ADHD and Teens

teen-adhd-motivationThere is a fair amount of information available to parents of young children with ADD/ADHD and/or defiant behavior, but what about these same parents of teen children, specifically teens between the ages of 13-17? Behaviors and habits are more engrained and the traditional approaches that may work or are more appropriate to use with young children can not be used as well with older children.

Question: Can you take some of the defiant behaviors (swearing, total lack of respect, disobedience) and lack of motivation behaviors (doesn’t care to do homework let alone excel, do chores, or even brush teeth…without constant reminding) and address options for parents of older children.

Searching for Answers

Answer: Dear “Searching”:

You are absolutely right about there being a fair amount of information available to parents of young children regarding ADHD and defiant behaviors and less resources for parents of older children with similar behaviors. The criteria for making a diagnosis of ADHD in the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health Disorders, 4th edition) is based on observations made of boys 6 to 12 years of age. It stands to reason that most of the resources available to help manage this disorder are concentrated on that age group. However, we also know that 70-80% of those with childhood ADHD will continue to have symptoms into adolescence and 60% of those will carry it into adulthood. With that kind of prevalence there is more being done to address the needs of older kids and their parents.

About 40% of children with ADHD have co-morbid conditions such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder(ODD) – disrespect for authority, aggression, mouthiness, defiance; and if it goes unmanaged, their impulsiveness can push them into Conduct Disorder – stealing, fighting, setting fires, cruelty to animals etc. About 40-70% of children with ADHD will also have a learning disorder(LD) in either reading, writing or math.

So, there are a few things to consider before making any recommendations on how to manage your ADHD adolescent’s defiant behaviors. If these acts of disrespect and lack of interest in doing well are new behaviors – it could be a significant mood disorder (depression) and the adolescent should be assessed by a mental health professional. Secondly, I would highly recommend your adolescent have a psycho-educational assessment for an underlying learning disability (LD), especially if he has always struggled academically. As the child is getting older he may not be able to adequately compensate as the work load increases and the demands for learning reach far beyond his scope of capabilities. If a LD is present, the child may be well served by having certain accommodations and modifications made to his academic program which will go a long way in reducing the frustration he feels and curb resultant defiant behaviors. The third thing to question is substance abuse. People with ADHD are two fold at risk for using illicit drugs such as cannabis and cocaine – with the ADHD brain these drugs initially help the person to focus and feel calm – the long term negative effective is that they worsen defiant/aggressive behaviors.

If depression, LD and substance abuse have been ruled out , here are a list of some strategies you can try, accompanied by some additional recommended resources for you to explore:

* When the adolescent (adol) is being treated pharmacologically it is imperative he become an active participant in the medication regime and understand how the medications work to minimize the symptoms of ADHD. Compliance is an issue in this age group. Encourage your teenager to take responsibility for his own medication. Once daily dosing improves compliance and they should be taking it as early in the morning as possible to help with motivation during the morning routine. Adols who are driving in the late evening should be on longer acting medications so the medication does not wear off while they are still behind the wheel. Impulsivity and not being able to concentrate have been the cause of many accidents.

If the teen is involved in his own treatment he feels more in control of himself and is more apt to monitor the effects, recognize the improvement and be motivated to comply with the treatment plan. When the symptoms of ADHD are managed, it is far easier for the teen to receive and accept behavioral interventions because it is not as difficult for him to follow directions, focus and stay on task. (As an aside: you may have decided not to go the medication route, I am not suggesting that you should. That should be an informed family decision – one that is made in consultation with a prescribing physician.)

* You need to provide as much structure to the teenager’s environment as possible. Support routines, promote organization regarding time, space and activity – timers, alarms on watches or phones to give reminders, calendars to mark assignment dates, written guidelines of step by step approaches to projects. If homework is not done they do not move on to another activity ( i.e.:computer or TV) until the homework is completed – unplug the TV and take away the internet. Unfortunately, people with ADHD need a lot of reminders. Reminders need to be incorporated into their repertoire of coping mechanisms; so construct a system that makes reminding easy.

* Give appropriate and consistent limit setting with age-relevant consequences. Deliver the consequence as close to the misbehaviour as possible. Establish a written contract between you and the adol where consequences are spelled out for certain offences (i.e.:swearing, disobedience) so the adol knows what to expect, every time! This way the adol is not caught off guard when discipline is imposed and conflict may be minimized. Remember they act impulsively so it’s hard for them to understand cause and effect relationships. If it’s written down, they can’t as easily refute it.

* Set the child up for success; involve the adol in activities he is good at and enjoys doing so that he builds his confidence and keeps him from getting bored and reacting impulsively.

* Advocate with the school, partner with the teachers and involve the adol in his academic plan and goals- modify his program so it meets his needs for how he learns (allow him to get up and walk around periodically, sit at the front of the class away from the window and distractions, lower florescent lighting, have one large binder where all subject notes are kept so as to reduce the amount of papers misplaced etc) and incorporate school consequences for non-compliance with school work and support them in and out of the school setting (i.e. detentions after school to get caught up, missing school field trips to sit in VP’s office to get caught up).

* Encourage appropriate social experiences with peers to increase positive interactions which will foster his interest in doing things and being with people in socially acceptable ways (i.e. sport teams, chess clubs, drama productions).

* Everyone in a household should have chores – it’s what makes a family function. Have a family meeting and have everyone pick their own chores. Impose consequences when chores are not completed and stick to them.

* create an atmosphere of mutual respect within the family- develop communications that are positive in nature, and refrain from yelling. And most importantly parent this adol with patience and understanding. ADHD is not a disorder anyone wishes to live with. Cultivate an enjoyable relationship between the two of you. Highlight your adol’s strengths and positive attributes. Spend time doing fun things together.

Remember, people with ADHD may take longer to integrate habits into their lives and change ingrained behaviors. To learn more check out the following websites:

All the best,
Dyan Eybergen

Suggestions by Dyan Eybergen, author of Out of the Mouths of Babes: Parenting from a Child’s Perspective. Dyan is a pediatric psychiatric nurse, has more than ten years experience working as a therapist and parent educator. Dyan and her family were guests on the cable television show “For Kids Sake”, along with parenting expert Barbara Coloroso. Eybergen resides in St. Albert, Alberta, with her husband and three sons.


  1. I really appreciate this article; my 11-year-old son was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 8, and we’ve been living a roller coaster! We’ve had him on meds for a while, now we are off meds, and making modifications in his diet. Thanks for this venue of support.

    Sincerely, Sarah, single mom of Jeremy, the sweetest small soul in the world!

  2. I have lived all of the above with my 19 year old son. ODD, ADD, stealing, lying, mood disorder, psychiatric nurse, etc…

    This will not apply to everyone, but….

    His behavior was changed dramatically for the better with a large dose of omega 3 everyday. Teachers, family, and friends were stunned by the change. It makes me wonder if the problem was that he was deficient in omega 3 in the first place and the behavior was a result.

    • How much of omega 3 did you give your son? Thanks. Megreek398

    • How much of a dose did you give?

      • This can get tricky– He is a very tall person–6″10″. He takes between 5 to 7 capsules a day. It is important that he take vitamin C as well. (no particular dose that I am aware of-I give 500 milligrams)

        What is very very important is that you also limit the amount of Omega 6 oils they eat. We should be taking in a ration of 1:1 of Omega 6 to Omega 3 oils. If your son eats a lot of chips, pizza, fried foods, etc… then imagine how much fish oil he will need to eat to balance that out! Instead, provide food alternatives that have less Omega 6 in them. You can look up Omega 6 online to get a list of what has it.

        My son will take more fish oil if he has been eating poorly and tries to keep it balanced. I have stopped buying most junk foods and try to keep fruit on the table. It is a joint effort but well worth it. If you research the benefits of Omega 3- You will find out it is something we all should be eating a lot of!

    • Hi Judyk,

      Please let me know the omega 3 dosage that you give to your son? Thank you so much.

  3. Thanks for that!! A lot of what you suggested could be applied to teenagers without ADHD to help them through their adolescent years.

  4. There is a wonderful CD available from the Love and Logic Institute called ‘Calming the Chaos’ that may shed some light. They have many wonderful resources, some specifically for teens. Go to or call the Institute to ask about workshops in your area that can give you extra support through a training.

  5. Did you know that most entrepreneurs are ADHD? Yep, we can’t stick with any one thing for very long – which is perfect for operating your own business. There are so many things that require your attention that ‘normal’ people would get overwhelmed and quit.

    On the other hand, things that require us to do the same thing over and over, like jobs and school are terribly difficult.

    There are some things that help –

    A healthy diet is essential. We need real, fresh foods that nourish neural pathways, and we need to stay away from all of the chemical concoctions that mess with those neural pathways. a lot of disruptive behaviors can be calmed just by making sure they get a good nutritious diet of real foods.

    Exercise is a must. Pent up energy releases itself in outbursts and other unpleasant episodes.

    Routines are a great help BUT, their ways of getting things done may differ from yours. Try to let them do it their way – as long as they get it done. You might be pleasantly surprised. Finding shortcuts to get things done faster is a great talent that we have – since we know we can’t focus on any one thing very long. That’s why I write books on how to clean your house fast, and how to make fast dinners, and such…

    And they might need the stereo on to be able to concentrate. I know that sounds weird to normal people, but our minds are off in different directions all of the time.

    It used to be just a short attention span. Now it’s a disease. Sigh…

    The best thing you can do it quite trying to make them fit into your mold. Try to treat their qualities as talents rather than a disease. They will respond much more positively.

    Oh, and we like to be challenged.

    Just a few thoughts off the top of my head – I have to go do something else now…

    • Carole,
      Thanks for the insight. My son’s teacher has taken to calling him a “Renaissance Man”, and says that he will be one of the movers and shakers in the world. I love looking at the positive aspects of his personality!

    • Thank you so much for this positive view of ADD, that highlights strengths, options and alternatives. I live with 3 sons and a husband, all of whom have ADD. Although living w/ADD is not w/o its challenges, I feel fortunate that my guys are delightfully zany, out-of-the-box thinkers who excel in music and art and are kind and empathetic human beings. As many ADDer’s like to say, those w/o ADD have an Attention Surplus Disorder.

  6. One more thought – I know I said exercise is important – but don’t go signing them up for team sports. Anything that has to be done all of the time on a regular basis won’t be a good solution.

    ok- bye -gotta go walk off some energy

  7. What are appropriate consequences? Could you please give some suggestions? I truly don’t have any idea what will work and worry that my teenager will run away if i impose them. Thanks.

  8. The above advice is good, but can be difficult to implement, especially if an adolescent is already being defiant. Try asking an oppositional teen to use a timer!
    One good approach is to just be upfront with your teen and present things in a manner or mutual respect.
    The conversation can go like this:
    Parent, “We have a problem. I am respectful to you, but you are not respectful to me. This is unacceptable, but I don’t want to be constantly in a battle with you and believe you can be respectful. How do we resolve this?”

    And see what your teen says. You may be surprised.

    This conversation can take place for many issues that impact any teen, but especailly teens with ADHD who often feel disempowered.
    For example,
    “We have a problem. Your homework is not getting done and you are failing math. I want to help you, but you are too old for me to TELL you what to do. We need to come up with a plan because I want to see you pass math and graduate from high school. And I think you want that, too.”

    KIds are much more likely to buy into a plan to change their behavior if they are part of creating the solution. Parents cannot impose routines or rules on teens. They are too old, too independent, to verbal and can walk out if they don’t like what they hear.

    Another motivator I use with teens is to tell them that if they start being more responsible, their parents will stop nagging them. This can be the best motivator of all! Kids will start taking meds, brush teeth, take showers for the sole reason to stop hearing the constant nagging. If parents use this as a motivator they need to back off once their teen starts being more responsible, and cannot nit pick small deviances from what is expected.

    Just some ideas that work with my clients.

    Susan Giurleo, PhD

  9. Claire Feulner says:

    I would highly recommend you get a copy of the book The Wildest Colts Make the Best Horses, by John Breeding, PH.D.. As a wife and mother to individuals who would be classified by our “system” as ADHD, I found this book to be not only eye opening, but very helpful.

    When I was a young girl, I can remember the common phrase, “Boys will be boys.” This sentence was used to explain the activity level and behavior of some children. We did not classify them as disease ridden, or inadequate.

    Dr. Breeding points out that perhaps there is not something wrong with our children, but with the system. We have all seen the decline of recess and lunch time which used to provide a much needed hour long break in which we would walk home, eat our lunch, and then walk back to school sometimes with enough time to play on the playground before class resumed. Much of the time that was used to release energy, clear the mind, and learn things that do not fall into an academic subject. It is unfortunate that these have been removed and or severely shortened .

    Our society has now unfortunately not only labeled millions of children, but we are drugging millions of school aged children in our country as well. I have been down the route of evaluation at the request of my son’s school, the suggestion not by the doctor but by the school that perhaps we were doing our child a disservice by not medicating him, leaving us at the time wondering if we were in fact making the right choice.

    Please, please, look into the classification and side effects for any medication you may be considering or are currently using. We are led to believe that they are harmless, (both the school and the pediatrician told us there were no down side to the medications used) yet the FDA classifies these medications in a highly addictive category (Schedule II) with cocaine, morphine, and barbiturates to name a few. The Physicians Desk Reference lists a large number of potential side effects. Drugs like Ritalin also stunt a child’s growth including the growth of the brain. This is why many times children are recommended to take a break from their medication. Lastly, they do not learn a healthy way of working through issues that may confront them again and again.

    As far as advice for teens labeled with ADHD I feel this book will be a tremendous help to you. It will help you to view this in an entirely different light. Remember your teen not only has the usual raging hormones, but has been labeled by our society as defective. This can make a kid angry! Many times they must also guard themselves from the negative attention they repeatedly receive, so they outwardly present an “I don’t care attitude”. I know with my own child making a point of finding, pointing out, and expressing positive things he does has gone a long way to break down that tough skin that had developed. Remember we all need to feel loved and wanted no matter how difficult we are being. A kiss on the head, or requesting a hug and letting him know how much you love him or her is sure to help! (Although outwardly they might express the love back.)

    Finally, I think the best thing I was able to do to work through my sons issues was to homeschool him. I realize this is not an option for everyone, but we began 3 years ago when he started 8th grade and are still going strong currently working on grade 10. I believe he has been able to heal from many of the negative labels, he is happier and healthier, and although my wild colt is often difficult for even his mother to pen our whole family has grown and learned so much! You can find solutions that will work for you and your child, so don’t give up! Remember your child is trying to work through a difficult situation and your child is trying to heal their hurts, as Dr Breeding says, “That disrespectful “bad” behavior then, may be best interpreted as a wonderful acknowledgement that you are a safe haven for them to show where they are having difficulty, release their frustrations and discharge their reactions by acting this out on you. It feels like hell at times, but it really is an honor.” May God provide you with the strength and wisdom needed to prevail, and may he provide your teen with the knowledge that they are loved unconditionally!

  10. Pamela Mingo says:

    One interesting point on diet, is that the use of ketchup and how the red dye in it is not good for many children. Allergy tests for food can also be helpful as many children are allergic to many foods that they are eating.

  11. Jim Vigars says:

    I have a soon to be fifteen year old son who I have had difficulty with since he was 6. He was diagnosed with ADD, Impulse Control Disorder. He had seen a pediatrician from 8-12 yearsold. He had been on Ritalin, Concerta which had temporary effects and slowed his growth. He has seen multiple Psychologists who he told what they wanted to hear with no significant long lasting benefit. We finally sent him to a Military style boys school for parts of grade 7 and 8 and all of grade 9. This helped temporarily while at school but old behaviors returned very quickly at home. He is now in grade 10 attending high school at home. His first semester marks were horrible, he did very little work despite constant reminders and hounding. He has severe defiant behavior, constant lying, foul language and is now abusing pot which compounds all the other problems. I plead with him to follow a basic set of rules including treating his brother and parents with dignity and respect, putting an effort into school, being honest and to minimize his partying behavior. I find myself at the end of my rope. I took away the privilege of his cell phone today and after verbal abuse and physical threats I told him to leave our home. I have berated him in the past for his behavior and have tried to be consistent with discipline. I feel like a failure and am physically and emotionally exhausted. I feel guilty for losing my temper and the things I have said in the past. I am a physician so I have some professional experience with this these types of disorders but I am at a loss as to where to proceed from here. I am beginning to feel that my son will not change his ways until he hits rock bottom in flunking out of school, being out of his home etc. I feel I can longer be sworn at every time I say no or question his efforts. I’m beginning to give up and he’s only 15! J. Vigars

    • Jim:
      Wow…I can say that I feel/share you pain, only in my cases our son is only nine. I’ve had all the same thoughts: terrible parent, send him away to school, toss him out, etc. It is so insanely frustrating. I don’t know what your experience has been, but my entire “adventure” with aspergers and ADHD/ADD has reduced my respect for the medical community to a very low level. Any dreams of “Hello, I’m doctor Frasier Crane, how can I help you?” went away with the first “…so let me write you this prescription…” which of course is followed by a mix of “…okay, so let’s now try this dosage level…a increase…” and “…okay, so let’s try a different med…” and of course “…and you should see a psychologist too…”
      I wish the medical community engaged parents and troubled youth in a bit more cohesive (vs silo’d) fashion, but alas, we’ll never change the AMA.
      All I can say is know that you’re not alone, you’re not the first, but that there is no “silver bullet” nor miracle drug nor cure.
      Best of luck.

    • HI Jim,
      I have a very similar situation with my 17 year old son. We began taking him to play therapists, psychologists, behaviorists, and psychiatrists at age 5. He has ADD and everything that is comorbid with it–ODD, OCD, low frustration tolerance, explosiveness, and very poor follow-through skills. Instead of pot, he is addicted to the computer. I tell myself that at least I know where he is and that he is not just hanging out somewhere. We started a medication called Lamictal a few years ago that is used for kids with bipolar disorder–even though he does not fit the DSM diagnosis—to help with the explosiveness. I think that it does take the edge off of things somewhat. I also feel very remorseful about how I have parented this very difficult child and the effect that he has had on my other kids. My husband can’t get along with him because he cannot accept that he has a special needs child. And yes, that’s what he is—a special needs child. It’s very hard to keep this in mind because he is so intelligent,(which I think that most of these kids are). It is so frustrating that he can’t understand that he has to get with the program. His emotional IQ is like that of a 6 year old—like having a first grader year after year. I also worry long-term—this is his last year of high school. I sometimes think that even if he hit rock bottom, he still couldn’t get it together. A long time ago I read the book, The Explosive Child. I thought that my child would never be that extreme, but here I am with a kid that could be featured in that book. I guess I just want to let you know that you’re not alone in this situation. BTW, from what I understand the studies on Omega 3 do not substantiate what anecdotally I have read on this site. But, who knows—I’m going to give it a try. If you find anything helpful, please let me know.

      • Hello, Ann, I just found this website today. In reading your comment to Jim Vigars from this older post from last year called ADHD and Teens, I found that your son sounds very similar to my son. At almost 16, he has ADD Inattentive type and is handsome, intelligent but extremely emotionally immature. Your post hit home when you called your son a Special Needs Child. It is so easy to forget this when a person appears normal – i.e. no obvious physical handicap. I would be interested in how your son is doing and if you have come across any helpful resources, etc. Thank you! Julie

  12. Thanks to all of you who offered me suggestions and encouragement. From Lyn in Canada

  13. Re Omega 3. psychiatrist insisted that it be a part of a daily routine. hey-why not! ;0)

  14. In response to Jim Vigars

    I too, had a son who was very much as you describe. It was a horrible period of time for the family ( 2 other children) and my marriage. It is not easy but don’t give up. He needs the rules and counseling would help but only someone skilled with this type of problem. I can tell you it did get better but very slowly in small steps. He is now 20 and in college. We finally had to leave up to him and divine intervention. Good luck. You are not a failure.

  15. As a mother of two sons age 17 and soon to be 22, I am wondering what to do. My youngest son was diagnosed with ADD a year ago after struggling in the classroom for way too long. He is currently taking Aderol XR 20mg daily, and his teacher just emailed me last week stating he is a “model student” and working hard to do well. His grades have gone from C’s and D’s to A’s and B’s, so it seems he is on the right track.

    My main concern these days are in regards to my older son. Even though he exhibited some ADHD characteristics, always did quite well in school. Thanks to baseball he excelled in extra-curricular activities and this helped him burn up energy as well. Since Graduation though he has taken a spiral slope downward, and I fear he is now suffering from major depression, and he can’t see he needs help. He has tried college, and failed out his first term- in part due to too many difficult courses to start. After college didn’t work, he has tried many jobs~(I would bet about a dozen in the last year and a half), and he is unable to keep them. He is a very decent young man and has talent and ability, just no drive or ambition to move forward.

    He had moved out and was living on his own and able to pay rent for about a year, but recieved a call from his landlord who was concerned so we just moved him back home a couple weeks ago to help him get back on track. He sleeps about 18 hours a day and when he is awake he is very edgy and angry for no apparent reason. We just want him to get a job and/or go back to school. What can we do to help. I have asked him to go see a Dr. to get help. He says he doesn’t need it..

  16. I found the different talks from parents enlightening. My son is 19 soon to be 20. He was always a little hard headed but it seemed when he hit puberty all heck broke loose. I have dealt with his behavior for 7 years, I begged the school to help me, but my son seems to charm his way with teachers but he ended up with no diploma. He is very bright but would not do homework. He wouldn’t do anything. If I said something he would just yell at me that all I care about is school. He started drinking and smoking and hanging out with some kids that were not making good decisions. He would not listen , or help around the house or really do anything. He likes cars and began to work on them. But it seems he won’t do anything to help himself. THe things he has said to me have just about broken my heart into. Through the yearsI tried all the meds, but the doctor finally said I think it might be something else. I think he has both, ADD, and ODD. BUt I can’t get him to try and get help. He is grown and all I want to do is kind of stay away from him because I can’t take his unkind comments. He had a good home and lots of love. I am at the point that I am just glad that he is alive and that I hope that by a miracle I can have some kind of relationship with him one day.

  17. I also have to say that I have never had any regrets . On top of all his issues he is adopted and I just want him to be ok and happy . I miss the good times when he was little . We had a lot of fun. If I had a crystal ball I would sure share the answers. Thanks,glenda

  18. josee larouche says:

    Bonjour Glenda,
    I don’t know if you speak French but I do. My son Kéll is also adopted and problems similars to these of your son. I would appreciated to get in touch by mail with you. Thank you for your opened mind… Josée from Québec

  19. Oh my, what an outpouring of stories and emotions. It is so good to hear from people who have walked in my shoes. Our son is 15 also and we have been on a horrible rollercoaster almost since he was a toddler and would melt down over the simplest “no”. Over and over in elementary school we were told “boys will be boys” in regards to his up and down behavior. Finally in the 4th grade a teacher recommended we have him tested. We were told he had ADHD, but did not totally understand all the behaviors that were swept into that diagnosis. We tried some counseling and a mild dose of drugs, but found we were leading the counselor and the drugs really did nothing (maybe because of the small dose.)

    As puberty approached and his behavior became more and more abusive at home, especially against me, his mother, we knew that he and we had to find help ASAP. His taunting, verbal abuse and ability to cut to the quick have more than broken my heart. We never see any homework done at home and he refuses our help. His grades range from A’s to D’s and F’s. We are fortunate to have teachers who care. We recently caught him using my debit card and stealing $300 from my bank account. Today his father and I and he will be writing a contract for his “work/release” program here at the house.

    Like many of you, we have felt like we are miserable parents, losing our temper after hours of being patient. In the last year we went back to counseling and have also be under the watchful care of a psycho-pharmacologist who diagnosed him as off the charts as far as ADHD. He has started on Stratterra which seems to help some of the impulsivity and temper control. He seems to be able to put on the brakes a little better.

    I will definitely look into the Omega 3 and am currently pursuing testing for LD’s. I can’t wait to find the book The Wildest Colts Make the Best Horses. If I thought homeschooling would be the way to go for him, I would definitely give it a whirl.

    Thank you to all of you for opening your hearts and souls to share your experiences. From them, we all can learn and maybe find a way to help our “wild colts.”

    Bless you all.

  20. HI Josee,
    I would love to hear from you .My email is
    Would love to hear from you. Any insight or thoughts are always welcome and to share. Thanks for your note.

  21. I’ve been reading all your comments with a growing feeling of grief and frustration. I’m so pleased some of you have found things that do bring improvement to your family, and I’m just heart broken for those of you who are living in parental hell.

    Have you noticed that every single comment (Except for the amazing Carol) has been about boys?

    I really think our modern society isn’t structured for boys. There are just too many of them unhappy, angry and “failing”. It can’t be a case of the boys failing to fit in and perform – it has to be that our schools, our society and expectations fail to meet the needs of our boys. Boys need men as strong mentors, and not just their fathers.

    My father (he’s in his 70’s now) left school when he as 14 and started work with his dad. He did seasonal farm work, hauled timber, fixed machinery and built houses. It was a pretty common thing where he grew up. Times were tough – a bit like they are now- and his family relied on his income.

    He’s always been what we fondly call “busy”. He works every day and always has. When he has a holiday and comes to visit I always make up a list of little jobs around the house that need doing, like fixing door handles, changing washers in the taps, that type of thing. While he works we talk. He’s relaxed and comfortable. If he has a day where there are no jobs to do, no sightseeing, just sitting around, then the conversation is difficult. He jiggles around, nags and starts arguments. He’s really happiest when he’s busy.

    I wonder if he’d been born in the past decade how he would have fared? He certainly would have failed school – and yet he’s very bright. He struggles with writing, but he can go to a Wood Working Fair armed with a set of callipers and a notebook, take measurements of the machine he fancies then go home and build a replica for himself. He can build a house, but if you asked him about the maths involved in the angles of the timber, he’d be stuck.

    Surely boys (and men) haven’t changed so much physiologically in the past 60 or 70 years that it’s caused this epidemic of hyperactive kids. Aren’t they just the same as they always have been? If it’s not the boys then it has to be the environment that’s changed.

    I believe all the comments on good diet and exercise are spot on. I wonder if another consideration may be to take boys (who are struggling) out of the normal school system and put them in a trade school instead, or send them to work on a property as a Jackeroo (that would be send them to work on a farm as a farmhand?), or get them an apprenticeship. Something where they are immersed in the world of men and hard work. Where they get to build up their self confidence through using their minds and hands to fix machinery, build things and be outside.

    I’m probably over simplifying things, and I apologise if I’ve offended anyone. I know it will take more than a group of men with spanners to solve this, but I also know that drugging kids so they can sit still inside flouro lit boxes listening to teachers drone on and on for years on end, just can’ be the answer.

    • Nerida:

      Regarding your comment of having struggling teenagers work at a farm, trade school or a labor job, I agree 100%.

      My daughter was kicked out of school due to behavior problems secondary to ADHD, LD, reading problems and being bipolar.
      Since she has not been going to school but got a chance to paint houses she has become more obedient. I will do my best to have her learn a trade such as a craft she could sell.

  22. I noticed that 99.9% of them were boys also. Has anyone done the math yet on what percentage of National Honor societies are girls vs. boys?


  23. My Dad grew up with ADHD and Dyslexia. He did okay in school, but he ran track and was on the swim/dive team. He tried to take this on to college, but ended up dropping out and became a travelling salesman in Iowa. He couldn’t keep up with the amount of reading and no one knew or cared what was wrong with him. Eventually he joined the Navy, became a dive instructor, and fell in love with video and photography. My Dad wanted to fly, but his eyesight was not good enough. So, he took pictures and videotaped test flights for NASA, Boeing, and Lockheed. He was most proud of earning his Associates Degree in Videography after being diagnosed in his 40’s and receiving support for his learning disability.

    My Dad is my hero and times have definitely changed. Back then we expected kids to grow out of it, just needed a good belt whipping, or were left on their own to fail or succeed. We, his kids and grandkids, all have symptoms of ADHD/ADD, but my Dad allows us to think outside the box. It takes a lot of courage as a parent to tackle any disability. What has changed in our school system is the repetition of learning, time outside for creative play and sunshine, and the need to keep students going forward despite a difficulty in mastering material. The school’s are more knowledgeable about LD and are more appropriate in dealing with them overall.

    How do we compensate? Our kids NEED extracurricular activities, repetition for academic success (there are teacher’s stores, free online worksheets, and learning centers dedicated to this), and lots of encouragement and positive support. My daughter is 4 and we do ‘homework’ everyday for writing and counting in preparation for school. We do gymnastics and ballet for her love of gross motor activities, and we praise her for all the gifts she brings to our family as the unique person she is. It is a double gift, not a single curse. I have one child that does the amount of two…lucky me….most of the time.

    This does not mean I did not freak yesterday when impulsively she stabbed my hand with a pencil, but after I calmed down we did talk about it and our primary rule is to respect one another. Man, have things changed…my parents would not have thought twice about spanking and sending me to my room, but that does not teach anything. I think in many ways we are much more knowledgeable and can offer much more support to our children.

  24. To all the struggling parents:
    There are many wonderful suggestions here and I have a few more to add (and repeat some). (I have two teens, work with teens, and wrote a book for teens.)

    *ALL parenting techniques being taught today explain why yelling at our kids won’t work. “Yes, Your Teen is Crazy” by Michael Bradley is a great book and he’ll humorously hammer into your head why yelling or ranting at teens is not a good idea. Our teens are in a period when their brains are still developing the use of logic. Sometimes when they argue, it’s not a fight they’re looking for, just looking to explore their new found strengths. I wish I had more time to write but I’ll just tell you that one line I used when my son starts to argue or tries to “get my goat” is to say, “You see, you’re so smart and THAT is why I think you would be excellent in law!!!” (Changed slightly so it makes sense to people outside our family.) Bradley says that our golden moment as a parent is not when you’re celebrating, but rather when you maintain your cool in a hot situation. This takes effort, we will fall–all parents do–and then we can get up again and do better next time. Stay cool mom and dad. I agree with the person that posted about Love and Logic–they have a lot of great tools you can use with your teen.

    *Do not underestimate the power of enough water, protein, and good vitamins, exercise too.

    *I believe in empowering teens. They are in a position to make life choices that can change their whole future. We need to remind them of that in an empowering way. They are at an age of choice. When we acknowledge the position of life they are in, that we support them in making wise choices for themselves, they will rise. Let them know that you cannot protect them from all negative consequences and that you hope they will choose wisely.

    *Consider an “out of the box” solution. Home schooling was a brilliant solution in our home for some years. My kids were not compared to anyone else. We spent lots of time outside where they could move about in a large way.

    *Our kids are not the only ones that are growing here, we need to grow as parents and when we change what is NOT working, they will reflect it in their behaviors.

    *What we are doing as parents is the hardest work ever. Take time to take care of yourself, nurture yourself (drink enough water and take supplements too–I have found “Sam-e” to be very helpful).

    *Use forgiveness liberally, forgive your child, forgive yourself.

    *Do not underestimate the power of prayer. You don’t have to be in anything organized to have a personal relationship with the Creator to cry out and ask for help, guidance, and miracles. I’ve learned that a parent’s prayerful tears are very potent.

    *You are not alone in your struggles. Other parents have grown through these challenges with their kids as well. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Really!

    *Kids spell love t-i-m-e. If you can, find something to do or somewhere to go together that will give you and your teen positive time together. Spend a LOT of time LISTENING. When a kid has a problem, ask them what they think they should do about it. Empower your teen.

    Hang in there, moms and dads!!!

  25. Hi everyone,
    I can honestly say from my heart that hearing your stories and feelings has helped me. The nurse at the place
    where I work told me that the best thing a parent can do is take care of their own health. I started exercising everyday and trying to eat healthy. I realized that for all these years I have never thought about myself.
    I was always trying to figure out how to solve my son’s issues. My son turns 20 Tuesday and it has taken all
    the tough love to make him work and pay his own way. I have tried to prepare him for life.

    Right now he hates me but I am hoping one day when he finally matures into manhood (because he isn’t there yet) that
    I will not be the ogre that he sees me as today. I also had to make tougher choices because of his decision not to
    graduate from school. Life is hard out there and [people will test him. Hang in there everyone and try all you can
    but as I have finally learned we have to remember that we are still human beings as well as a parent. All we can do
    is try and be the best that we can be. Also don’t forget that if you are married and going through this that you have to try hard and keep the romance in your life. I didn’t do this and ended up losing someone that was very special to me.