Teenage ADHD Stinks ;-)

Thank you, Old Spice.

Originally published on {a mom’s view of ADHD}.

Does your ADHD child struggle with hygiene? Does he forget to brush his teeth for days on end unless you stand and watch him? Does she overlook the necessity of a shower without the aid of a cattle prod to get her in the bathroom? If so, I’m sure you have experienced some moments of…frustration…over personal cleanliness. And over many other issues, too.

At our house, the (complete lack of) hygiene habits of our ADHD son Clark merely caused teeth-grinding, until he turned 13. Truth be told, all of our kids hated soap, water, and toothpaste. The smell of our daughter Susanne’s feet was legendary; Liz’s hair was in a state of dreadlocks for three years because she refused to brush it. But the issues of the other neuro-typical kids resolved themselves naturally when they hit puberty.

Clark hit 13 and nothing changed.

Well, nothing changed in terms of his absolute inability to remember that each and every morning of his life he was to use deodorant (as of about the age of 12), wash his face, and brush his teeth. That stayed the same. Our morning conversations before leaving for school still sounded like this:

Clark: I’m ready to go.

Me: Have you brushed your teeth?

C: No.

Me: Please go back upstairs and brush your teeth and take care of your *all* your personal hygiene needs.

5 minutes later…

C: I’m ready to go.

Me: Did you put on deodorant?

C: No.

Me: Go back upstairs, again, and put on deodorate and TAKE CARE OF YOUR *ALL* YOUR PERSONAL HYGIENE NEEDS.

5 minutes later…

C: I’m ready to go.


C: Uh….

Note that we always try very hard to help, but we do not do all the thinking for him, despite how much more challenging it makes our lives. Thank you, years of counseling. We had a morning checklist in his room for years, but by middle school it was just part of the wallpaper to my son.


So, now, Clark was in middle school, he was 13, and his hormones had kicked in. By telling you that his hormones had kicked in, you might think I mean that he had developed an interest in girls. Why, yes, he had. But what I’m really telling you is that he had started to smell like rotten beef within five minutes of showering sans application of mass quantities of extra strength deodorant. In fact, he smelled so bad that sometimes I had to roll down the car window and stick my head outside to keep from gagging. Really.

The unique odor of stinky teenage boy is well known to all parents of pubescent males. Our older son smelled worse during puberty, but it wasn’t usually an issue, because he didn’t want to smell bad around girls, so he showered, used deodorant, and heaped on mass quantities of cheap cologne. He was neuro-typical. However, with our ADHD son, from the ages of 13-15, the problem was chronic — daily — and it was life altering. If we weren’t standing outside the bathroom door as he exited the shower, then we could not stop the inevitable impact those hormones would have on him, and us. Poor kid. Poor mom! Many are the times I sent him back to the shower for a do-over.

It’s hard to advise parents of teenagers similar to mine how to cope with this issue. We had Old Spice Pro Strength stashed in every room of the house for emergency applications. That didn’t even work all the time. He had a girlfriend, but she didn’t seem to provide the bump he needed either. I don’t know how the poor girl was able to stand it, bless her sweet, beautiful heart.

The good news is that they grow out of it. Clark is now 16 (and 6’1″) and the stench has magically lessened. Not because of markedly better hygiene — although it is marginally better as he matures and remembers his meds — but because the worst of the hormones are behind him.

So my best advice, other than shipping them to a year-round cold weather climate? Purchase a gas mask.

And know that this too shall pass.

Until next time,

Pamela aka Clark’s Mom

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes on parenting ADHD kids, thanks to the crash course given to her by her 16-year old ADHD son, Clark, and his ADHD father. She focuses on the post-elementary school years. Visit her blog, Road to Joy, but hang on for the ride as she screws up her kids, drives her husband insane, embarrasses herself in triathlon, and sometimes writes utter nonsense.

Published by Pamela

edit biographydelete Biography Pamela writes overly long e-mails and the What Doesn't Kill You romantic mysteries from deep in the heart of Nowheresville, TX and way up in the frozen north of Snowheresville, WY. Pamela is passionate about hiking with her hunky husband and pack of rescue dogs (and an occasional goat and donkey), riding her gigantic horses, experimenting with her Keurig, and traveling in the Bookmobile.

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  1. I always enjoy your posts over on ADHD Momma, you’ve helped me deal with my son’s neuro-atypical behaviors as well as my reactions to them. Thanks for your honesty & your sense of humor.

  2. What I love most about your posts like these is it helps people:
    A. See that they are not alone
    B. See the humor in situations that otherwise make them UN happy
    C. Gain perspective on what is important and not important, what you can try to change and what you simply need to learn to adapt to.

    Its not all a crises, and, Life is good.

  3. This completely had me in stitches.. Ry has been at the stinky boy stench for about 6 months (and is only 10).. I do remind him every morning.. Even with telling him and showing how to do it until I explained that girls didn’t like stinky boys.. Now it is not such a big battle!! LOL

  4. My aspy/adhd brother STUNK! My mother resorted to putting a checklist on the bathroom mirror with wash face, wash pits, brush teeth, apply deodorant … This is all despite two swimming workouts most days.

  5. We are just now hitting stinky boy stage here. I am cracking up b/c I thought your Extra Strength Old Spice picture was a joke!! I am not ready for this! Thanks for the post.

  6. I thought I was scared of middle school because of school issues, but now you’ve given me yet another reason to dread it. 🙂

  7. Ok, I’ve been warned. I’m going gas-mask shopping this weekend. We’ve had a reprieve as turned-13-in-June son isn’t quite stinky yet. Testing out certain kinds of Axe deodorant can be stinky for other reasons, fortuanetly that phase has passed.

    1. That Axe deodorant cracks me up — the commercials, oh my! But the young boys love it. Unfortunately, we had to resort to the extra strength stuff. It’s more expensive, but worth it — when he uses it!!!

  8. Yep! I hear ya – my 10yr old’s feet smell so so bad – he’s very emotional and sensitive at the moment that I have to choose my words very very carefully for fear of major embarassed meltdown
    If he takes his shoes off in the car after school it’s a very nearly a gag producing odour – all windows down all the way!
    New shoes + new sox + shower in the morning doesnt help with the after school aroma!
    If I gently suggest he spray his feet with deorderant and the overkill is almost worse than the foot odour itself

  9. I read this tip this week in the newspaper: apply milk of magnesia at night and let dry to slow down the sweat production in the sweatiest areas. It’s supposed to help as much as prescriptions.

  10. Omg I can relate to this article in a big way!!!!! My son who is almost 15 still struggles he has started high school I am hoping this will make a difference.

    1. Can you imagine how hard it is to be a teacher around all that odor?? A new reason to appreciate them. I guess all the other teenagers are desensitized or they couldn’t stand each other.

  11. I’ve heard that Milk of Magnesia tip before, too. Heard it works. I also heard all applications of anti-persp/deod should be at night – works better for son (something about building up?). If worse comes to worse, Botox shots (seriously) can help stop the sweating for about 6 months. Son is checking into it because, altho he uses mega strength stuff, he sweats like a… whatever drips, even in winter. LOVED the post, by the way.

    One thing I will NEVER forget is middle school basketball practice when it was my turn to drive – 3 little stinky boys stanking up the car. I thought I was going to have to burn it – the car, not the boys.

    1. It’s unbelievable how bad they smell. Great idea about applying at night. Botox seems to be the wonder cure.

      Oooo, you wrote a new post I see. I shall head over to check it out 🙂

  12. I remember when they gave out free deodorant samples in health class in 4th or 5th grade. I laughed and cringed because the boys all smelled like Old Spice or Axe or some other obnoxious cheap man smell. My husband chaperoned 5th grade camp and laughed and said the boys reapplied 5 times a day. But then the hormones kicked in – and thank goodness for all that deodorant. You’ll take that cheap man smell over hormone-y boy stink any day! And to have them ‘forget’ to apply? I admire your strength!

  13. Yikes! Why has no parent ever warned me about stinky boys when they start puberty? I had no idea. And with this clean-aphobic, this will not be good!

  14. I have one graduating this year. He was the same way. But has gotten better over the years. But has never got in the habit of deodorant. He does shower alot. lol!! My youngest the more adhhhd of the two, is going to middle school and on the edge of puberty. Hates showers, hates brushing hair, oh the war is about to begin. Luckily, I have some prior experience

  15. I was amazed a couple years ago that my son, who NEVER brushes his teeth (I gave up reminding him, if he wants rotten teeth, then that’s his problem) went to the dentist (I could use the pun “it was like pulling teeth” but i won’t) and it was announced that he had…………………………….NO CAVITIES! I was totally shocked!

    They eventually get it I think, though. He has started to brush them more often than not. As they mature, I think the hygiene routine will kick in more and more.

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