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6-Year-Old Son Diagnosed with ADHD - Behavior Problems in School


My son was recently diagnosed with ADHD. While I understand what this means, what I don't understand is what the triggers are, how to appropriately respond regarding discipline, why some days are good and some days are so terrible, etc. I have gone about parenting him how I only know - we have rules, we stick to them, if they aren't followed there are consequences. We have a structured, organized home and life. Very predictable - schedules, routines, etc. But it seems my parenting approach is not helping the situation. He gives me very few opportunities to feel happy and proud of him. My son knows what we expect, knows there are consequences, but still makes bad decisions at home and in school (lack of impulse control?) and then he absolutely explodes when there are consequences. It turns very ugly..and I eventually lose my patience and the loving, understanding approach is out the window. I am defeated, saddened, and feel helpless. Why does it seem to go up and down? Like some days he has no control, and others he has complete control? My greatest worry is his behavior in school - disrespectful, argumentative with friends, won't stay seated, etc. I feel I am to blame for much of this for the times I have exploded on him. I am at a complete loss. Any insight on how I can effectively respond to our challenges? Something is not working.

11 Replies

You sound really sad about your little boy, please try to remember that he is not behaving this way to hurt you, he cannot help it, he has a brain that is wired differently. He did not choose this any more than you did, his life would be much easier without the adhd too.

Try to focus on the things he does well, even the little things, praise the things he gets right. This might help him to feel better about himself. See if you can find a post on here about a poem written by the mother of a child with adhd. I cannot remember the name of the poem but someone will post in with it i am sure. Possiby called The train

Wishing you all the best for the future, also i hope your son brings you as much joy as mine has. The joirney is just different with a child with adhd, it can still be incredible though.


ADHD definitely has a learning curve. I’m sorry for how frustrating it is.

Dr. Russell Barkley has some great info that has helped us a TON.

This is a small article of recommended school accommodations, but adapting them for home has been a game changer for us:


This video really helped me wrap my head around what we were dealing with. I believe he even mentions that there literally is a disconnect the ADHD brain between knowing what to do and not actually being able to act on that bank of info. (It’s a long video, but so good!)

As for our house, we had to get on board with more structure & routine - so sounds like you are already ahead of me there. We also needed to add a lot of visuals - posted schedules, checklists, dry erase boards, etc. Analog clocks & analog timers saved our morning routines. Consequences need to be swift but not necessarily severe - including praise. My son is MUCH more responsive to praise, even for just partial steps.

Hopefully some of these ideas are helpful!

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I know exactly how you feel! My son had the same issues of exploding when consequences were implemented. We took him for behavior counseling/parent training in kindergarten and most of this year. The counseling along with a little maturing and medication have really helped.

He still has outbursts and can’t always control himself but it is less frequent.

I also signed up for a free workshop at this site parentingadhdandautism.com/...

Best of luck!

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Sounds like our situation. We are in vyvanse and it’s not working. What medications is your child taking?


He is on 10mg of adderall in the morning and guanfacine and melatonin at night :(. He has outbursts on meds and off.


Hi- I’m sorry that you are going through this. You aren’t alone. My son is also 6 years old and has adhd.

I agree with the other posts as well about education, behavior therapy, and medications management help with overall care of his adhd condition. But also I noticed that there is a huge emotional component to his triggers. He doesn’t have brakes in his brain for the things that he is feeling. That includes any emotion such as frustration, excitement, disappointment etc... partly because of his age and mostly due to he is emotionally behind most of his peers. I am more involved at school observing him in school settings and at home as well. I have worked hard to understand what he needs help with so that he can start to build his emotional intelligence and lessen outbursts. Also he takes breaks when necessary at home and in school he asks to go see his support person there. We have been really trying to get him to use his words rather that acting out. We constantly remind him of this when we notice that he needs help. One video that helped me understand this was “how to adhd” on you tube. In there it talks about emotions and how they need help with this. Hope this helps😊 have agrar day.


There are great suggestions in the above replies. Definitely watch Dr. Barkley's video, it changed our whole perspective and understanding of ADHD. Which doesn't mean that there aren't days we simply can't handle it. We yell and sometimes even punch walls from frustration, but once that's out of our system we get back into the "battle". We use a chart where our son is able to earn electronics time. He has 30 minutes every day to begin with (unless punished) and he can earn up to one hour more. We put things on the chart that are usually a battle. This way there is really no battle... he knows what the consequences are when he makes the decision not to do it. Right now we have "brush your teeth", "get ready in the morning and make your bed by a certain time without us yelling", and "no evening arguments with your siblings" on the chart. Along with therapy once a week and medication he has been doing pretty well. However there are still times where he puts us through hell for a few weeks and it is frustrating and hard and effects the whole family. And then he is a sweet, lovable boy again. Our hope is that with consistency and maturity that comes with time, things will be more stable.


First of all, you are not alone. We have all been there and parenting a child w/ ADHD is tough. Second thing, you are NOT to blame and your parenting style has in no way caused him to be the way he is. He has ADHD and his brain is neurodiverse and not wired like a typical brain. In terms of the ups and downs, this is very typical for ADHD as they are quite sensitive to their environment and something that may seem small to you or others, can be absolutely catastrophic to a kid with ADHD. It is often hard to see the positive when your child is melting dow and is having difficulties, but that is when it's important to create opportunities for success. For example, find something your son is good at and likes to do (other than video games) and give him the opportunity to shine. My son loves creative inventive structures with Legos, so I make sure I take the time to sit down next to him, examine his work and praise him for his creations.

One thing I want to shine light on is when you said that your son "knows what we expect, knows there are consequences, but still makes bad decisions at home and in school (lack of impulse control?) and then he absolutely explodes when there are consequences". Perhaps he does know the rules, and WANTS to follow them, but the lack of impulse control is something he cannot help, it's his ADHD. There's a great expression I learned when studying ADHD that says: "It they could, they would" and also, "Parent the child you have." Sometimes, these are hard realities to understand, but they are true. Your son is not trying to be bad, but his ADHD steers his attention and focus on to things that are interest-based, and away from things that are, for lack of a better word, uninteresting. The key is making the un-interesting things, interesting. OR, you can create an environment where your son will want or at least be enticed to do the hard things by using incentives. When you use an "IF you do ____, THEN you get ____" strategy, you can incentivize tasks that are harder. You could say, "If you do 5 math problems, you can 5 extra minutes on your iPad or a cookie". It's all about strategizing to make hard things seem more fun or rewarding.

We are all in this together and I'm glad you put yourself out there!

Good luck!


I'm sorry that you and your family are having such a frustrating time. I would suggest you read about "executive functioning" and "auditory processing." So often when we talk about adhd and some of the things that go along with it,we focus on the outward behavior and we forget there are other parts to this complicated puzzle. Many people with adhd have executive functioning difficulties and auditory processing weaknesses. Understanding how the information is processed may help you help your son develop coping skills that hasn't been tried previously and work into finding small steps to be proud of.

I live this right along side you. On good days, I try to apply all that I've learned and researched and stumbled upon and it works. Other days it doesn't matter how much I know, how many kids I help, how many plans I develop, I have trouble even being in the same room as my own child. On those days,I need a break. It is difficult for me to admit that and even harder to give myself permission. I hope you are putting as much time into taking care of your son's mother as you are trying to figure out how to support him. He needs you on his side.

One other suggestion is to take a closer look at his diet. One of the greatest changes in behavior came when we eliminated food dyes from my daughter's diet. It was shocking how many foods have artificial food dyes in them. Even white food can not be assumed to be safe because often times blue 5 is used as a sweetener. As my daughter has gotten older she is diligent about avoiding food dyes because she can feel the change in her body and head. This is not an easy path but it is worth it.

Are you trying medications? If so, I would recommend finding a reputable child psychiatrist vs your pediatrician. They are well versed in medication specific to children. I love my pediatrician but did not want to have to do any more trial and error than was necessary. Finding an outstanding child psych and visiting every 3 months to monitor, adjust, revise, reflect, and repeat is one of the best decisions I made for my daughter.

Good luck. Know you are not alone. It is not a smooth ride but it can become a little more manageable. As your son grows and matures, his behaviors, both inward and outward, will change. Some for the good, some questionable! Understanding that process will help you. There is no fix. There is management, there are mistakes, there are regrets and there is a bond that will become so strong because no matter what, you are on his side doing the best you can. And when your best doesn't work, you look for help and try again. You vent to people you trust and people who love your son.

If there is anything I can do to help just ask. I'll share what I know and have learned. Some may help and some may be off base for your family dynamic. Remember to take care of yourself, so you can take care of him. Kris


We have this too! Ours is 8 and he has been in counseling for two years, no meds yet. His counselor sees combined adhd. Some mornings he gets up and you just know it’s going to be bad. Some times he’s super extra sluggish and barely acts like he understands English. Other days it’s clumsy, hyper, motor-talking and breaking stuff. We can guess there will be a call from school. Once in a while he gets up, eats his breakfast without stalling, doesn’t argue or whine, takes care of his morning list and is done 25 minutes early without losing and forgetting 30 things. Almost as frustrating—why is this only one random day a month?

I say this matter if factly here, but the randomness and feeling of having certain days just be cursed drives me nuts. I feel much like you describe. The harder I try to implement behavioral programs and achieve some consistency the more I feel he resists and I’m dumped back at square one. We have checklists, routines, rules. They rarely seem to help. Slowly, like glacially over time I think they are marginally helpful. I think you’re doing the right thing. You just have to endure, take the longest term view you can, and keep trying to be positive.

I am working on my own anger, frustration and sometimes even disgust that I know I shouldn’t show. For me I’ve traced it back to helplessness and grief over not having a child who seems to be progressing toward independence. I hope some of these thoughts help.


I have custody of my 5 year old grandson, he has ADHD, ODD, & PTSD type anxiety. When we first started having him full time there was such a lack of eye contact and normal 3 year old behaviors we had him evaluated for possible autism. That's when the ADHD and PTSD diagnosis was given. He was developmentally delayed and had speech issues as well. We got him into speech and a play therapist that specializes in ADHD and trauma. He has gone to pre-K and currently in kindergarten. Over the last two-and-a-half years we've had to add on an addition to the therapist a psychologist, a mental health case manager that is says with socialization services, he's in a special class that only has 7 kids to Paris and one teacher, and he also sees a medication specialist who specializes in ADHD. I was very resistant the first year-and-a-half to doing any type of medications, I am a nurse and the side effects honestly scared me. However we started having behavioral episodes that would last sometimes up to 2 to 4 hours and he would try to harm himself he would break things scream and cry and then once he finally calm down he would be so sad and say I'm sorry I did that choices. I was being very unrealistic thinking that the therapy and services alone would help him. The neurons in his brain do not connect the way and normal human brain functions. We started out instead of with a traditional ADHD meds with Risperidone to help get better control of the violent outbursts. In the last six months we have added Concerta which has helped tremendously. It is taken 6 medication adjustments and most recently adding on an immediate release of the Ritalin in order to help him better function at school. We have found in the last few months of school that he is very intelligent, I feel horrible that I had done such a disservice to him by not adding the med sooner. I know how it is to feel frustrated and all alone, and frankly the whys of it will drive you crazy. The best thing you can do is ask how, how can I help my child better cope with this disease and become functional. Every child is different and unique, my grandson requires a lot of different services and medications, diet and making sure he has plenty of exercise and play time outside especially in the winter months are also vital components of managing this disease. We have been blessed to be in a wonderful school system that has helped us every step of the way, they have gone above and beyond and assisting with his needs, providing one-on-one parra's throughout the day and working to find a reward system that works with him. I cannot tell you how amazing the transformation has been for him in the last almost two and a half years, progress is very slow at times but in the long run we have made such a huge Leaps and Bounds. Please hang in there and know that you're not alone. Look into other options, a therapist a psychologist someone who specializes in medication there are Community Services also available in Most states for mental health, which ADHD does fall under that umbrella. Most of all if you feel like you're getting frustrated just walk away and breathe and realize that his body and his mind are fighting itself 24 hours a day and he needs you to be calm and he need you to support him and to help him through this. These little movers and shakers of ours can become valuable members of society, they just need more support then what we are capable of providing them on our own. I have friends that have 20 and 30 year old children that had ADHD, probably just as severe as my grandson. But back then they didn't have the research or the service is available and they did survive and their children are now functioning adults. There is hope, and I hope you never lose sight of how precious your child is.


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