead to a college scholarship. A college scholarship would keep me from drowning in debt when I graduate.” That’s a lot of steps to consider the benefit to running around the furthest poll and not short-cutting the run.

As well, while your son’s 13 yo peers are mostly intrinsically motivated, your son’s maturity is more like 10 or 11—do his maturity peers have that much motivation and drive yet? They are a more appropriate yard stick.

To help motivate him, help him feel successful in small strides. “Look at that B on your math test! I bet you are proud.” The key is to facilitate HIM feeling good about accomplishments, not that accomplishments mean mom and dad are proud.

There’s more advice surrounding your dilemma on as well: and

Lastly, I suggest reading “You Mean I’m not Lazy, Crazy, or Stupid.”

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

Posted by adhdmomma on Jul 28, 2014 at 2:48pm

I have the same problem with my 14 year old (non ADHD) daughter. My diagnosis for the lack of motivation is “technology addiction”. Playing on the smartphone (parental mistake, which will not be repeated with the 12 year old with ADHD), texting and Facebook/Instagram with friends, have taken away the motivation to do well at school and sports, which like the other responders’ kids, she used to have. We are the first generation of parents who have to handle this issue. In our house,we try to put limits into place (written tech usage rules) but they are hard to enforce,if one parent (my husband) is also a “borderline addict”. Does this problem play into your situations??

Posted by dancemom88 on Aug 22, 2014 at 2:51am

Same problem with my 12 yr old son.  Its seems like he is very unmotivated when it comes to school work.  Technology addiction has definitely taken its toll on our household and effects him completely his homework. Computer and electronics are the “shiny red object”.  We do not let him watch any tv or play video games during the week.  Most of his schoolwork is done and required to be submitted online and papers are written in Google docs Problem is he gets too distracted looking at the internet and not focusing on his homework. He can spend up to 4 hours writing a single paragraph.  Twenty mins on paragraph but the rest of the time is messing around.on the computer.  Because he doesn’t put his best quality of work into his schoolwork his grades suffer.  Truly frustrating and we try and help him but he doesn’t meet us halfway and is very unappreciative of our help and disrecptful.  Trying to find ways to give him consequences for not working on his homework since he doesn’t believe nothing will happen to him.

Do you think taking away some of his favorite stuff away (cell phone, pokeman cards, cartoons) is an appropriate means of punishment for someone with ADHD?

Any advice?

Posted by hsuhen1219 on Sep 03, 2014 at 6:18pm

We found that using an “ADHD watch” to vibrate every 5 minutes has helped our son refocus when doing homework (and at school) while on the computer.  Since he doesn’t seem to be able to judge the passing of time, this lets him know it has been 5 minutes and he needs to refocus.  He could easily “go down a rabbit hole” for hours following links without realizing it.
We also instituted a reward system where I pay him if he completes and assignment within “x” amount of time and he pays me if he doesn’t. Homework got done very quickly after the first time he paid me! :D

Posted by kfwellman on Sep 04, 2014 at 5:19pm

Some of you have hit on something that is a big problem for us too with our 13 yo son. Those darn electronics. We are guilty of being very permissive with these but they’ve taken over nearly all of his time. In general he tends to get fixated on certain things for a time, like a show or a video clip, etc. taking them away completely is our last resort punishment for cursing but you would think we took away food from him. If we say he has to finish his homework before he can use electronics he will rush through (he does anyway) so we feel so stuck. Curious how others handle this.

Posted by coop522 on Sep 30, 2014 at 1:19am

@coop522—my son feels capable and successful when he plays video games—that is one area of his life that he’s good at. So I understand why he is so drawn to electronics. We allow a 30 minute break after school and before homework. Then homework has to be done to have the privilege of doing anything else. My son rushes through homework too, but that’s because it’s boring to him, not because he doesn’t want to do a good job.

ADDconnect Moderator, Author on ADHD, and Mom to Pre-Teen Boy w/ ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Sep 30, 2014 at 1:17pm

I do the same thing Penny does. My son gets a half hour of “down time” after school and before starting homework, BUT, he doesn’t get to start video games until after the work is done.  If he gets into that game mindset, he won’t want to stop and then it becomes a battle to get him off it. So, he can play, watch a little TV, or whatever for a half hour, and then it’s homework time.  When the homework is done, he is rewarded with a half hour of video game time.

I’ve also read many times that, in addition to making them feel successful, the video games make them feel like this is the ONE area of their lives over which they have some control.  I mean, think about it:  They struggle all day and have difficulties with peers, teachers and their own feeling of self-worth, but, when it comes to video games, THEY are the ones in control for a change.  It also has to do with the instant gratification they get from the games.  That’s why they are so addictive.  So, the games do a number of things for them.

I don’t like taking the games away as punishment because I know that the games do all these things for my son, but I try to make it clear where the games fall on the hierarchy of priorities, and sometimes I do have to use them to get my son to do what he needs to do.

Posted by JAMurphy on Sep 30, 2014 at 3:07pm

Yes, I totally agree about the appeal of the video games. Control is a big factor. Also,aren’t they usually the hero or winner?  I just told our son it’s now 1 hour of free time after schools then homework, dinner, etc If all work is done he can use electronics after 7pm. We have the opposite. Many other families in hat he has WAY too much free time after school.  He’s home by 3, has any after school activities other than a piano lesson once a week, goes to bed around 9. That’s A LOT of time!

Posted by coop522 on Oct 02, 2014 at 2:16am

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