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How to convince a ADHD/ODD 10 yr old to take his medication and go to therapy

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My son is 10 yrs old and diagnosed with ADHD and ODD (Oppositional defiant disorder). He used to be a happy, go-lucky, very social boy and he has morphed into a moody, angry, defensive "teen" who hates his family and his life. He has quit all his activities (even ones that he excelled at) He is in complete denial about his mental health challenges and refuses to go to therapy, work with state-appointed in-home therapists or take more than 2 medications. (he is taking Vyvanse, guanfacine). His psychiatrist believes that he would benefit from a mood stabilizer but he refuses to take a third medication. Any advice on how to work through this resistance to behavioral therapy and medication. He needs help but refuses because it's a reminder that there is something wrong from him. He completely breaks down (screaming, stomping, throwing things) whenever we try to talk to him in a claim manner. I would appreciate any advice from parents of ADHD/ODD kids who have lived through this hell. I have not even gone into all the other issues and how his behavior is tearing apart our family (I have 3 other kids).

14 Replies

Hey searching!

my daughter will be 12 in February and was diagnosed in August with bipolar and then ADHD. She was adopted at birth and of course looking back, I can totally see the MH issues, but meh, this happens to all kinds of kids, adopted or not - it's a challenge not to have all the medical history, but what can we do?. She takes Abilify for the bipolar and then Concerta for the ADHD. She was really hesitant at first about the medication. Her pediatric psychiatric NP just asked her flat out looked her in the eye and said: Do you really want to feel this way forever? Cut to my child just *blink. blink* and then she said defiantly Yes!. The NP then just laughed and laughed. I'm watching this thinking wth? It made my daughter MAD and then she said, "fine! whatever all you people want" She stomped around for the rest of the day and I just ignored it. But she took the medication and then I just praised her to high heaven and so did her teachers and her counselors about what a big change they saw. She'll tell you to this day that She sees NO DIFFERENCE, which from what I understand is really common, but everyone else sees a HUGE difference.

Regarding the counseling, this was a bit harder. She sees her own counselor and we see a counselor together. I just kept talking to her about how great her life could be and that EVERYONE has to make decisions EVERY day about how they want their life to be. That she has this amazing opportunity to help other people, but she has to make the decision to get better. I can give her all the medications in the world, but they won't work unless she makes a decision to get better. At first she just rolled her eyes at me and said she liked being depressed. She was manipulative and used her diagnosis to get out of class and homework and against me, telling me I was a horrible person and still does...(Honestly, I've posted here I really almost lost my mind some days). I told her, Ok. But you're still going, period. She has a great therapist and our family therapist is amazing. And, believe it or not, it took about six weeks, but she made the decision to get better. How do I know? Because in therapy she started breaking down and talking. And crying. And so did I. And I realized I have to change too and I realized that sometimes how I talk to her (I have a VERY sarcastic sense of humor) hurts her feelings. And we got on that damn floor of the therapist's office and rocked and cried and we still do. And we got closer.

Do NOT get me wrong. Every day is hard. Watching her struggle is beyond anything I've ever had to do in my life and I mean anything. She sometimes drives me insane, but like you and everyone else here, I would do anything to help her. Everyone here researches and worries and stays up at night and gets mad at their kids and yells and slams doors and then gets up the next day and tries again.

You're in the right place. HUGS

shellyn04 profile image
shellyn04 in reply to

LOVE IT camos1985 ❤️ you are rt on the money!!

willowadhd profile image
willowadhd in reply to

Everything she said. Also I would add that the sudden withdraw from everything he used to love can indicate something dramatic happend. Maybe gently try to see if something happend in school elsewhere. I don't want you to panic but sometimes abuse or bullying can result in sudden personality change.

AngelamarieQ profile image
AngelamarieQ in reply to

Ditto! Wow!

My daughter is going to be 12 in March and she is also adopted. What you just described, it’s our life except for the bipolar part( She is ODD/ADHD).

I just have to add that hormones are also playing a part in this picture and Behavioral Therapy has helped her a lot along with her Focalin for ADHD.

The ironic part, researching and looking for answers for her behavior I came to realized that I have ADHD and depression.

This is super hard for me as, lately, I have become more and more disengage of my responsibilities with my family. The complete opposite of what I used to be: an overachiever and a tough cookie that can do it all (and know it all) and now... I have reached my breaking point and I couldn’t care less 😔

I’m going to therapy separately as I truly believed that my ADD is coming back at me, with fury, as I entered into menopause. That’s why I can relate to the stories of “ she/he was a lovely child, easy going and now hates his/her life and making our family crumble...”

They are starting puberty and that is a big change for them, physically and emotionally. A child with any mental health issue is just going to get worse before it gets better with these hormonal changes. It will pass... In the meantime, Eat, love, pray and go to therapy.

ConcernedCaliMom profile image
ConcernedCaliMom in reply to

Amen mamma!!!!! Very well said!!!!! Hugs!

We have a 10 year old who is adopted also. He has been diagnosed with ADHD. We haven't gotten the ODD diagnosis....yet. We tried Guaifenesin to help with mood swings when he was "coming down " from the extended release Adderall. We found that it made his mood swings worse. Fast forward a year, and we have switched to Adzenyz, which is newer. He has way fewer side effects and his grades have improved. We very rarely see the meltdowns anymore. I know that each child reacts differently to each medication, but don't give up hope of finding the one that brings out his natural personality.

ADHD next kids are mentally behind in age. So you're probably really dealing with a 7 or 8 year old.

My daughter went to a counselor when she was in her teens, and now I take her kids to a behavioral specialist.

It took trial-and-error both times to find someone who worked for them. For the boys I googled teen behavioral specialist and found the counselor we now see. She mixes games with counseling and both love going to her.

I think you should just make an appointment. Sometimes bribery helps, tell him if he goes you will get a trip for ice cream or something that appeals to him. A counselor helps both of you see the other's side, but it's not an instant fix.

My son is only 6 so I’m not at the tween years yet. We’ve never given him a choice. You take your medication or you don’t get anything: no treats (food or otherwise), no fun activities, nothing. We also explain that the medication is to help him not to hurt him, and that we are trying to help him control his emotions. Again, he’s only 6 (and has been taking medications since he was 4.5), so that probably has a lot to do with it. I also take antidepressants, so that helps me be able to relate to him. Good luck; it’s tough.

We haven't had a huge struggle with our 7-year old but I keep thinking of what we would do if he refuses and it's the same treats, no screen time, etc. That's his currency right now and if he refuses, he doesn't get those privileges. And I'm pretty certain he would do anything for his screen time. We also talk about his diagnosis as a super power and tell him about other people who have ADD and how wonderful it has been for him. He loves the Captain Underpants and Dog Man books (which I despise) but that author, Dav Pilkey, has ADD. So we talk to him about those people and that they take meds and it makes his super powered brain even more powerful. Good luck, momma. It's so hard and a constant puzzle to solve. This group has been SO helpful to me so I know you'll get more words of wisdom.

I am right there with you. My son, 14, diagnosed with ADHD and ODD refused to take meds from me for two months, but his nurse suggested I give meds to school nurse, and he takes the meds now for about a month now.

Thank you everyone for sharing your story and offering such great advice. I am so grateful to have found this site/ support group. Finally, I don’t feel so alone in our struggles. We are slowly discovering that our son has self esteem issues and has a difficult time dealing wirh expectations and situations where he cannot control the outcome. We think that is why he has quite all his activities because once things get more competitive or harder he can’t deal with challenge. He has three high achieving self motivated sisters which don’t help the matter. Right now we are focused on the state in home therapy twice a week and then hope to do family therapy to repair our relationship with him. Sometimes the case manager will meet him at school which seems to be working because he can’t act up and throw a fit or lock himself in the bathroom. Taking medicine at school is a great idea and I will have to try that! Each day is a unknown and we take steps forward and then backwards. Thanks again for everyone’s encouragement. Another mom of a adhd/odd child reassured me that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Her son had severe ODD/ADHD and was always getting into trouble at school. Now he is 30, went to college, working steadily and married. I try to keep that in mind.

My son has ADHD I have not gone through what you have but one of the meds they tried him on was cotempla and I had trouble getting him to take it he said he did not feel right taking it I talked to the physiologist and she put him in the medication that he is on now and I have no problems with him taking it.


Just checking in on you guys to see how things are going. We are here for you if you need us.

Take care

Thanks for checking in. We are having good days and bad days with our son. He just got accepted into a private school and instead of being happy that all his hard work paid off (essays, testing, interview) he reacted in very negative way and says he doesn’t want to go! I think it’s his severe anxiety taking over and the thought of new people, new setting and new expectations are overwhelming him. We will let it sink in for a few days before we bring it up again. Any advice on how to help him be more positive and embrace change. This school is small and nurturing and a good fit for him so we have to take this opportunity because we will not get another chance later on.

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