When Teens With ADHD Are Defiant

Health Writer

When a teen is defiant, the entire household suffers. Parents are often exhausted from fighting on the battleground that was once their home. Parents may ignore when their teens shirk their responsibilities, stay out later than curfew or do poorly in school. Strained relationships ensue and younger siblings even feel the stress in the house. Worried about escalating conflicts or emotional explosions, parents may keep quiet, feeling that short-term peace is more beneficial or just simpler to live with.

Parents, however, need to speak up and reclaim their home as theirs. This, however, is easier said than done.

Setting Non-negotiable Rules

Each home should have a set of non-negotiable rules. These are the core rules are include items such as:

· No drug or alcohol use · Curfew · Schoolwork · Respect for other household members

When Teens Go Out

Parents need additional information to monitor their teen's activities. For example, parents have the right to know:

· Where their teen is · Who they are with · When they are going and when they expect to be back · What they will be doing · How they will get there and how they will get home

Parents also have the right to tell teens if they are not allowed to be associated with certain individuals or if places are off limits. If a teen wants to spend the night at a friend's home, the parent should be getting the name, address and phone number of the friend and verifying the sleepover. If a parent is not able to confirm the information with another adult, the teen is not allowed to go. . If you suspect that you are not speaking with another adult (teen pretending to be a parent, older sibling, etc) make a trip to the house to speak to someone in person. Most parents will welcome your phone call and will be glad that other parents are involved with their children. In addition, becoming friendly with the parents of your teen's friends can help you to monitor their activities as a group.

Curfews should be set reasonably, taking into account not only your child's chronological age but their emotional age as well. Teens with ADHD are often emotionally immature and may need additional time to develop responsible habits. Teens must be given some freedom in order to develop independence skills. However, if your teen is not willing to abide by curfews, you will need to decide whether they will be allowed to go out at all. Let your teen know that you expect your curfew to be followed. Set consequences and rewards for following curfew. For example, if your teen does not arrive home on time, their curfew will be lowered to an earlier time. If they follow curfew for a certain amount of time and show responsibility their curfew time can be extended.

For the non-negotiable rules, there must be specific consequences (preferably written down) and enforceable. Your teen must be aware of what will happen if they do not follow the rules. Be as specific as possible when determining rules and consequences. Writing them down will help you to react calmly when a situation occurs rather than reacting emotionally.


Parents can set a minimum requirement for school. What are the lowest grades you will accept? Are you willing to accept if you student passes a grade or do you require them to get at least a C in all classes? Be specific and let your teen know exactly what your expectations are. For many parents, when a teen is defiant, schoolwork and performance has gone down.

School districts set policies for missed school. How many missed days will require your teen to repeat a grade or attend summer school? Find out what the policy is in your area and monitor attendance at school. This can be done by making sure the school contacts you if your teen does not show up from school or by contacting the attendance office on a regular basis to find out how many days your teen has been late or missed school.

Parents can also monitor schoolwork by being in contact with teachers. Today, this can be done in many ways, including: phone, fax and email. Be informed on missing work, upcoming projects and tests. Find out on a regular basis how your student is doing in school and meet with teachers on a monthly basis if necessary to monitor grades and progress.

Respect for Others

Defiant teens often show a lack of respect for other household members, ignoring requests, talking back or being mean. Your home should be a place where every household member should feel relaxed and accepted. No member should be subject to being insulted or feeling intimidated within their own home. Teens need to be shown that each member of the house should be treated with respect at all times.

Parents can set up rules for behavior at home. These rules should be written down with specific consequences. Teens should know beforehand exactly what to expect if they do not follow the rules.

Respect for others includes completing chores and contributing to the household in positive ways. Privileges such as using the computer, cell phone and going out can be attached to acting respectful and cannot be taken away if attitude is not acceptable.

When Nothing Works

Sometimes, no matter what parents try, they may feel no headway is being made; their household is still being run and controlled by a defiant teen. In these cases, it may be necessary to look for outside help. Family or individual therapy might be helpful in creating a relationship of respect for all family members and in setting rules.

See Also:

ADHD in Teenagers Learning Self Advocacy in High School and College Teen Driving and ADHD Oppositional Defiant Disorder ADHD and Conduct Disorder