Help! How do I get my son to care about school more than video games?

Recently, I was asked this question:

I need some ideas/suggestions on how to get my son more interested in school and how important it is to keep his grade up to be able to attend a college we can afford.  He only puts effort into his school work when it is absolutely necessary (i.e. when he starts to get a bad grade in a class). We just brought him to his first college visit and he showed no interest in what the school had to offer. He hardly interacted with the counselor when she was talking to him. He was more focused on the hot chocolate than what the counselor had to say. He will do things himself if it has to do with gaming but if we ask him to do something that doesn’t involved gaming, then it is like pulling teeth.  He procrastinates a lot. He is doing ok in school but we know he can be doing much better if he focused more on his school work than gaming.


Here was my answer:

Unfortunately there is no easy answer. Kids with ADHD are developmentally several years behind their chronological age and some need every bit of those years to catch up and start thinking about things other kids their age think about, like college.

One thing need to consider thought is that he may never be ready (or interested) in college; but if he is, it will have to be on his time frame and for reasons that are important to him. For example, my son had no desire until several years after high school when it finally clicked for him that in order to meet his goals, he would need to get a degree. (And ironically, he—the kid who hated school—is now a teacher!)

No amount of me pushing would have sped that process along.

It was hard, but we told him that he was welcome to live at home after graduation if he was either going to college full time or working full time. He didn’t like those options so he ended up moving out after HS graduation and couch-surfing at various friends houses…and it didn’t take long before he realized he did not want to live that way. But again, the decision had to be his when he was ready.

As far as the video game question, the bottom line at this point is that you can’t get him “more interested” in school than video games—to a teen there is no comparison! One is fun and the other is ‘work’! But what you CAN do is limit time on video games so he’ll have more time available to think about and do other things.

One bright spot is that you say he does kick it into gear and focus when he needs to (as you said, when he gets a bad grade) so there is a part of him that wants to do well. The rest of it will come when he is ready developmentally and when the consequences of remaining the same (or his choices) are too great for him.

How I handled it with my son

It was hard for me when I went through this, just like it’s hard for all of the parents I work with who are in the same boat. But what I found helps the most is to adjust our parental expectations of what life “should” be like for him as an adult. Of course we all want the best for our kids, but sometimes they will choose a different path than the one we envision for them, and they will have to learn some very hard lessons on their own. Also, another valuable lesson I learned is that it’s important to keep your relationship with him strong; (find things to LIKE about him, spend time with him, etc.). If you can release the resentment and let go of the “I told you so’s” and just be an unconditional loving resource for him (when/if he asks for input), then down the road he will be much more likely to ask and use that input and advice.

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And if you would like to learn my step by step process for feeling less stress and more calm no matter what your teen does or doesn’t do, click HERE!