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ADHD Parents Together
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Help with 22 year old who refuses to acknowledge his adhd

Hello. I am very new to this. I moved in with my partner 6 months ago after 7 years of dating. His and my son live with us. His son was diagnosed at age 5 with adhd. He went to councilor and was treated medically for many years. To my understanding, after puberty his hyperactive behavior changed. He has been off meds for four years.

He does have a job. He barely passed high school. We basically have to put the application in front of him and force him to fill it out. He’s not mature at all. He can’t follow simple tasks. He lies. He has poor hygiene. His father won’t discuss it with me or address it with his son. He feels guilty because he is also a sufferer who never had treatment. So he’s being an ostrich.

My 17 year old gets so frustrated and angry because he picks up his chores. I am frustrated because I was unaware and I didn’t sign up for this young man to be living with us forever. I don’t know how to handle it. I have tried to b supportive. I have been encouraging. Today I lost my mind over the fact he didn’t even brush his teeth or shower before work. Please help guide me

13 Replies

I feel for you. Blending families is hard enough without these issues!! You definitely have an uphill battle as long as you and your partner are not on the same page. The consequences, limits, boundaries and rules really need to come from him and if he's unable or unwilling, there really isn't much you can do...except maybe to suggest couples or family counseling so you can get on the same page...and also to get help for yourself so you can take care of yourself emotionally and take care of your son so he's not lost in all the chaotic shuffle.

It might also help for you to learn as much about ADHD as you can so you can have an explanation for why the boy does what he does (again, as an explanation not an excuse). Maybe with this understanding you will be able to be more objective and less triggered when he pushes your buttons. The other thing is that the better your relationship is with him, the more likely he will be to seek and follow your input and suggestions. So if you can find a way to build your relationship in a positive way, it will help down the road. I know that won't be easy, but the efforts will be well worth it.

You say you didn't sign up for this but now that you know the deal, you certainly can tell your partner what you're willing to live with from here on out and what you aren't --but you need to do so recognizing that he simply may not be willing or able to lay down firm boundaries and if that's the case, you need to know what that means for you and your son. As frustrating as it is, you can't change him or his son; all you can do is change your thoughts and reactions.

Good luck!

Joyce Mabe

Website parentcoachjoyce.com


How do you set boundaries? He does nothing. And he’s 22. You can’t discipline an adult. He just got a job and if he’s not working he’s in his room playing Xbox or watching u tube videos. Now that he has a job he uses it as an excuse to not do anything around the house. Even as simple as taking the garbage cans out.

We had to force him to do chores before the job. It’s been the same thing for years But it’s only since I have lived here full time that I truly see what’s going on. My son doesn’t care if he has adhd. He cares that he doesn’t share the chore list.

It’s simple. Wash your clothes. Take out garbage. Wipe up your bathroom. Don’t eatvin your room. Put dishes in dishwasher. Absolutely nothing that is unreasonable. Bath. Brush your teeth. Don’t sleep in your clothes. Get oil changed in your car.


The reality is, we as humans only change things when we decide we don't like the results we are getting from our actions or decisions--in other words when something becomes a problem for us. The things you describe are problems for you, not for him. If they were problems for him, he'd be motivated to change. Part of the way you help create "problems" for him is by setting limits and boundaries so that he starts to see different "results" from his decisions. And it's true that limits and boundaries are different for adult kids than they are for younger kids--things like "in order to live here rent free you must..." or "in order to live here at all you must...". But for these to be enforceable his dad must be on the same page and willing to follow through.

And while those kinds of limits and boundaries work for things like chores and how he treats your home, for some of the other things like his self care and hygiene, natural consequences are the best teachers. He will be motivated to change his actions when he decides he doesn't like the results he's getting, I.e., it becomes a problem for him--like the first time someone he cares about romantically or his boss tells him he stinks. Or in the case of the car oil--he may have to learn the hard way, when his car is no longer running and he has to walk or take a bus to work.

Hope this helps,


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I can understand what you are going through. But you should recognize your partner's son is having a different brain state. He needs understanding and love from his environment. You are chosen to be in this situation by God because you have that goodness with . Think about it, if he would be your own son, how would you have dealt with it. It will be difficult for your partner to live happily with you by dumping his son when his son needs help and attention.

Knowing more about ADD will help you to deal with the boy. A positive relationship will be helpful to deal with the boy . You should discuss the same with your son too. Your son's acceptance and positive attitude will impact more than yours. Because most of the times ADD kids are lonely and seeking for a true friend. Wish you all the best.


Yes. I understand he’s different. But he’s also an adult wether he is mentally or not. And you can’t make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. And that’s where my frustration is. I can’t force him to go to the doctor. I can’t force him to take meds. I can’t force him to make strategic plans. We have been guiding him for years. Giving suggestions. Showing. Trying to teach him. But it’s like banging your head off the wall. We have five children between the two of us And they also require our guidance as well. I am looking for support and suggestions on what works. I have a great relationship with him. But I can’t get him to even brush his teeth. He just smiles and promises he’s going to take care of things. And days later we go at it again because he doesn’t follow through.

And yes, now that I realize that this could potentially be years of taking care of him, no I don’t want that. If it was my kid I would of taken care of this years ago and been on it, not let it go. My daughter has severe Crohn’s disease and she knows everything about her disease and how to cope. Because I taught her and got her help she needed that I could not provide.

It has nothing to do with fate or god. I am exhausted


I understand your frustration, however, it's almost impossible to force a 22 year old to do anything, even if he is actually more like a 17-18 year old. ADHD boys (notice I don't use the term "men"!) are frequently very defiant. The phrase "you're not the boss of me" still has meaning for them! Be very grateful that this kid has a job and that he goes to work. You will not make him shower, brush his teeth, etc. and in fact, sometimes these boys are so disorganized, the only thing they can do is make it to work - they don't get up early enough to take care of hygiene chores. If his boss doesn't care that he has bad breath, then that's all that matters at this point. Don't nag him, but do be positive that he goes to work. He should be out on his own, but unless he can afford an apt, it's going to be hard. Could you and your husband help out with rent if he could find a roommate? There should be some basic rules in the house and if your son can't follow them, then another living situation should be discussed. Sometimes it's really better if these kids live with another family member or roommate, because, despite their immaturity, they do better with people who aren't parents simply because of the defiance. Many ADHD kids stop their meds after high school, for a variety of reasons, and again, no one can force them to resume. This kid will get better, I promise, but it may take some time.


No one will take him back in due to the manipulation and his unchanging habits. We refuse to help him pay for rent when he needlessly spends money on video games and fast food. He once spent $500 on iTunes. And it was money his grandparents were giving him monthly for upkeep on his car. His mother came across his bank statement. So no more free money.

I am afraid if he doesn’t take care of his vehicle he will lose his job. We both need ours to go to work and there’s no public transportation. Not that he would take it anyways.


And we do tell him he smells and he has bad breath. His room reaks and he also shares it with the twins who are 11. We thought putting him in a room with children would discourage him and get him motivated to want his own place. He’s working for amazon and he makes good money. We already told him if he can’t adhere to what we expect he needs to find a roommate and move out. I didn’t. His dad did.


I agree completely - if he works for Amazon, he's making decent money and has benefits, but he might need a roommate if he gets an apt. And your husband would probably have to co-sign the lease. Perhaps he could find a room to rent someplace? I have to say that I doubt he will change his behavior in your house. I will tell you that we have been helping our son pay his rent for several years because I absolutely refuse to have him live with us. I know it's an expense, but it's been worth every penny for me. And I think this is one reason we now have a fairly reasonable relationship....there's no fighting over a trashy room, messy kitchen, horrible car, etc. I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel.....!! He should be able to pay his own rent in another year! Stop telling your son he smells and has bad breath.....he doesn't hear you!! Remember the defiance? Some girl will tell him, or a co-worker, or his boss and then he will start brushing! I had to bite my tongue for a long time - now my son uses too much cologne! You may end up having to find a place for him and simply moving him in. That's what we did, although my son was thrilled not to live with us. And he was a total pig for years in his own apt. I had to quit going over because either I was in a rage or I had to clean it. He is now 23 and is starting to clean his apt and do some cooking for himself. But it's been a long road and I know exactly where you are now. There were times when I was so angry at our son, I couldn't even talk to him.

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So this is all normal then? We talked tonight about it and my husbands frustration is, he was never treated and he managed to overcome by creating a structured system for himself early. (He also self medicated too. Which thankfully we don’t have that problem with this one). His grandmother said her daughter (which would b the grandmother, who passed) was the exact same way. But they called them “busy”. My husband never lost the hyper part. He still has lists upon lists, everywhere. And he needs them or he will sit and stare at the tv and b bored. So I see it all the time.


I would say that this is "normal" for some ADHD kids, mostly boys. Your husband has figured out what works for him, and that's great, but for some reason, it takes some of these kids a very long time to come up with a plan for them. I know all about the lying, and manipulating. I advise locks for at least your bedroom door because stealing money is very common. My son pawned his GameBoy and some other old tech items to get money years ago! And he was not allowed in our house unless we were home for awhile. I do wish we could speak or email.....I've been down this road and it helps so much to talk with someone who understands the situation. I have 2 other "long distance friends" from this site who went through the same thing with their boys.


I wouldn't go sign any lease. Almost got my credit ruined by my daughter walking out on leases when she was that age.

My daughter was very unstable in her twenties now in her 30 she has a good job of a college degree and a house. Don't give up but you don't have to put up with that at your house either


Coming in late to this, but have you looked into a Transition Program? SOAR, which is a network of ADHD/LD schools has a one year Transition Program to help ADHD kids transition to adulthood. I think some things are not a "do it yourself" project.


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