Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

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What do you advise when it comes to school? Do we let him fail?

Hi Mark

I need your advice if this is appropriate.

My son is 17 and should be graduating this year. He has skipped 60% of his classes this year and has done no homework so is failing all subjects. He is now scrambling, although again with the smallest amount of effort required and he continues to take short cuts and do the bare minimum to get on the grad list. We have always “nagged” for a lack of better terms for him to do his homework and of course, he did the opposite.

We are using incentives to get him to go to class (car privileges) and some additional perks for assignments to get done. When he can’t meet the goal, he says we are the worst parents etc… and you know how that goes. I am stupid and an idiot and standing in his way of graduating.

What do you advice when it comes to school? Do we let him fail? He just is not capable of doing this on his own.

One small example: His packsack has been in his friends car for a week. At the same time and he wants a $30 dollar haircut. I said he needs to get this packsack to be able to get a haircut and he makes every excuse as to why he has not yet got it.

Is he rebelling? Why would he do this if there is an incentive? HELP!

We have been working through your program but have not found anything that is related to this where there may be some key messages or examples of what to do in this regard.

Thank-you in advance for any advice you can provide.



Hi S.,

Actually, I do address this in the eBook. Please go to the page in the online version entitled “Emails From Exasperated Parents” [Session #4] and look for where it reads:

"My son brings home straight F's on his report cards. I ground him for the entire grading period, but he continues to fail in nearly all subjects. I know my son is a bright kid and can do the work when he wants to. What can I do to motivate him?" -- B. R.

This will answer your question. If you need further clarification, I’ll be glad to respond.


My Out-of-Control Teen

Thanks Mark

I had not got to this section yet and this does help. Just to confirm though, are we still able to offer incentives and consequences for homework and school or does this negate the objective of leaving them alone. We have two other sons who also are not motivated in school and we want to be able to influence them to do well in this regard. It is Soooo hard not to get involved when you see history begin to repeat itself.

I do not want to fall back into our previous parenting habits as it is clear they were not as successful as we intended them to be.

Thanks so much for any additional adivse you can provide, as appropriate.



Incentives for getting good grades and punishments for getting bad grades are "traditional" parenting strategies that have little - or no - positive outcome for the unconventional child (i.e., strong-willed, intense child).

I would encourage you to simply follow the recommendation outlined in the page I referenced earlier.

I had a mother in group going through the same thing. When I gave her the recommendation, I could tell that she felt the weight of the world being lifted off her shoulders. She finally had permission to NOT make her son's academic performance HER responsibility.

Oh a side note, her son's grades went from D's and F's to B's and C's. Not perfect, but the parent-child conflict was greatly reduced - and he was at least passing classes.


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