Parenting teens, especially teens with ADHD, is like an emotional roller coaster. Too often, as parents, we react to our teens moods and anger with the same. When they accuse, we become defensive; when they yell, we yell back; when they are moody, we react with irritation. Or we may react based on our own feelings which have nothing to do with our child. It is hard to keep our own emotions in check and react calmly when we feel frustrated and upset. Parenting a teen with ADHD can become a war of wills, leaving parents feeling helpless.
It is impossible to plan for every possible situation your teen is going to be involved in; even so, you and your spouse can work together to come up with scenarios and plan your response. The following steps should help:
- Choose a time when you can be alone. This may be after all your children are in bed or you may want to leave the house and sit somewhere quiet.
- Discuss your expectations for your teen, for example: does your teen need to have a part-time job? What chores around the house is he expected to complete? Is he handing in his homework on a regular basis? What time does he need to be in the house at night and is that time different on the weekends? You and your spouse should talk about each expectation and be able to come up with a specific answer for each. Write down your expectations.
- Decide on consequences and rewards for each expectation. For example, what will happen if your teen doesn’t arrive home by curfew? Consequences should be specific and immediate. You also want to plan out rewards – if your teen is on time every day for the week, can he earn an extra hour out on the weekend? Make sure you include both rewards and consequences and write down each one. This way, no matter who is enforcing the rules, the rewards and consequences will be consistent.
- Plan for the unexpected. Think about scenarios that may come up and plan how you and your spouse will react. For example, what will you do if your teen is caught shoplifting, using drugs, drinking, cheating on a test, etc. How will each be handled? Knowing ahead of time will help you and your spouse be “on the same page.”
- Agree to discuss any discipline measures not included in your list. There may be times your teen does something that you and your spouse haven’t anticipated. Imagine you get a call from school that your teen cheated on a test. You and your spouse haven’t discussed consequences for this. Rather than making up a consequence, tell your teen he must remain in his room until you and your spouse discuss what is to happen. This helps you both remain consistent and shows a united front. Your teen knows he can’t manipulate one of you.
When you and your spouse are satisfied with your list of expectations, possible scenarios and measures to be taken – good and bad – you should share the list with your teen so he knows exactly what behaviors are expected and what will happen when he does, and doesn’t, follow the rules.