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

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When Your Teenager Won't Get Up For School


I have been following the programme as best I can for the last 5 weeks and have seen great success. My relationship with my son Thomas has improved immeasurably and that is such an incredible blessing. That improvement has also allowed us to make great progress with the problem areas which we are facing –

• Disrespect and anger
• Hanging out with the wrong group
• Drug abuse
• Failing academically

I feel that the progress is quite fragile and I’m probably worried that it will go backwards. I don’t feel as strong as I did at the start and I don’t know how to get this confidence back. I feel him backing off my authority and not respecting me again. I think he is trying to assert his independence more, maybe because we have made so much progress. I’m just a bit confused. I think I need to focus on finding more things to praise and I have maybe dropped the ball in this area. He has only got until June to finish school and then he is planning to join the army, but that might take until Jan next year. This new focus is good because for the first time ever he is interested in doing something constructive and he is excited and happy about it.

He is going to school but it is such a struggle to get him up and out in the morning. We have not given him a key of the house because of trust issues and therefore he needs to be out before we leave for work. He continually gets up late and it seems he is getting later and later. Going to school creates structure for him and I am worried that he will drop out and we will be left with a 16 year old with no structure in his day. How do I get him up in the morning when I don’t think he cares whether he’s attending school or not? I’m thinking I should be taking away something that he wants until he sorts out the mornings, but I don’t know what. And maybe I’m scared of going through an angry confrontation.

The improvements are fantastic and I just want them to continue.



Hi L.,

Stop taking responsibility for getting your son out of bed on time. If you repeatedly bang on your son’s door to get him up, or you drag him out of bed, you are working harder to wake up your son than he is. You are substituting your extra energy and effort for your son’s.

If you think about it, why should your son get up on his own when you are willing to do it for him? If he knows he doesn’t really have to get up until mom threatens to bring the ice water, why should he get up at the first ring of the alarm? Ten more minutes is ten more minutes, right?

In order to get your son to adhere to the morning routine, you need to give him the responsibility for getting up – as well as a consequence for not getting up (re: consequences - refer to session #3 in the online version of the eBook under the section entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid”).

Sit down with your son and have a discussion about getting up in the morning. You might say for example, “You and I have a hard time in the morning. I am no longer going to be responsible for getting you up on time. I will give you one wake up call, and then it’s up to you. If you miss the bus, I will not drive you to school. You will need to either find another way to get there, or you will need to call your teachers to get your assignments.” (You’ll need to customize the consequences and expectations to your own family situation. If you do have to drive them to school because they overslept, maybe the consequence is that they have to do an hour of chores to make up for the time you lost.)

The important thing to realize is that as long as you take responsibility for getting your son out of bed, he will let you do it. It may take a few days for him to get the hint, but once you stop working so hard, he will realize he has to change his behavior, or face certain consequences.

A natural consequence for oversleeping and being late to school is making up any schoolwork that was missed. You might also check with your school to see what the policy is for repeated tardiness or missed classes. Don’t protect your son from these consequences by making sure he makes that bus on time. In order to create less dramatic mornings, you have to let your son experience the consequences of not getting himself up and out the door.

Remember, teenagers are fighting against a physiological drive that tells them to sleep later than many school start times. In order to change their behavior, they need a plan, not just wishful thinking. If your son has a hard time getting up, have him come up with a list of things he will do to help himself get out of bed on time. Changing to an earlier bedtime may help. Putting the alarm clock across the room, instead of next to the bed, may also help. Have your son pack his school lunch, pick out their clothes and organize his backpack the night before so that he doesn’t have to do it in the morning. Remember to put the responsibility for getting up in the morning on him.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

1 comment:

Courtney said...

Be sure to have the school document the efforts you have made and will be making to change your child's behavior. Each state has their own truancy law. You might find you're on the hook just as much as your son is.

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