So we let our ADHD teen fail. NOW WHAT??


Clark Kent and his debate team at one of their Texas state tournaments. He’s the big white kid in the back on your left.


Last we checked on my ADHD/Aspie son “Clark Kent,” he was living up to his nickname in spectacular fashion while stubbornly clinging to the belief that he was soaring like Superman. Heaven help his beleaguered parents! After rebelling against medication, then dumping the alternative self-management plan (supplements, sleep, exercise, gaming limits), we saw him nosediving, but — as hard as it was — we followed trusted advice and let him crash. Then he failed two classes in the first semester of his senior year in high school, classes he needed credit for to graduate. He hadn’t completed his application to his two top college choices, either.

We were left wondering if our genius, super-talented boy would sabotage his entire future, and it was time to find out, from him. No helicopter mom or dad was going to follow him around to pick up the pieces this time. What could and would Clark Kent do to pick himself up and start again, if anything?

Our come-to-Jesus sit-down with That Boy happened one week before the start of his (hopefully) last semester of high school.

“Did you get with your counselor to figure out how to stay on track for graduation?” I asked.

“I know what I need to do,” Clark Kent replied in an I’m-not-taking-you-seriously voice that set my teeth on edge.

“Really? We hope so, because if you don’t graduate on time, you’ll be living at home next year working full time and going to community college until you can show us a young man who is ready to manage himself and his life.”

He shot me the death laser look. “What if I get into Texas A&M?”

“You won’t have to worry about that if you manage yourself this semester. But if you don’t, it doesn’t matter what school you get into; we won’t send you off to continue mismanaging yourself while we waste our money on it,” his father said.

Clark Kent turned to face his dad. His fist bunched, his jaw clenched, and he shook his head rapidly, flopping his blond bangs. Near tears, he didn’t speak.

I did. “You asked us to back off last semester, and we did. You told us it would be OK, and it wasn’t. You agreed to a self-management plan, but you didn’t do it. Do you like the result?”

He kept his face turned away from me. I gentled my voice. “You have other tools in your tool box. Like your meds. Isn’t it time to use a tool that works? We’d like you to try them again.”

I braced myself for an explosion, but to my complete surprise, he nodded, ever-so-slightly.

His dad said, “I think that’s a good choice, son.”

One week later, Clark Kent brought me his schedule. In addition to his full load of daytime classes, he had three semesters of online courses to complete after hours to graduate on time. He had also printed off his confirmation of completion of his college applications.

“Good start,” I said. “So, here’s what this semester will look like. I’m not going to micro-manage you, but I will help you get started in the mornings. I’ll wake you up, sit with you at breakfast, and you can take your pill and drink coffee while you eat. Then shower, which is required as long as you are a part of society.” Side note: Clark’s hygiene had gotten very, very bad. “. After that, except for an occasional check -in to see how you are progressing, the rest is up to you, OK?”


“And we’ll worry this summer about how we are going to transition you to starting yourself each morning next year, because when I didn’t start you last semester, the wheels came off, and I won’t be there next year. Unless, of course, you don’t graduate on time and you’re here, but I still won’t get you started after this semester.”

“I undertsand.”

“You’re 100% on board? No lying, no hiding pills, no sneaking?”

“I am. I promise.”

So we began again, again. And, lo and behold, something really amazing happened. He passed all his classes during the first grading period. He took his Concerta more often than not. He kept up his schedule of work on his online classes, and he expressed a modicum of humility and stifled the open rebellion. He even kicked major butt in cross examination debate.

Now I held my breath. Because surely the other shoe was about to drop, right?

We’ll talk about that shoe (and my blue face) in next month’s installment of The Clark Kent Chronicles, here on {a mom’s view of ADHD}.

In the meantime, how do you hold your ADHD teen accountable?

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes the Clark Kent Chronicles on parenting ADHD wonder kids, thanks to the crash course given to her by her ADHD son and his ADHD father. Pamela is the author of the book The Clark Kent Chronicles: A Mother’s Tale of Life With Her ADHD & Asperger’s Son, and many others, like How To Screw Up Your Kids and her bestselling, award-winning Katie & Annalise mystery series, led off by Saving Grace. Visit her blog, Road to Joy, where you can buy her books in any form, anywhere. Pamela is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship, as well as her husband and kids. Like Clark Kent, she also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

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Related posts:

ADHD medication, ADHD teenagers, Asperger's, autism spectrum disorder, Clark Kent Chronicles, executive functioning, high school, medication, Pamela Hutchins, parenting, parenting ADHD, parenting/FAMILY, rewards and consequences, school failure, self-regulation, stimulant medication, teenagers, treatment ·

About the author

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes the Clark Kent Chronicles on parenting ADHD wonder kids, thanks to the crash course given to her by her ADHD son and his ADHD father. Pamela is the author of the book The Clark Kent Chronicles: A Mother's Tale of Life With Her ADHD & Asperger's Son, and many others, like How To Screw Up Your Kids and her bestselling, award-winning Katie & Annalise mystery series, led off by Saving Grace. Visit her blog, Road to Joy, where you can buy her books in any form, anywhere. Pamela is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship, as well as her husband and kids. Like Clark Kent, she also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.


  1. Dee says:

    I’m scared to read about when the other shoe drops!!

  2. Ugh, I feel like we’re living parallel lives lol. I alway find the lying SO contradictory (and exhausting) when my daughter holds the rest of us (and everyone) to such obscenely high standards. Looking forward to the next installment 🙂

  3. Louisa Simmonds says:

    We are going through exactly the same issues. Moved house, suburb to get our son into a more appropriate school and he is screwing it up. He has discovered sex,drugs and rock and roll and the school is threatening to expel him after one term. We don’t know what to do. The lies kill us as we can’t trust him and yet even when we talk about it, he continues to lie. Why do they do that?

    • As it has been explained to me, their inability to get their minds outside their present-moment orientation makes future consequences almost meaningless, so, for many of them, a current lie has no consequence and it avoids currently being told “no” or “stop”. And it’s the thing that drives me THE most crazy!!!!! Hang in there, sending good thoughts for you guys!

  4. Eric says:

    Like any other kid, Clark Kent has moved through maturation from boy to teenager and toward young adult, by first generally tolerating/accepting things that help him because they are mandated, to a point of rebellion where he does not want to do the things that are good for him because he sees them as giving up control. Unfortunately for a kid like him, sometimes the consequences of those choices are magnified by his condition. I think that the best hope for his long term success though has to come from an internal decision that he is wants the things that help him. That he sees those things as tools he can use to excel rather than chains that are limiting his freedom. Unfortunately, sometimes that puts us on the sidelines watching him crash when we know that there were ways to prevent it.

    Eric (Clark Kent’s Stepdad)

  5. Irene says:

    It was tough love Pam. He needed to crash. That’s why us parents are around to pick them up, dust them off, straighten the shit out and kick ’em back out there. Hopefully, not to do it again! Yep, muster up that patience. It’s not over. All you can do is just be the goalie and when he comes sliding in on his knees again, take that stick and whack him back out onto the ice!

  6. Vidya Sury says:

    You communicated with him so beautifully, Pamela. I am thrilled to hear he’s doing better. What a challenge it must be. I am guilty about getting mad at my son for occasionally forgetting one routine activity – leaving the milk bag outside for the milkman. If we don’t do that, there’s no coffee the next morning and that is very very bad. I’ve strategically placed attractive little cards and notes where he can see and remember – in a way that guests will never guess what they’re about…and assume they’re part of the decor. I often wonder what makes him forget certain things and brilliantly remember certain things. It can get frustrating to be patient though.

    Thank you for sharing Superman’s story. I always feel better for reading it.

  7. Heidi Milton says:

    It never gets easier, does it? Beautifully handled, P — I don’t know where you find the calm/peace to do so. Thanks for sharing ~ hm

  8. sqlove says:

    I just found this blog and it is wonderful to read that everyone else is experiencing what we are as well, all the way down to the exceptional debate talent! So thanks for being out there and I look forward to the support.

  9. Crys says:

    We are in the process of letting our 10th grade son begin to manage himself at school. I am finally realizing he doesn’t do much better with my constant intervention than he does without it but it does escalate the stress level in our house substantially. The small benefit is not worth it. Last semester he barely passed 2 of his core classes (Physics and English). Until the last week of the marking period it looked like he would fail them both. I told him a few times that he needed to work out a plan with his teachers but I did not email teachers or meet with anyone. Somehow he managed to pass at the last second, which is a huge relief because I do not want to deal with summer school or make-up online classes. I feel like every class he passes is a HUGE accomplishment and a big check off on the list of things required for graduation. We are sticking with this model for the last part of this school year, keeping our fingers crossed that he passes again and hoping for maturity to increase in each coming year. The good thing is he knows he needs his concerta and never goes to school without it, the bad is he wants to go into the military and this may be a disqualifying factor but we’ll cross that bridge later.

    • Oh my, that sounds familiar,and I agree, the small benefit is not worth it! Good luck — I’m not sure about the military either, but it might be very good for him (structure and exercise).

    • Marylene Melendez says:

      Hi Crys: I am writing you to answer your question about military, my understanding is that he won’t be disqualify for this. I know already few people that are in the military and they have ADHD. I hope this information help you!

  10. Marylene Melendez says:

    Hi: thanks for your story, make me feel that I am not alone. I am going through something similar with my son and at this point I don’t know what others thing I could do to help him understand that he needs his medication to get better in school. He is having problems with Algebra 1 and English 1. He is doing ok in the other classes. Will see because right now he is not motivated and he is lack of self confident and self esteem. But as a parent I will keep fighting beside him because I know that at some point he will get back on track.

  11. Courtney says:

    I know am late to the game here but THANK YOU!!!!! We have been fighting my son’s diagnosis for about 3 years now and he has finally hit rock bottom in high school when he decided to stop taking the medication and handle it on his own. Not wanting him to be judged and treated differently we haven’t discussed his diagnosis with any of his teachers at school (although it should be VERY obvious to them). This website has really helped me come to grips with it and realize that others are going through the same struggles that we are! I’M NOT ALONE!!!!! MY SON IS NOT ALONE!!!!!! And now I have a better understanding of what he is going through. Thank you for being so open and honest about such a sensitive topic.


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The "ADHD Mommas" are not medical or mental health professionals, nor an ADHD coach. Any opinions shared here are just that, opinions. I, and the other "ADHD Mommas," are sharing our experiences with our own ADHD children. Please do not re-post or publish any content or photos without a link back to {a mom's view of ADHD}. Have the courtesy to give credit where credit is due. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

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