12 yo with ADHD & ODD stealing and leaving house without permission


New Member
I came across this site after looking up what to do when your preteen leaves the house without permission. While he currently has ADHD & ODD, it is very concerning he is inching his way up to getting a Conduct Disorder diagnosis if things don't improve soon. He also has life threatening medical conditions, which increase safety risk when he leaves home without permission.

Essentially, escalating since 10yo, he gets into anything and everything he wants from sneaking food and electronics to outright stealing money and belongings from everyone in house. He'll even wake himself up in the middle of the night to "prowl" while everyone is asleep. He is constantly disruptive in class and has had recent suspensions. It appears he may steal outside of the home as well. He lies and is verbally abusive when he doesn't like what he hears. He is of the mentality all privleges and freedoms should be given to him upfrnt vs the need to earn them. He is also very smart and can get around almost anything we lock up. He will break open a safe, hack into parental controls etc. He rarely shows remorse for anything, but every once in a blue moon expresses wanting to do better. He can be extremely sweet, affectionate and charming, but his general demeanor is a mix of funny, silly and grumpy.

We have done just about everything under the sun to help from calm to more tough love parenting. We have gotten him many medications that have not helped, counseling, used behavioral reward systems, and even called the police when we couldn't find him and had him hospitalized (not suicidal, but due to behaviors cause increased risk to self).

When he leaves the house, he may or may not tell us where he is going and if he goes, it seems he is just around neighborhood with friends or at a nearby store. He is fully aware he may not leave the house without permission, but takes what he wants when he wants and does what he wants when he wants, leaving us with very little leverage. We have done the chased him down to bring him home, blocked him from leaving or let him go and hope for the best. For those who have been there, done that with this sort of thing, what do you suggest/what has been successful? We want him safe and we expect kids to follow rules and not leave the house without permission, but in our area "running away" is not illegal, yet obeying parents is also a law so that kind of conflicts and he knows it and uses it to do what he wants. Aside from energy drinks he gets from friends, there is no known drug use, but is sneaking behavior is almost like an addiction it seems. He also is rarely aggressive but cussed his dad out and kicked him when prevented from leaving again earlier this week. It is incredibly hard to live like this, especially with multiple kids and balancing the "health" or best interests of all.


Active Member
Hello paper blue and welcome, so very sorry you have to deal with this. 🤗 To me it all comes down to what you will allow, setting boundaries as to what you will not tolerate in your household. If he keeps on this path I foresee lots of jail time in his future and also escalating issues that need to be nipped in the bud now before things get worse. You commented that you have tried everything under the sun to control him. I do not know what area you are from but here in Florida we have homes for children such as these. You must have records from the time you have called the cops that would be a great start to show his behavior. He may also benefit spending time in juvenile detention for stealing to wake him up hopefully. Some of these things are very difficult for a parent to even consider putting your child through but, must be done again to hopefully make him see your not fooling around, you will take action and no longer tolerate such behavior. Working with counselors at his school is a great place to start and they can be very helpful in determining what to do with him. Here, some children are placed for 30 days and then released back home. If your school counselor is no help I would start calling around and gathering information on places or persons that could further assist you. 🤗

Take it from me, my daughters 32 years old, schizophrenic and in jail…yet again. I have only come to the conclusion that if I do not take control of the situation, there will be the same results.
@paperblue I'm not a parent, but rather an adult living with ODD who displayed similar issues as a child. It is an extremely challenging situation but there is hope. I am living a high quality of life right now so please continue to do the best for your son since a positive outcome is still possible with the correct interventions at this stage.

You mentioned that you've tried many medications. What is your son currently taking? Are his medications managed by a specialist? The reality is that for ODD diagnosis, medication is absolutely essential. However, it is not easy to get right and typically requires a complex mix of different classes including antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers and stimulants. Don't be afraid to be aggressive with his medications since each of these can target a different aspect of the dysfunctional behavior you are seeing. Quality psychiatric care is essential here though since building an effective cocktail for ODD is not easy. I've been medicated since I was 4 years old and the cocktail still requires some fine tuning and adjustments. If you can get a child psychiatrist that is the best place to start. I recognize that depending on where you this may be easier said than done.

Outside of medications, is he seeing a therapist? Early intervention with therapy can be helpful. The fact that he expresses that he wants to do better indicates there is still hope here. He knows his behavior is dysfunctional but cannot control it. This is what it means to have ODD.

Do the best you can to be patient with him. It is not easy but responding with aggression to someone with ODD will only make things worse. You cannot do this alone and he needs specialized help, but your son is by no means headed down a one way path yet.


New Member
It sounds like you're facing an incredibly challenging situation with your preteen's behavior, especially considering his ADHD, ODD, and life-threatening medical conditions. First and foremost, ensuring his safety is crucial, especially when he leaves the house without permission. Seeking professional help from therapists or behavioral specialists who specialize in working with children with complex needs like your son's could provide valuable support and strategies tailored to his specific challenges. It's also important to prioritize self-care for yourself and your family, as navigating these difficult circumstances can take a toll on everyone involved. Additionally, connecting with local support groups or online communities for parents facing similar challenges might offer insights and solidarity.