Can Stimulant Medication Teach Responsibility?

“Can stimulant medication teach responsibility?”  Does that seem like an odd question to you?  If you answer, “yes,” then I kind of have to agree with you.  But bear with me for a minute, and read the post.

My 15 year old ADDer, Carlton, has been taking medication since he was diagnosed with ADHD in 2nd grade.  For us, medication is more than slowing him down enough physically and emotionally to live in the same house with him. (LOL)  It’s also about allowing his brain to slow down enough that he can be on somewhat of the same level, neurotypically, as his peers.  I have always set his medication out for him with his breakfast.  For years I would not only ask him if he took his medicine, but I would check his spot at the kitchen table just to make sure the meds weren’t there anymore.  Not, that he tried to get out of taking his medicine, but every once in a while, he would forget.  He might tell me he had taken it.  And he honestly did think he had put the pill in his mouth with a spoon full of applesauce, and swallowed.  He wasn’t trying to be deceitful.  His weak executive skills tricked him.

This past school year (8th grade) I begin noticing more and more that it was an automatic response, or habit for Carlton to take his medicine right after he ate.  There was even an occasion or two when I had gotten busy packing lunches and forgotten to put his medicine on the table, and he asked me for it?  “Mom, you didn’t put my medicine out,” he would say in his tired, morning voice.  What?!  Where is my child and what have you done with him?!

I guess you could say that not only has Carlton matured, but I have become more comfortable trusting that he will remember his medicine on a school day.  (Saturday and Sunday mornings are a different story.)  As parents of ADHD children, we have to lower our expectations a bit.  Our children aren’t going to mature and be responsible at the same rate as their peers.  Do I wish this “medication miracle” had happened earlier than 8th grade?  Of course I do!  But what good would it have done to fight with my child every morning about medication?  Verbally attacking him with the question of, “Why can’t you just remember to take your medicine?!”  The only two things this would have accomplished would be to lower his self-esteem and start both of our days off on a crabby note.

Because Carlton has shown he is ready for added responsibility in the area of his medication, I decided to use the medicine and the summer as an opportunity to increase his active involvement and responsibility in this role.  I purchased a 7-day pill box, and every Sunday afternoon, I have him sit at the kitchen table and fill each day with his medicine.  The box stays on the table in his spot, and I just move it closer to his breakfast plate each morning.  So far, it’s working great!  I have stopped myself from asking him if he took his medicine.  Instead, I just glance at the table to see that the day’s lid is open on the pill box.

Carlton's 7 Day Pill Box for Stimulant Medication

Carlton’s 7 Day Pill Box


I’m creating a supportive structure that slowly, in increments, is allowing Carlton to experience success in being responsible for taking his stimulant medication.  Yep, I’m using stimulant medication to teach Carlton responsibility!  Is your child on stimulant medication?  If so, have you tried anything to build his/her involvement and responsibility in this area?






1 Comment

  1. Eva

    Pairing a successful habit with something you want to have happen is a great way to encourage a new behavior. ADHD robs us of our time horizon, and we cannot orient ourselves to the delayed consequences of our actions or inactions. Good job Mom. Next time ask him what his idea is for solving the problem. It’s even more empowering and esteem building for him to design the solution and reap the rewards of his accomplishments.


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