3 Surprising Reasons Your ADHD Children Aren’t Cooperative

by Yafa Crane Luria


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Why ADHD Children Aren’t Cooperative

Most people think that the reason ADHD children aren’t cooperative and don’t follow rules is because they’re all mavericks and don’t like authority. This is only partially true.

Rules are guides, not controls

ADHD kids don’t hate rules. In fact, they would love to be cooperative. Getting along with your parents feels good. The fact that it may be a struggle does not mean that they’re trying to thwart your efforts. Many parents assume that the point of rules is to have kids behave the way the parents want them to, and so they assume that the rules aren’t working if the kids aren’t obeying. This is actually control, and control creates power struggles. It’s not that our ADHD children aren’t cooperative; it’s that we’re not asking for cooperation. We’re asking for compliance. Rules aren’t about controlling kids; rules are guides to behavior. Kids can still refuse to obey or follow the rules/expectations. The trick is to have your consequences built in (In my world, consequences are not punishments; they’re more like results, as in “If you do X, Y happens.” Cause and Effect.

ADHD kids do not like hypocrisy and random parenting

In my practice, the most common mistake I see are parents creating random rules. These can be in-the-moment declarations that burst forth from our frustration or anger, like “That’s it! No more computer use during the week!” Or they may be random in the sense that they just don’t fit your kids or your family. They’re good ideas but not good rules. “Come down for dinner without my prompting you” would be ideal and it would save you time. But will it actually work?

Also, there are rules that we create for our kids but we don’t follow them ourselves. To ADHD kids, this is hypocritical and they will dig their heels in. They’ll fight back or shut down. For example, one family had the rule that kids couldn’t yell in the house but when it was dinner time or chore time, the mom always yelled up the stairs to get her children’s attention. I kept telling her to go upstairs instead of yelling, but she refused. What her ADHD children see is that mom is stubborn and controlling and so they become stubborn and resist being controlled.

Are you yelling at or demotivating your ADHD child?

Yelling is a huge DEmotivator. I mean, think about it – did someone yelling at you or nagging you ever inspire you to greatness? Kids HATE yelling and nagging. It demoralizes them. The #1 complaint kids have about their parents is that parents yell too much. Kids want to please their parents and knowing that you’re disappointed is painful for them.

Here are some other demotivators:

  • Criticism, insults, put-downs, teasing, sarcasm
  • Anxiety or fear
  • Depression or sadness
  • Hunger
  • Exhaustion
  • Physical pain
  • Previous negative experience

Here’s how to tap into ADHD motivation

Remember this: if you want cooperative ADHD kids and teens, you need to create scenarios that promote love, approval, comfort, freedom, and power. Being told what to do and then being yelled at because we didn’t do it is uncomfortable and kids will feel powerless and unloved.

When you create behavior expectations, make sure that you check in with your children. You can actually see stress and sadness in their faces if a new rule is too hard for their developmental level. ADHD kids are late-bloomers, as you know, and so they may need help or support with rules. One of my clients gets help from his mother when emptying the dishwasher. Obviously he has the ability to do it. It’s not a hard task, but for some reason, this particular task stresses him out. Instead of arguing, day after day, she helps him.

It’s not that big a deal and, trust me, you won’t be helping him empty the dishwasher forever!

If your kids are having trouble, ask them, “What would make this more interesting/fun/easy/comfortable?” Then watch their minds engage and grow!

And check out this video about why ADHD children aren’t cooperative:

xo, Yafa

Copyright 2017 Yafa Luria/Margit Crane All Rights Reserved


Where do you turn for help when your ADHD children aren’t cooperative?

What troubles you about parenting an ADHD child or teen?

Let’s talk! No judgment, no salesy come-on. However you WILL receive a good deal of TLC and a slew of strategies. You can say anything. You can cry. You can swear. Your confidentiality is guaranteed, and I promise to listen and give you hope and relief. (You might even find yourself spontaneously doing a happy dance).

“Thank you Yafa. You’ve given me incredibly helpful tools! It was really a pleasure to speak with you. I’ll be back in touch in the coming weeks.” Stella R, Portland, OR.

“I really appreciate that I could be vulnerable and you didn’t shoot me down. I feel comfortable with you and your humor brightened the call.” Danielle A, Bellingham, WA.

“I talked with you a year ago, Yafa, and your voice is always in my head, guiding me. I just wanted to email and thank you.” April W, Queensland, Australia

“Thank you for your encouraging, enlightening suggestions.” Jill E, Seattle, WA.

Thank you for ‘being there’ to share your wealth of knowledge and personal experience with us who are ‘floundering’ and ‘lost in the forest’ when it comes to ‘dealing with special and difficult circumstances’. Gratefully yours, Rochelle H, Alberta, Canada xox ((((BIG HUGS)))

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca Raska June 5, 2017 at

This article is right. My two kids have ADHD. My son has more issues than my daughter. They took meds and weekly therapy for years. My son just graduated High School and will be starting college next week. He recieved an award for straight A’s all year along with his sister this year. My daughter graduates next year possibly as Valedictorian. She has been #1 in her class since her Freshman year. Her brain is the ultimate multitasker. She spreads herself out to deal with her ADHD. She is hoping to go to Baylor. She wants to be a Nurse Practioner. When they were little Erica refused to do any school work and John was in and out of the hospital with his bipolar. I knew they were smart and they just didn’t know how to focus it. I communicated with their teachers on what they needed help dealing with at school and would tell the therapist what they needed help with and they would work on it. It was always changing what they needed help with. I kept up with it and when they started High School I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. No more calls from school! They are off of meds and therapy as of last year. They know if they need help again with their ADHD they can get help again. They are not symptom free but have learned how to deal with their own symptoms. I am so proud they have learned to use their ADHD to help themselves. It is a choice to use the skills you learn. I must have done something right.


Yafa Luria/Margit Crane June 5, 2017 at

ADHD is a joy once you get your kids through the rocky parts. People don’t quite know what to do with divergent minds so they try to change them. It’s a crime. It’s wonderful to hear how you helped lead your kids through to (almost) adulthood. Brava!


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