I have a 3 year old little boy. Me and his father are both ADHD and my son's doctor says he shows signs of being ADHD too. We don't really want him to be on medication because meds messed me and his father up when we were younger and we just don't want the same thing for our son but I'm on the last straw at this point. We ask him to do something and he just ignores us, tells us no or just cries. We have tried everything. Behavioral therapy along with speech therapy but once they said he was finished he went back to doing the same things we took him for. We have tried whooping him, hand swats, time out, being kind and gentle, just simply telling him that what he is doing is a no no. It's like it goes in one ear and out the other. Recently we started potty training and he has peeing down but when we get him in a pull up at night or during the day he removes it and poops and pees on the carpet and puts it on walls. I'm at my end I just really need some advice.

  • I feel your frustration. Our 2.5 year old also has a habit of selectively listening to us (only hearing what he wants to hear), but fortunately we don't have those potty problems. Commented May 7, 2021 at 7:30
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    Note that giving lots of different responses, while it's a tempting path to find a solution, results in less structure and trust in what he can expect when he behaves or misbehaves. Predictably is a virtue in training. Commented May 7, 2021 at 12:44

3 Answers 3


Behavioral therapy along with speech therapy but once they said he was finished he went back to doing the same things we took him for.

Family therapy is not to change the KID's behavior. It's to change YOURS. The behavioral therapy worked, until you went back to your old behavior. You need to practice the behavior that worked. Then keep doing it.

One reason kids act out is to MAKE the family get help. The kid may be relatively healthy, and the parents need more help than they do.

There's a substantial overlap between ADHD and bipolar spectrum, and frankly the label isn't much help. If both you and your husband have behavior problems, work on those AND work with a psychopharmacologist for better medication solutions. Stimulants may not be the answer, but lithium and other mood stabilizers may be.

Hitting kids happens because parents are frustrated, not because it works on changing kids behavior except in the crudest, least effective ways.

How does the kid behave when left with others?

You need help. Start with family therapy for you and your husband. If your moods are so out of control you can't help hitting the kid, the RIGHT medications may help.

  • to be clear, your last paragraph is suggesting the parents get on medications?
    – Adam Heeg
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 16:27
  • Hi Adam, they have substantial issues. Parents MAY do better w meds, but the first thing they need is an accurate diagnosis. Medications should make them MORE functional, not less. Diagnosis for mental health is notoriously delayed, leading to lots of suffering.
    – VWFeature
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 18:41

This is a phase during normal child development where the child starts to develop their autonomy. We are not able to give advice on medical issues, but from your description, there is nothing that hints to me that this should be especially related to the use or non-use of ADHD medication. This is normal behaviour in any child.

Typically, obedience will decline from here on, as obedience is the antithesis of autonomy. If your goal is to raise an obedient child, you may persevere, by doubling down on authoritative measures, and you may see that your child eventually yields to your will, but such success is usually temporary, and backlashes are common.

If, instead, you wish to raise an autonomous child, this is where you should dial back expectations of obedience, and start working with the child. Role model cooperation, so that the child will be encouraged to cooperate with you. The description that your child "doesn't listen" reveals an expectation of obedience. Think instead that he is listening, but having a different opinion / choosing not to cooperate.

Seen in that light, "we ask him to do something and he just ignores us" is no longer a problem per se. It is just the child being autonomous. It may cause problems to you, downstream, but that's a more workable situation. Now you do not have a problem with disobedience (since you're not aiming for obedience). Instead of trying to get your child to comply, you are now in the position of trying to work with your child to find solutions collaboratively, that accommodates the child's needs in a manner that doesn't cause problems for you.

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    I think this is a dangerous suggestion and detrimental to the well being of the child. Parents and children are not equal in authority and establishing such a relationship is not healthy. I do agree that they are equal in value, but you don't seem to make such a distinction. In many life areas we are expected to listen to authority and further there are safety reasons to do so. Think of holding hands while walking in a parking lot, or keeping your child next to you in sight while in a store. These are potentially life threatening and only the tip of the iceberg to the value of obedience.
    – Adam Heeg
    Commented May 8, 2021 at 23:45
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    @Adam: Conversely, I think imposing your will in life threatening situation has more clout if you don't also always impose your will in less important situations. The case for autonomy supportive parenting stands on rather firm scientific ground. See for instance Ross W Greene's CPS model.
    – user36162
    Commented May 9, 2021 at 13:04
  • if you have direct links to support your viewpoint you should include them in your answer. On a side note, I have seen a high number of parents with out of control teenagers ruining their lives and one root issue is lack of self-discipline. This type of theoretical research is worrisome as it's practical outcomes don't match the theory.
    – Adam Heeg
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 16:14
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    Another point - I work with children in groups, i am a parent of 3, and my wife is a 20 year teaching vet, my mother has 40 years teaching and my sister 15. To be frank, self-discipline is completely lacking and I have serious doubts about any 'modern' and 'contemporary' theory on childhood development. On the ground floor kids are less capable and self secure then every before. Theory is great, but practice is the sword the divides truth from fiction. I am not blowing smoke when I say it is unreasonable to expect a society to function and kids to grow and respect adults when you have ...
    – Adam Heeg
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 16:51
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    We've already concluded this discussion in chat, but for completeness, if anyone's reading here: my view is that you can only teach self-discipline by letting the child practice self-discipline. Imposing external discipline defeats that purpose. If the kids succeed anyway, it is - I hold - despite that manner of parenting. On a personal note, yes, you win in experience. Luckily, the views reflected above are not derived from my own personal guesswork, nor are they unrooted in practice.
    – user36162
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 11:29

Edit: In another answer Autonomy Support Parenting was suggested. After researching this topic I feel it is not appropriate or relevant the the matter at hand. However, I concede my perspective and experience is in the United States and our cultural experience is different than other countries. I do not support breaking the law and if anything I mentioned below is contrary to your state or countries laws then please disregard.

Original Post

There is hope for your situation, and it is a good thing you are asking for help now. You must first stop being inconsistent and come up with a pre-planned response to dealing with your child not listening and doing the wrong thing. Things to keep in mind

  1. Be kind and respectful to them
  2. Be emotionally detached, never act out of anger, only love for them and their development
  3. Do what you you planned, nothing more or less, unless you change your plan itself
  4. Your plan should have progressive steps that are clear.

At the end of the day your individual child will react better to some things over others. I'm not against spanking, but it is a double edged sword as you can easily fall into frustration and use it wrong, and without enough love and attention you fall into the trap of being authoritarian and ruining your future relationship and development of your child.

Remember that acting out is normal for children, it is normal for adults too. Here are some age appropriate tips that I reviewed and think are valid. Source: An age-by-age guide to disciplining your kid

• Ask once nicely (“Please put your toys away”).
• Ask a second time, but warn of a negative consequence if your child doesn’t listen (“I asked you to please put your toys away. If you haven’t done it by the time I count to five, I’ll have to keep them from you until tomorrow evening”). Avoid making unrealistic threats like “Slam that door and you’ll never watch TV again!”
• Apply the negative consequence, if necessary. “If you don’t make good on your promise of discipline,” says Radcliffe, “you lose credibility.”

Your plan of action needs to be kind, to the point, and something you and your spouse can do repeatedly without losing your cool.

• Long drawn out battles
• Emotional outbursts by adults
• Demeaning your child

• Have a plan you stick to
• Communicate what is happening each step to your child
• Follow through with your established consequences
• Reconnect and show them they are still loved after the event is over without rewarding their bad behavior
• Spend quality time with them at other times so your only interactions are not during discipline times.

  • Adam, I agree with your outline, but IMO this family needs more than self-help. They skirt it, but I think there's enough loss of temper and physical punishment going on so I'm concerned about abuse. And the kid is clearly acting out in ways that DEMAND they do something. I'm also concerned bc they say 'when we did this, it worked, but we stopped.' They need more training. Also concerned re poss bipolar in one or both parents-untreated leads to lots of suffering. I dunno why you got downchecked. I +1.
    – VWFeature
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 18:54

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