Adhd and oppositional behavior

My 12 year old son with ADHD has difficulties with self control. I have taken his phone away as a punishment and he has taken it when I didn't hide it. Also he has taken out his school computer to play games while he was supposed to be going to sleep. His reason is because he's not tired to go to sleep at 9pm. He knows he is not to use electronics at night specially when is time to go to sleep. I feel that punishment doesn't work. I can use suggestions on how to address him defying our rules. Thanks from a new mom about ADHD.

11 Replies

Teens are programmed to be defiant.....your son is just beginning! Some are more defiant than others and ADHD usually makes it worse. Their poor impulse control makes it hard for them to control behaviors like taking the phone back and sneaking the computer into their room. My advice is to find someplace to lock up these items. Put a lock on your bedroom door or buy a lock box and then put his phone and computer in it every night. No big arguments, no discussion....just lock them up. I know that this may sound harsh, but I am telling you from years of painful experience that if your ADHD teenage boy wants something badly enough, he will find a way to get it, no matter how many in-depth discussions you have with him. He knows it's wrong and he's not a bad kid, but he wants what he wants and that means he will sneak to get it. Punishment does not work - no point in trying because many of these boys simply up the ante....and what do you do then? Decide on a few rules and then figure out how to enforce them, even if it means locking things up.


Thanks for the info.


Defiance is hard to deal with because the more you push back, the more he'll up the ante in an effort to win the power struggle (it becomes a matter of dignity and self-preservation for him at that point). It then becomes a vicious cycle. And, all those battles will really erode your relationship with him, which in turn makes him even more likely to be defiant. (Rules without Relationship = rebellion).

Power struggles are like tug-o-war, with you on one side of the rope pulling against him on the other. The only way to break this cycle is for you to let go of your 'end of the rope' and try something different. I'm not suggesting you give up and let him do whatever; but instead I'm suggesting you be strategic. Are there some things you can stop punishing for and instead let natural consequences do the teaching? Are there some things you can let go of in place of just a few non-negotiables (in other words, pick your battles so he is not constantly bumping up against a lot of rules)? Are there things you can discuss with him ahead of time to get his input and buy-in on (like bed times) so that he feels like he has a voice and then he owns the choice and is more likely to follow through on it? Are there things you can do to improve your relationship with him so that he feels connected to you and is more motivated to want to please you instead of rebel against you?

If you're interested, here's an article I wrote that talks about all this stuff in more detail:

Hope this helps!

Joyce Mabe


This is one of the most helpful things I've read in a long time. Thank you so much.


Thank you Joyce. I will read your article.


Hang in there mama. Sounds like my household. I took the tv and tablet away. I wouldn't have even thought about getting my daughter a phone


Joyce has great advice. I love this guy's take on it too


My daughter has to take medicine to help her sleep. He pediatrician said kids with ADHD their mond is always going. And they are very restless. It has helped her alot.


I’ve learned my kid doesn’t respond to “regular” discipline. At one point he started just handing me toys and saying, “here you’re gonna take them anyway!” Beautiful! Where do you go from there? My son is on Focalin XR during the day and he does take guanfacine ER at night to help him sleep. I’ve seen several people on this site have success with melatonin. As far as dealing with behavior.... I’m trying something new...the nurtured heart approach. I’m only at the beginning but I have noticed some change in my son. I wish I could say there was a magic something, but I haven’t found one. Good luck!


We have the exact same issues with our 10 year old son. We've tended to lock things in the room that we dont want him to have. While that solves the immediate issue, it does not solve the root cause, lack of self motivation. Now, if he tries to use the phone after he's being punished, I simply take it away from him. If he gets nasty, he gets a timeout. For the computer, I wonder what would happen if we let him stay up all night with it? Maybe he'd run the battery out and fall asleep late on his own. He'd be miserable the next morning, go to school tired, have a bad day. I wonder if he'd learn from that or rinse and repeat the next day? Trouble with ADHD kids is they learn lessons, but they have trouble using the learnings because of inability to control impulses. It's tough. We use an app called Ourpact. This automatically shuts internet off at scheduled times. No arguments


The best thing to do is to give set times for the electronic devices. The computer should not be accessible to him at night. The last time he should be on them is 7pm at the latest. If he fights this, then no electronic devices period. I wouldn't think of it as a punishment. You are actually externally regulating him since his own self regulation is absent.

If he starts to yell and/or throw things, don't punish him for that. Tell him the yelling and threatening is not going to change anything. REMAIN CALM. This is the most important part. Do not engage him in the negative behaviors. It is hard, but worth it.

For ADHD kids, the electronic devices are like a drug and they hyper focus on them to get their dopamine. Going on a daily/nightly walk will help boost dopamine. Even going to the park helps.

I found this is a great bonding moment too. At first, you will most likely walk in silence, but then conversation will eventually start.

I have experience with this from my ADHD daughter. She is now 14 and has learned some regulation with her electronics. She now does not stay up with them and is not constantly glued to her phone. She uses it as a regulator to help her focus on homework and creative projects.

I cannot tout CBD oil enough either. It has taken away her anxiety to a pount that she is functioning in school. If you have access to it, try it on your son. Non thc cbd oil or caplets.


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