When do they take medications on their own?


Here we go again!
I haven't finished the parenting process with anyone yet, so perhaps some of you more seasoned folks can tell me how your difficult child's evolved to the point where they take their own medications without being reminded (or is this just a pipe dream of mine)?

My oldest difficult child still needs me to give him his first dose of Focalin in the morning, otherwise he does not function. I have to get up early to wake him and give him this, then he goes back to sleep for a bit. When it's time for him to get up, he functions pretty well, gets ready for school, eats breakfast, etc. He puts a Daytran patch on before leaving the house. The Focalin covers him until the patch kicks in.

If he doesn't get that 20mg dose of Focalin in the morning, he is uncooperative, unmotivated, oppositional and generally a PITA. I tried turning the reins over to him for a week and he missed being late for school by seconds (don't know how we managed that).

So I'm sitting here wondering when (and if) the day will finally come that he can be relied upon to handle this part of his care on his own.

There is very little he does without being asked or nagged. He only brushes his teeth if I nag him. He only showers and uses soap or shampoo if I make him go BACK and use it. And this is when he's medicated!

Is it when girls start mattering that he starts caring about being more independent?

(If I should have posted this on the P.E. board, feel free to move this thread.)


Well-Known Member
If they want to continue taking medications on their own, they won't forget. I never forgot a dosage because I didn't want to be the way I was off medications. But many grown kids don't continue until adulthood. I have many friends who discontinued. It's not within our control once they grow up. We just do our best. My daughter doesn't feel she needs medication and is doing well, so I can't complain.

Critter Lover

New Member
We can not leave it up to my 22 yr old son to remember and sometimes he is in the mood that he DOES NOT want to take it. In his supported living arrangement....he has no choice but to take it. I think my difficult child needs a major medication changed. I think he has been on this Depakote ER too long and wonder if his body is just getting use to it so it does not have its effectiveness anymore. My difficult child also has to be reminded all the time to brush his teeth and to put on deodorant.:ashamed:


GVCmom: The uncooperative off the medication....that sounds familiar (pardon the pun). My son is adhd and he started taking his medication on his own as soon as he asked Me if he could do so. He ususally does remember to take them. he takes them every morning (and he showers and uses deodarant). there have been times when he has forgotten his medications. I keep a dose in my purse for these odd occations.
When he was not meeting his obligations and responcibilities as I have posted about here...I took the medication self care over along with all the other things.
You know I think that there are vivide learning oppertunities and as parents we have to set them up and wait for the moment that will carry our child into the rest of their lives armed with the empowerment...and hopefully bringing a smile to their face as they remember Mom.
Clearly my son is not cooperative in the morning befor school. As he has matured he is uncooperative in a more aware manner. when he was in k he had to wake and eat breakfast and then walk far to get to school. He one time refused to eat and threw away his breakfast. I took him to school and told his teacher that he was coming to school hungry and unfed because he refused his breakfast.
With teens a more effective approach may be to wake them up earlier and give them their medication so that they are waking up in an hour or so with the benefits aiding them to shower and eat and brush their teeth.
For adhd the best care is to excersise. To get up and run or walk fast
or swim or bike hard for an hour or two and then shower and eat breakfast and then go to school.
I think alot of families are missing out on the early morning hours as a time to do school work and to get started on the day.

house of cards

New Member
I'm sure it varies a great deal depending on the child. Major takes medications in the morning and at night. I will ask him if he has taken the morning medications and compliment him for doing it himself or use it as a reminder if he answered no. He has been taking this task over more and more since being around 10, I'd say he has done it 4 out of 7 days. For some reason night time I am usually the one to bring it up first and I am reminding him to take them (could it be that I am more interested in the day coming to an end then he is??). Anyway it just seems to be a gradual adjustment. And I am fortunate that he doesn't mind taking the medications so I am not concerned with him cheating.

I think I handled it similarly with my now adult son with ADHD and he was taking them on his own completely by high school and telling me when he was running low, although he also went through a period when he felt he didn't need them so I allowed him to stop. After 1 month he was on the verge of being kicked out of the advanced classes and agreed to stay on them...until college, but by then it wasn't my decision and he did do Ok.
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Well-Known Member
Miss KT has been very good about her medications for about the last three years, since starting high school. She recognizes how different she is without them, and doesn't like it. That was also about the time there was no problem with showering, brushing teeth, and wearing clean clothes, with the exception of her smelly black Converse high tops. Don't know if it was the older boys on campus, or just hormones, but I'd much rather deal with her when she's clean and pleasant, rather than stinky and hostile!


i think its a stage not an age,,, our son is 17 absolutely knows he needs the medications,, and rarely ever forgets them ,,if he has forgotten them the xchool knows immediately and calls home,, as he knows as soon as class starts ,, so i think when they are aware is the answer,,and some kids may never be that aware of their bodies and emotions

timer lady

Queen of Hearts
With supervision, kt sets up her medications each week. Morning is the worst & she needs to be reminded. However if I set her medications out in a medication cup she takes them on her own.

kt knows the time she needs to take her medications (she set the alarm on her cell phone).

This has been a long process ~ I believe I started this almost 18 months ago. Teaching her to recognize her medications by sight, tell me the name & the dosage & the times of day she is to take her medications.

At the psychiatrist, she takes notes on any changes in medications. I'm hoping this sticks when she reaches adulthood & goes out on her own.


Roll With It
I have worked with each of my kids from the time they started taking medications. Taught them to recognize each medication by sight, to question if the medication looks different. Also taught them what each medication is supposed to do and to tell me if they are feeling strange, and to be descriptive about HOW they feel as opposed to just telling me "I feel strange".

With thank you we started before preschool with the food allergies. We taught him to recognize things he was allergic to, even to recognize the words of the food he reacts too. We also taught him to recognize his allergy and asthma medications. At age 9 he usually remembers his medications, and if he needs the asthma medications he tells his teacher and goes to the office. They do a pulse ox measurement before they give the albuterol and he is ALWAYS right at the point where they administer medications. Only once was he far below that.

We do check with him to make sure he has taken his medications, but since he has done it since he was very little it is just part of life to him.

Wiz takes his medications all by himself. He knows what they are, and when to take them and what they do. Gpa only puts a couple of days out so that he can check to see if Wiz has taken them. He very rarely misses a dose. He has a couple of doses of each medicine at school so that if he does miss a dose he can take one as soon as he remembers or Gpa catches it and calls school. The medications are actually at bothm the high school AND at the technical school. So that wherever he is he can get his medications if forgotten.

Jessie forgets her antiseizure medications more often than either of the other 2 forgets theirs. I check with her twice a day to be sure she has taken hers. She usually has, and she keeps track of when to increase her medications all by herself (using a copy of the schedule the neuro writes out). She also sets up her pill box by herself so she doesn't get confused. She is far more likely to forget the aleve she is taking for her knee and back, and then get to a point where she hurts really BAD. But seh is getting better.

Even after the horrible reaction to the elavil (the all over shaking that lasted for weeks) she is not purposely balking at medications. I am not sure I would be as compliant.

Part of our success getting the kids to take some ownership of their medications is to teach them about the medications and to listen to their input on how the medications make them feel and help them or don't help them. And starting at an early age also helped.

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Wish I had great advice to give on this one but I am still working on it. easy child will sometimes take hers on her own but difficult child, he's not even close yet.


Here we go again!
Thanks so much for all the replies! :)

Well, I guess I should start by being more insistent that he fill up his weekly pill box on his own. I realize I'll have to supervise this for a while, but if he gets in the habit of doing that, then maybe he'll take more ownership for remembering to take them.

I guess I'm just feeling tired of having to keep track of everyone else's stuff (husband included) and would love for some personal responsibility to kick in. I even gave husband his own pill box, but does he use it? Nope. And then he asks me if he remembered to take his medications! Uh, sorry pal. Not my job!


Active Member
We use the weekly pill containers too. I first got one when I was put on a course of prednisone, which was a bit complicated with different numbers of tablets each day, morning and evening. And before that my mother was on many medications and used a weekly pill container system that had separate compartments for each day for morning, lunchtime, dinnertime, evening. She could slide out a day's container separately to put in her handbag, so if she went out she didn't have to take an entire week's supply with her. But my mother, at 70, couldn't make up her own pills. It was complicated, so either my father or my sister would do the job, once a week. There was a chart on the fridge that listed what had to be taken, and when.

So if my mother, who had all her wits about her, couldn't do her own medications tray, I have had to be prepared to be lenient with the kids.

However, I've been pleasantly surprised as the kids got older, at how things finally fell into place.

easy child 2/difficult child 2 was fairly reliable with her medications from about 15. difficult child 1, on the other hand, would often forget (and went through a phase of trying to do without medications, he tried to pretend there was nothing wrong). However, by the time he was about 16 and on long-acting pills taken in the morning only, he was getting to be fairly reliable. By tis stage he was home-schooling, so I could generally spot if he hadn't taken his medications. He also would be struggling with his schoolwork and would increasingly notice when he had trouble and check himself. These days he uses his pill container not just to check if he's had his pills that day, but also as a travel pack, so he doesn't have to pack too much if he goes anywhere overnight. Mind you, he's not going anywhere overnight these days! As far as I am aware, his wife isn't needing to remind him to take his medications. However, she does need to be the one responsible for minding his prescriptions, until they are delivered to the pharmacist. difficult child 1 is shocking at keeping his papers straight - a worry.

difficult child 3 has been reliable but currently seems to be going through a patch of needing to be repeatedly reminded, daily, to take his medications. He's not being obstinate, he's just being "a ditz". He's not been using his pill container, that could be part of the problem.

So do they ever learn to take their medications independently? Yes, but it depends on the difficult child, on the diagnosis, on how well they can function in a number of ways. And there are always tricks we can use to keep track of it all, and to help them be more compliant.



Well-Known Member
I do think it does probably depend on the child, but probably more so on the child's diagnosis or diagnosis's. I will say that my difficult child is 13 and I still toss that vyvanse in every morning!



Roll With It
My husband has to be forcibly reminded to go to the doctor. I find it very very strange. I had to fight for several years to get him to tell his doctor he need a sleep study. But he is very good about using his CPAP machine.

But he still jerks in his sleep - rather like sleeping during a series of earthquakes every night. The doctor thinks it has nothing to do with the sleep study issues and that he needs calcium, magnesium and something else. He balks at taking any kind of vitamin. But he DOES take these. Mostly because I volunteered to shave all his hair off in his sleep if he didn't. I was really upset.

When Jessie had a weekly pill container she was HORRIBLE about taking her medications. With about 3 days counted out into a pill jar, she is just fine. Almost NO forgetting her medications. I have no clue how it works, but it does.

I have all my medications lined up in a tray in their labelled bottles. I have a really hard time opening any of the weekly pill boxes I have found. It drives me nuts. So I just use the pharmacy bottles. It seems to work for me.

thank you has a chart to check off if he has taken his medications. with-o it he is great at forgetting them. But HE drew up a chart to remind himself to take them when I said I would pay $2 a week for every week he didn't forget any doses. He just has the advair to take daily. But for any dose he misses he loses 25 cents. Of course we don't go negative to where he owes us $$. He gets reminded every morning, but it is pretty easy for him to wander off because he is working on plans for a jetpack, or how to create some kind of spy gear or something. But the financial motive works well for him.

I finally DID find a pill box I can open about 2 years ago. It is a metal box that was my grandfather's during WW2. I had it packed with the soap dish, and another container. It stays shut, but I can open it even when my hands hurt really badly. So I can keep some medications in the container, as long as I have a copy of the prescription label in my purse.

I would work on ways to help them see that their medications help them, then on ways to keep track of if they have taken them. Like a chart, or 25 cents a dose if they take it and tell you so YOU can mark it on a chart. Also have them work on being responsible for knowing what medications they are allergic to or have reactions to.

Jessie and thank you both say it makes them feel more in control of their health to know these things. This way they can tell a doctor or the school nurse or whomever if there is a problem. ANd if they are in an accident they can tell the EMTs what they are allergic to.

JEss is amazing. She took it upon herself to remember ALL the medications and foods thank you reacts to, as well as her medication allergies and Wiz' medication allergies. When thank you was in Pre-K we had to go and do doctor notes and about 4 forms so that the cafeteria would know what he was allergic to. The cafeteria lady had a grandson in Jessie's class, and knew Jessie quite well because she was just so helpful and polite (she was in 4th grade). The Pre k and kdg classes all had free breakfast. Just something that is part of our district. If they were not sure if thank you could have something and they couldn't reach me (before we had cell phones), then they would ask Jessie. She had actually gone to the cafeteria and told them if they had any questions they could ask her because she knew all his allergies! (I didn't know this until months after she had done it!)

So they CAN learn, they just need a reason to learn.

Sorry your husband needs to be reminded to take his medications. I had such a hissy fit when my husband "forgot" his medications that he doesn't do that anymore. But that doesn't work with every husband, mine just HATES IT when I get upset enough to have hissy fits.
I handled medications similar to what some of the others have already said. From the beginning, it was explained to difficult child 1 what his medications are for, how to take them, etc., However, up until he was 17, I gave them to him - difficult child 1 is extremely irresponsible.

difficult child 1 is going to be 18 soon. I tried giving him total responsibility for taking his medications, but he "forgot" too many times - in my humble opinion, he just didn't want to stop gaming for the short amount of time necessary to take his pills.

Now, he has a pill box in his room. He is totally responsible for taking his antibiotics used to control his acne. If he doesn't take these, then his face breaks out - A natural consequence of not taking his medications.

However, because he is so irresponsible, I give him all drugs prescribed by his psychiatrist. difficult child 1 knows that as long as he lives under our roof, he MUST take the drugs his psychiatrist prescribes. difficult child 1 knows that while we hope he'll continue to take them when on his own, it is his choice. difficult child 1 also knows what the potential negative consequences can be if he decides not to take medication.

Sadly, even though difficult child 1 knows he needs medication, I'm not sure if he'll continue to take it when on his own. It's not so much that he is against taking it, it has more to do with not wanting to stop what he is doing long enough to take the drugs. difficult child 1 lives only for the moment - To him, instant gratification is everything. WFEN


New Member
Yeah, I'm with everyone else, I think it depends on the age and especially the maturity of the child.

D is 12 and no WAY would I trust him to do it. He would like to do it on his own, but not yet. I keep the medications locked up and I take full responsibility for them. He is medication compliant (I think this is a huge factor, they have to know they *need* the medications), but just not responsible enough. I think he'd remember, but I could also see him dropping one down the sink accidentally (and not replacing it) or dropping it on the floor and the dogs eating it (has happened LOL, yellow lab on Lithium isn't much fun), or taking an extra accidentally or whatever.

Maybe when he's in high school.



New Member
Please forgive me, I am replying but I did not read anyone elses replies .....and please understand, how we do things at my house are simply how we do things at my house. I am not saying our way is The Right Way. My daughter began medications for her "ADD/ADHD" around age 4. So, of course I administered them to her, under a very watchful eye. I wanted her medications in her, and I did not want them in any of our pets little bodies. Or in her younger siblings bodies, so we watched and checked. We have always used one of those weekly large flat pill holder things with 4 compartments for each day of the week. This helped me know to be on top of refill needs, and it also helped me know that anyone got any dose. It helped us prevent double doses and could help track missed doses. and becuz at one time my husband took 48 pills a day, I took 30 a day, difficult child took 28 a day and our son took 12 a day...it really made a difference in helping me keep up with it all.
Our children had input on their medications in so much as they were always encouraged by their docs to add their input re how a medication made them feel....our docs worked with difficult child to address unpleasant side effects...partly becuz unpleasant side effects will reduce medication compliance. I do feel blessed becuz my kids and husband never did try to cheek pills, or fake me out etc. But they did on occasion ask a doctor to change a medication due to undesired feelings with some medications. And I feel blessed becuz their docs always listened to their complaints about medications, if they had a complaint.
Becuz everyone at easy child at onee time did take so many many medications.....our home had medication times. Yes, I called out "medications" usually around 4 times a day, and yes, they lined up and I had all the medications in a locked box in those weekly holders and each took their medications in front of me. There were many reasons I did it this way. SOme of those reasons.....my husband would drop his medications sometimes. All of them would forget.even tho for years I set alarm clocks around to go off at medication times, especially if I was at work......I had alarm clocks everywhere when I went to work.....but thank goodness we were able to work doseing around my work usually, cuz I did home health and could often race home to administer medications in between clients. I did not want, like I said, my pets or any of the people to get the wrong medications, or miss medications, or double dose by accident. I wanted the positive effects from the medications, so I kept charge msyelf, personally. and when I said "medication time" there was NO negotiation. Altho I would bring medications to each person depending on what they might be doing at that moment. I did not permit "in a minute" and if anyone balked my reply was then we call doctor NOW so you can tell doctor your issue.......and we can figure out how to handle this, see if we need to change a medication. Becuz we had a service called SASS and also we had WRAP....weekly we met with several docs, mine, DHs, and difficult children all at the same time. IF anyone had a medication complaint it was discussed with the whole team.....(which also included everones tdocs etc) I remember once difficult children psychiatrist wanted difficult child to take a medication in liquid form, and difficult child HATED it.....and DHs doctor went hard at difficult children doctor cuz difficult children doctor was insistant the medication MUST be liquid, and difficult child was steadfast it was horrible that way. difficult children psychiatrist was saying..but shes a young child, ALL my young kids take this medication in liquid form.....and difficult child hated it so much she just could not swallow it. and DHs psychiatrist kept saying how can she get the benefit if she cannot tolerate swallowing it?
To this day ANY medication needed in MY house is administered by ME........irregardless of anyones age. husband has alzheimers. LOL.I do NOT administer his meals with anywhere near the same rigidity as I administer any medications he may need. I call him to dinner, if he does not come, I do not always hunt him down......altho I do ssometimes take him his plate, but I do not always check to make sure he is actually eating it......(his alzheimers is not progressed so far YET) difficult child is now technically a young adult........BUT......she suffered cumulative cognitive impairment, her docs say are from previous medications....... and she sometimes hyperfocuses on things......and she does get hypomanic often.....it is to the benefit of the whole family if she does get any medications she may be on......so--I administer them to her, as well. Currently my son takes 4 eyedrops spread thru 4 times a day, and he will for life. He has been taught HOW to do so....and often it is him who does them, under my watchful eye for now.....still.....altho I also just as often simply walk up to him, no matter what he is doing, grab his face and dump them in his eye on the fly. I do this for the same reason."I" want them in there. and I want it done fast and now so I can go on with whatever I am doing......I do not have any desire at this time to deal with the ramifications of him not getting them.
No, I do not permit any of them to take pills in hand and walk away from me. In almost all my other parenting I am rather permissive by most standards....and I DO permit everyone in my house to discuss their medications with their docs on their own....but..anyone in MY house who brings medications into MY house? I take control and charge.....LOL OK.so if my brother were to come visit, LOL.I would leave him to hadle his own medications, ROFL....Yes my husband is an adult.....but for 20 years now, he has been regressing. Yes my difficult child is now 20.....she likely will never be a true independant......easy child leaves any medications she might get with the rest of the families....just becuz it keeps uniformity. And son at 13 is just a busy and very laid back kid.....and we have 3 cats and a dog, and nonw a new baby anytime now..... and I want all medications locked........and gotten into mouths instead of anywhere else. and becuz "I" want the benefits of the medications in my family. and not into the wrong little bodies. I have taught them all HOW to set up weekly medications.and how to set alarm clocks to remind them it is medication time.....and I do engage their help in doing so whenever a new Rx comes into the house. and they also all know how to set MY medications up as well. (LOL altho not a one of them has any interest in learning how to do my shots, LOL)

SO....my family can prolly set up their medications etc.but for safety I keep things under strict control. SO many of the medications used in our home were hardcore medications, and could have fetched a pretty penny on the streets etc. I kept close count, and a watchful eye....I did not want any acquaaaintances to ever have an opportunity to sneak any out.........and medications like antibiotics, I wanted in them at precisely the proper time.

And from age 8 my kids always knew each of their medications by name and the reason - the diagnosis- for which they had each medication. They could take each pill and tell me what it was and what it was supposed to do for them, and how many mgs it was, and how often they were to take it. and I quizzed them often, very often.

BUt, this is just MY way in my family and my house.


New Member
PS when we travel outside of our immediate locale......I do them grab the RX bottles and keep them together.....with the weekly thngs, becuz the weekly things do not have the info on them.....in case we were ever questioned by authorities? I did once have my husband in possession of difficult children weekly container, and he actually DID get arrested for haveing Ritalin on his person without the actual RX bottle (it was tossed in court, difficult child was 5 at the time, but it was hairy and scary and embarrassing) and if we are traveling out of our county or going to be gone for a time, I make cards for each person with their medications and doses and reason for each medication and prescribing docs name, and tuck one copy in car glove box, one in MY purse for each person and one copy in THEIR wallet.


Here we go again!
Wow, more really great responses! Thanks!

Marg, "ditz" describes difficult child 1 very well :)

And WFEN, difficult child 1 is ALSO an instant gratification, living in the now type of boy. Even more so than most typical teen's. That contributes to the problem.

So we'll keep using the pill box, and I'll enlist his participation in the weekly filling of it. And I believe I'll get him involved in the pharmacy refill aspect of this, too. He can at least watch me while I go through the steps. Then, perhaps in another few years he'll be able to take more control of this.

And I'll try to curb my impatience! ;)