Strong Willed Children: So I am looking... - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

CHADD's ADHD Parents Together

14,230 members4,506 posts

Strong Willed Children

Michellelynn profile image

So I am looking for suggestions. My 8 year old is diagnosed with ADHD. I can handle the hyperactivity and the inability to focus. What I struggle with is the refusal to do something and the complete lack of concern over repercussions. For instance, I was trying to get him to do his summer packet again today. He adamantly refused. I told him if he did it, I would unlock his tablet for the day. No luck. Finally, I warned him if he does not compete his work he would lose his tablet for the week. He looked at me and said “that’s ok” and kept playing and refused to get his work done. How do I get him to do educational stuff that he needs to do without it becoming a power struggle?

33 Replies

Thank you for your post. I have the same issue with my 8 year old son with ADHD. I have found ‘carrots’ work better….incentives over repercussions. And short term incentives because they can’t understand waiting a few weeks for something. Lots of daily and weekly goals. Lots of treats like ice cream or trips to places like 5 Below for rewards. Its just how their brains work.

Michellelynn profile image
Michellelynn in reply to nnej3

We’ve tried that. I try to reward him at the end of the week. He has a reward chart and his goal is “30 happy faces” which he has gotten many times and doing homework is one of the “chores” on the list. I am going to try again today with something else and hope for the best. Thank you.

I remember being in 1st and 2and grade and the teacher had a week chart. I'd do really good some days but have a bad day and give up because I had to go the whole week. Kids with ADHD need instant incentives to keep up thier resolve to keep going and it can feel like why bother otherwise and they can get discouraged. Being bored or doing something boring is literally painful to someone with ADHD. I get migraines and become suicidally depressed when I'm bored because ADHD means my brain is at a dopamine deficit. Try doing daily instead of weekly. You can make the rewards smaller but the shorter time between rewards, the longer they will be able to keep it up. It's how I function now as an adult who still has severe ADHD. I break things down into crazy tiny tasks and then when I complete one tiny thing, I get the dopamine rush and have more mental stamina to keep going. I end up usually accomplishing 80 or 90% of my tasks as opposed to nothing if I viewed it as one big ominous thing.

Edit: also, have you tried caffeine? I saw you mention he was unmedicated and you wanted to try holistic medicine but caffeine is a stimulant like the meds for ADHD and helps in the same way (though to a lesser degree) maybe some coffee or a soda while doing his packet? And a fidget toy to hold while doing it? Might help if you haven't already tried that.

Sending you big hugs! I know it’s hard! We found that even end of the week could be too far away in this thinking sometimes. Maybe try daily with smaller rewards? I know it’s exhausting as a parent. We can’t believe how fast our son moves to get something done if he thinks there is a reward to it. I recently saw an interesting article in ADDtitude magazine about this exactly. It was called something like ‘Bribery? No, it’s Brain Chemistry.’ You might want to look it up but confirmed my thinking on this. Good luck!!! I know it’s hard dealing with this and glad you’re hear for encouragement!

Michellelynn profile image
Michellelynn in reply to nnej3

I actually read that article. I am going to try today with some computer games and see if it works! Thank you so much.

IheartDisney profile image
IheartDisney in reply to nnej3

Do you know where that article was? I would love to read it!!

nnej3 profile image
nnej3 in reply to IheartDisney

I received it from ADDitude Magazine on 7/21/21. It was in one of their regular emails. If you can’t find it on their website, I’m happy to forward it to you if you share your email address.

IheartDisney profile image
IheartDisney in reply to nnej3

Thanks. I messaged you with my email.

For us parents having a packet might seem easy, but for our kids all they want to do is avoid this type of work. Can you tall with him ( when the time is perfect) about why he doesn't want to do it. Also, what support would help? Maybe he needs odd problems one day and even the next. Or maybe it would help to read a lot and not silent? Getting to the bottom will help. Try to make the reward worth it and change it. Maybe a food reward one week and an outing another then electronic the following.

Please also make sure you are helping to give him the tools: thearpy, medication and educational plan to support him.

Out kids lack communication skills to say why they won't do something.

We are here to support you.

Take care,

So right now, he is unmedicated. My husband and I would rather try to manage this holistically but lately, I have been reading more and more about medications.

The packet. I get he is overwhelmed with reading and writing. I know these require multiple executive function skills and can be challenging for children with ADD/ADHD. What is frustrating is I only give him a page or two per day to complete because I know it is hard for him to focus on it, especially being that he does not like the assignment.

Right now, I am suggesting he does 15-20 minutes of solid work and then he can have a 10 minute break on any gaming website he would like to visit. I also told him if he receives 30 happy faces on his reward chart (this constitutes work, reading, brushing teeth, cleaning up, etc so he has a multitude of ways he can achieve that 30) he can have Dunkin on Friday.

I am trying to read and study as much as I can to help myself understand his situation and be able to become the best parent for him. It is exhausting and depleting but he definitely deserves the support behind him and it breaks my heart to not know how to best help him.

Thanks for providing more information. I didn't see you say anything about therapy? Or an educational plan (sometimes this means an alternative assignment)

Conversations with him about what is hard about the work will help build the relationship. It is important not to get in a power struggles with him.

For us our son he was not successful until he was stable on medication. ADHD is a Neuro-developmental disorder and children are not able to discuss what is going on with them.

Just curious, are you homeschooling him?

We are glad you joined us for this challenging journey.

We had him in therapy but it was only being offered virtually because of Covid. He will be entering counseling within his school system as of September. We are working to obtain a 504 plan but the school system actually denied him because he has good grades. Unfortunately, they do not see the stress that occurs at home to keep his grades where they are.

My son is not one to communicate his feelings well, unless he is angry. Then boy do we all know. Is it better to just let him get away with refusing to complete whatever it is he does not want to complete? Or are consequences better? I am truly trying to learn the best way to assist him and I hope you don't take that any other way besides me actually requesting your opinion.

I am not homeschooling him. My husband and I actually both work full time. We have considered homeschooling but I would need to quit my job and that would be a financial difference as well.

Thank you so much for conversing with me. I truly truly appreciate it.

Just curious about why he "needs" to do the packet in the first place.. its summer. We do make our son read, 30min but not when we are on vacation. Your question is great..

For our son motivation is the only way it works.. the more he does it himself the better it is for everyone. I don't assume he has done anything. I always check school work. Even when he says he turned it in. I do not reward him before he does things.

As far as the school, please have the professional who gave him thr diagnosis write a letter and hand it to the school. The 504 plan also needs to include any accommodations for state testing and missing assignments.

This is a totally different style of parenting.

Our son knows when he has done wrong and punishment doesn't make him feel good.

I know medication doesn't work for all kids, but what if I told you it doesn't change your child's personality, it just helps them to control themselves and focus. Please consider all of the benefits it can provide him.

If my son was not so academically behind, I would not push for him to complete the summer packet the school provided. Unfortunately, especially due to Covid and not having proper school, he is. I have been working with him diligently for months and he is probably tired of it, too.

I got him to do 1 page yesterday because he wanted to see a package that came in for him.

I have considered meds. I am very torn on it but I am leaning closer and closer right now. Something has to work.

This definitely is a different style of parenting. It is FAR from simple and a lot to wrap my head around.

Hi I feel like you are describing my son but last year. He is going to six grade in the fall. School changed his IEP to 504 because he was not failing at school. And when we went back to school fully in the beginning of May the fiasco started . Almost every day he was throwing a tantrum at school and having an outburst over small things requesting to call home and to be picked up. I feel the principle and the counselor were relieved that he is going to middle school next fall. He also was showing signs of depression and didn’t have many friends at school because of his mood swings. I didn’t want to medicate him but I gave in because he was suffering and I am terrified how is he going to survive in middle school. We started with a small dose and so far no difference. I also have him in therapy via telemedicine and it seems to calm him a bit. Now he is in summer camp and we are going through outbursts everyday.

I have an incredibly strong willed 5 year old. I agree with the suggestions above about small daily rewards - they need to be immediate.

We have seen a lot of improvement with emotional regulation and impulse control (read: more agreeable) on Guanfacine. It's not a stimulant - it's actually used off label to treat ADHD. If you're open to meds, but perhaps want to avoid stimulants, it might be a good thing to consider.

Michellelynn profile image
Michellelynn in reply to JJMom16

I have not heard of that medication. I will research it though. His pediatrician recommended possibly trying another medication that is not a stimulant either. We are still on the fence but like I mentioned previously, I am leaning closer and closer to discussing this with my husband because it definitely is difficult to manage and I don't want to see his self-esteem suffer either.

JJMom16 profile image
JJMom16 in reply to Michellelynn

Good luck. Strattera is another popular non-stimulant. Medication has made a big difference for us. I hope you find similar success. It sounds like you have been doing everything possible to keep him on track!

Michellelynn profile image
Michellelynn in reply to JJMom16

Thank you!. That is the medication the pediatrician recommended.

I truly feel like I have but, forgive me if I sound negative, I truly am struggling to see success. I keep trying and reading and studying at this point. It is all I can do.

I have a saying " if it is working (treatment, parenting, etc)... it will be working. Our son takes both a stimulant am and a non stimulant ( at bed time).

The non stimulant helps him with mood and focus. The stimulant helps him control himself.

Best of luck with your struggles.

We have actually seen some improvements in calming my son down with guanfacine. This was perscribed to us after we went to a psychiatrist. The pediatrician kept recommending very strong stimulants, way stronger doeses then the psychiatrist would have perscribed. Just start with the smallest dose for any med.

I wonder if, for him, it's just as much about not wanting to stop what he's doing as it is about not wanting to do a page. I agree with the suggestions about quick, in-the-moment rewards and wonder if you could also try using a timer. So you say, "ok, in 3 minutes when the timer goes off, we're going to put away ______, & you can earn 3 m&Ms for doing a page, or you can put away your laundry" for example. So either way he will change tasks and he knows it's coming, the timer alerts him, but he has two "work" activities to choose from.

Michellelynn profile image
Michellelynn in reply to klm739

That is a great idea. Currently, he is in a summer program and once class ends he comes home to have lunch. After lunch, he comes down with me to do some of his work while I work. Now, he comes down willingly but usually he jumps around and can not find it in himself to sit down. Once I sit him down and show him what we are working on, he goes into a panic over the work. I tell him I will work with him and he is not alone and we can do 15-20 minutes on and then 10-15 minutes of a break with a timer. I think at this time, I just need to remain consistent with it. Last night he did one math page because he wanted to see what was in the package that came in for him, but it was already so late I couldn't push for more work out of him.

Just curious what your morning are like for him? If you handed him the packet could he without you deciding say, I want to start with this page, then do this page.

The goal by the time he is headed to high school is he would have much more independence with his work.

The funny thing is, just like most of our kids once he makes up his mind that he will do it, does it go quick? Becuase he sounds smart ( I don't mean new concepts) this sounds like pratice work on what he has already learned?

Yes! Once he decides to complete his work, he can accomplish it in minutes. Sure, sometimes he has challenges, like we all do but that is a part of life that helps us to learn.

I want to foster a strong independence in him. I am thinking developmentally he is not of the mindset of an 8 year old just based off of his personality.

I am working in the office today and I asked him to complete 2 math pages on his own before I come home from work. I am interested to see if it is completed. But at the same time, I just checked into his google classroom for summer school and he has not turned in assignments for 2 days so I have my work cut out for me this evening when I head home.

So right now you are teaching him independence without him knowing. So when the assignments are not done, just say " well I guess that means we will have to sit together and do them this afternoon". With calm, supportive voice and no judgement. He will catch on... o one wants mom sitting with them. Another idea, if he likes music is set 4 or 5 of his favoriate song and run enough songs for 15 min in a playlist. Then say if you are focused and working I will play this music and when the songs are done you are done and try to really emphasize when the work is done he is done.

Our son hated doing dishes becuase he would tell me it takes too long

So one day I timed how long it took without him knowing. When he was done I showed him the 3 min and 24 sec. ( or whatever) and he was shocked at how little time it took and since then no complaints.

Let us know how it goes..

You are not alone.. many of us have had these struggles.

We all love helping you find the right carrot!

The music is a great idea! He loves to work with music so I always try to put it on for him but if I allow him to play it on his tablet, it turns into him changing the song every 3 seconds. hahaha. so I try to hold the music when I am with him and play a random station for him.

Thank you so much. Sometimes, I feel so alone but it is evident that there are so many people in the same shoes!

If you set the playlist and play it there is no control ( you or him). When it is done he can stop. Let him help you create the playlist when you guys have time. It's a team effort with a win win. Good luck!

If he can't sit down, also try to let him stand or get him a standing desk and that might help him.

Your son sounds a lot like my 12-year-old. He is so stubborn and sometimes it seems like no amount of threats or bribery can get him to budge. I will say that two things made a big difference for him: medication (which we resisted for a long time) and coming up with a rewards chart that gave him rewards he really cared about. It felt like bribery but we had to come up with something that really motivated him. The thing he wanted most was a new computer, so we agreed that we would give him a certain amount of money each week to help him save up for the computer. (It probably would have been better to give him a reward that provided more immediate gratification, but this seemed to work.) By the way, he stopped taking his medication over the summer, and a lot of his old stubborn behaviors have returned.

Onthemove1971 profile image
Onthemove1971 in reply to Jjbb16

Thank you for sharing your story. It is great when kids can express what they are motivated for, it makes life so much easier. I once heard an adult say having ADHD is like having a fog over their brain and taking medication was the fan that blew it away..

Michellelynn profile image
Michellelynn in reply to Jjbb16

Thank you for sharing your story!

My grandson had constant behavioral issues at school before we got him on both Straterra and Gaunfacine. This has been a miracle combo for us. Not perfect but manageable behavior at least. We also do weekly counseling.

You may also like...