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Parents of ADHD Children

at wit's end with lazy son

My son is in 4th grade and has been diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar disorder. He has always been a difficult child. Things have gotten better over the last year since we have gone to the Amen Clinic and had a brain scan. Anger issues are much better. He just seems so lazy now. He never wants to do anything except play and what interests him. His schoolwork is atrocious. He does have an IEP and goes to a fantastic charter school. Any advice on how to deal with the laziness and social immaturity of an ADHD child? The school is always calling with something he has done or said that is inappropriate or they can’t get him motivated either. Principal and teacher are great and on same page. I really just want him to take ownership for his responsibilities. He does have chores that he will do after being nagged and reminded time and time again.

I have hired two tutors to work with him. He gets OT at school and it seems like we are just doing everthing possible but he could care less. Please advise.


Well, immaturity is totally typical of ADHD - our kids are usually 3 years behind in social development.  And yes, lazy is also part of the ADHD package.

Is he “lazy” at home too?  Our ADHD son was recently diagnosed with a learning disability. That helped explain why school work was so poor and why he was so uninterested in it all.  You might want to consider having him tested.  Learning Disabilities are also common with ADHD kids.

I also recommend a YouTube video titled “Essential Ideas for Parents” by ADHD expert Dr. Russell Barkley.  Just google the title on YouTube.  It is long but well worth watching.

There was another post a while ago that talked about putting a chart up of each chore their child had to do -  you might want to find that thread.

Good luck!

Posted by staypositive on Feb 05, 2014 at 9:29pm

My first question is always to ask if he’s been treated with ADHD medication since that is an essential aspect of being treated for ADHD. However much internally a child will want to please you by behaving in a motivated, concentrated way, if the underlying medical condition is not being treated most often they will be unable to. This leads to problems with everyone in their lives and can horribly affect their self-esteem.

Despite all of the phone calls, reward charts, punishments, reminders, my son is simply unable to focus and remember, complete what he needs to, without being treated with Ritalin. Even his teachers say it’s like night and day. What’s often mistaken as laziness can simply be ADHD that’s not treated.

His counselor compared it to ‘his broken leg’. He needs the crutch in order to walk well. Expecting an ADHD to sit and concentrate can be like asking a blind child to ‘see better’.

It’s a delicate balance between encouraging them to take responsibility for themselves and at the same time acknowledging that emotionally they lag 3 yrs behind their peers. From what I’ve been through I always err on the side of being more accepting of the fault as not their own.

ADHD also means most often that topics that they are not interested in are very difficult to pay attention to and remember. It’s probably age related too. Push too hard and they’ll push back.

Anyway, without going on about it, medication is an essential starting place and should be utilized as much as possible before expecting other incentives to work.

Posted by Havebeenthere on Feb 05, 2014 at 9:32pm

You probably have more to learn about ADHD if you believe he is “lazy” and that he should take responsibility for himself - yes, he should of course but children with ADHD are functionally 1/3 younger than their chronological age.

Sounds like you are doing a good job getting him assistance he needs at school. But I’m sure you realize that ADHD children are not point and shoot children!  You cannot just point to their room and say “go clean” and expect it to happen!  You realized that already no doubt. But what you need to realize too is that nagging feeds into anxiety. No matter how irritating it is to have to guide him in each thing you want him to do you will have to. It is just not physically possible for an ADHD brain to hook on to each and every instruction you give. One thing at a time, reward - can be simply a hug - next thing, reward. Get used to saying “let’s go do together” if you want him to learn good habits for himself. But it will take time. Our daughter now at 9 will get dressed by herself for school but I still have to hover a bit to make sure she isn’t dawdling. If you send an ADHD child off to do something and expect it done in five minutes you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

Watch Dr Russell Barkley Essential Ideas for Parents. It is life changing. You will make leaps and bounds in understanding what is going on with your son if you watch it.

Posted by YellaRyan on Feb 05, 2014 at 9:34pm

Before you do anything, learn as much as you can about ADHD. Saying a kid with ADHD is lazy is like saying a kid with a learning disability is stupid. (And yes, it’s just as hurtful.)

Read everything you can by Dr Russell Barkley. Here’s the link others have mentioned:

Posted by Rai0414 on Feb 06, 2014 at 3:40am

There are probably things that your son does do and would continue to do without being asked. 

Laziness in ADHD is a lack of motivation to accomplish something and in some cases it takes finding out what the motivators are that would create some type of action.

So, what appears to be laziness really isn’t and being called lazy becomes a label that follows the child around and can interfere with future performance. 

It takes a great deal of patience to deal with ADHD. 
Exercise is a good way to increase focus.  Make sure there is plenty of active play time in the day.

Posted by coachwithheart on Feb 06, 2014 at 10:03am

Hi graymom!

I definitely agree with everyone—he’s not “lazy.” ADHD often makes kids and adults alike seem unmotivated. Here’s an Expert Q&A on on this very subject:

Also, ADDitude did a webinar called, “You’re Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy!.” You can listen to the archive here: While it was geared towards adults, I think you will find some tips that can be applied for your child as well.

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Feb 06, 2014 at 6:09pm

The replies so far have been right on, but I also wanted to mention another resource, because you mentioned that your son has a dual diagnosis of ADHD and bipolar (it is very common for bipolar children to also struggle with ADHD or other diagnoses).

While this website is much more comprehensive for ADHD, if your child has a mood disorder, the support found above is excellent, as well.  The needs of a child with bipolar AND ADHD might also be very different from one with ADHD alone.  Please keep in mind that either disorder can significantly limit functioning. 

Congratulations for going to the Amen clinic.  Are you still working with their doctors?  is your child on meds for either the bipolar or ADHD or both?  If on meds for the bipolar, sometimes these meds can have side effects that cause fatigue, for example.  Bipolar often has an effect of depression that displays itself as boredom or apathy in children.  I would strongly recommend discussing realistic expectations for your child with the professionals you are working with. 

Stress is often the trigger to worsen bipolar symptoms in children (and adults), including unrealistic expectations, nagging, and family discord.  Learning how to manage this for and with your child will be the key moving through the years.

Posted by MollyMS on Feb 06, 2014 at 11:25pm

Read, read, read everything you can get your hands on and learn about ADHD. This is a tough situation. As a mother, grandmother and ex-spouse of Adders I know how this affects your life and and everyone else’s. Forget what you expect from your child it only confuses you. Change the word in your head from don’t to can’t. Depending on how much he is affected, and each Adder is different just as every neuro-typical child is different, he cannot just figure it out and take on self responsibility no matter how much you talk. Adders live only in the present moment. They only attend to things that are new and/or interesting.  They cannot plan ahead well, if at all, for regular daily life activities. They don’t remember things that aren’t exciting so they don’t learn from past experience in the same way that neuro-typicals can. SCHEDULE is the only magic word I know that works for ordinary life actions. He will have to have a ‘carrot’ in front of him all the time until he develops the habits he needs to take care of himself and run his life. Whatever he wants needs to be used as currency to get him to do the things he needs to do to mature. Brag on him for things done correctly as if he was a much younger child just beginning to learn, that engages his feelings in a way that helps him remember. Reasoning does not work because they can’t pay attention well or long enough to formulate the ideas you are trying to explain. Fussing, asking him to explain his actions to you or whatever only engages him in defending himself and you wind up with a child that only develops habits of fending off criticism. Don’t expect much from the schools they are still learning about Adders just as you are about to. Don’t expect a lot from your doctor unless you happen to be going to one that has made special efforts to learn about ADHD. ADHD is still in the beginning stages of understanding for all of us that haven’t specialized in it. If this sounds like a marathon, trust me it is so get some rest and put on your most sensible, comfortable pair of shoes. Oh and FYI the latest information I read on ADHD is that specialists are just coming to know that self management of emotions is a major problem for Adders. You will come out the other side of this a lot wiser about what it really takes to raise a blank slate human being to be self reliant person. Get this child medication and counseling now if you haven’t already done so, and some parent counseling for yourself. Look for a counselor that focuses on ADHD. A good counselor can also help you with school problems.Best of luck.

Posted by A Karl on Feb 09, 2014 at 3:50am

Oh man, you sound exactly like my mother (we don’t get along to this day because of my ADD).  I think it’s important to know that your son isn’t lazy. Somehow people with ADHD/ADD have no motivation whatsoever unless it interests me. Yep, I know, it sounds really bad! Honestly I don’t know what would help right now at his age. My mom kept me in lots of activities and I loved them, but when it came to schoolwork or chores, my brain literally went out the window.  I was stressed, all the information seemed jumbled in my brain, and to make matters worse…my mom did nothing but yell. I ended up being in a deep state of depression from middle to high school because I knew I was “different” but I couldn’t help it. I didn’t act out in school (my teachers actually loved me) just wasn’t good at my schoolwork. My immaturity was definitely noticeable…I would basically beg people to be my friend and of course that didn’t work.

I’m 24 now and I still struggle with social skills, lack of motivation, and having a jumbled brain almost 24/7.
However, since I’m more aware of my actions it helps a bit.

Posted by _ashlynnicole on Feb 10, 2014 at 10:16pm

Everyone here trying to deal with this situation would benefit from learning about working memory. Just google it and you’ll find lots of links. The best one I read is on Wikipedia. It will help you understand another piece of this puzzle. There’s an important clue in ashlynnnicole’s response above “all the information seemed jumbled in my brain”. These kids are living in an Alice in Wonderland world much of the time, and can’t just voluntarily sort it out, and some are missing an ‘on button’, and some are like Corvettes with VW bus brakes.

Posted by A Karl on Feb 11, 2014 at 2:09am

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