Behavior and ADHD

Q.  I was wondering if anyone has any tips or tricks for getting  my 7 year old son to clean his room or clean up after himself. I pretty much just clean his room myself because telling him to clean his room is a SURE FIRE trigger to a major melt down (on meds or not) and since he shares a room with his younger brother it is fair that he never has to clean up after himself. I have just always done it to avoid the meltdown which always leads to my own melt down!

A.  Children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) need lots of structure and strategies to accomplish tasks that may seem ‘easy’ or ‘common sense’ to others.  Many children with ADHD often ‘shut down’ when overwhelmed and often ‘act out’ when confronted with meeting parental expectations, like cleaning their room, as they have no idea how to start and finish.   By cleaning his room for him to avoid a meltdown you are actually reinforcing and rewarding your child for inappropriate behaviors.  Of course this is not your intention, but the cost of ‘keeping the peace’ backfires in the long run.   It is better to be prepared to endure the ‘meltdown burst’ to teach your child life-long skills to manage himself and the expectations of others towards becoming an independent adult. 

No worries, your child can learn how to clean his room with consistent practice.  First you need to define what ‘cleaning your room’ means to your child.  Break down what is to be done in order by creating a list on poster board and placing in his room.   Laminate the poster board so your child can use a wipe off marker after he completes each step.  Practice with your child by showing him how to do for each item on the list.  For example, if you want him to put his clothes in the laundry place two baskets in his room. He will put all the whites in the white basket and the darks in the dark basket.  If you would like him to pick up his shoes place a plastic shoe holder that is hung over his bedroom door to put them in.   Assess your child’s belongings and provide a ‘home’ for them his room.  One child I worked with loved baseball cards, he knew exactly where they were, strewn all over his bedroom floor!  I worked with his mother to devise a system of placing them in plastic card holders and organizing them in binders by leagues, teams, hall of famers, and positions. The child was proud of ability to manage his cards as was his mother.   Break down each task and practice with your child until he masters each one independently, and the next time you say ‘clean your room’ your child will know exactly what to do! 

To set up a system for chores read my article exclusive web article on at


How to end the bickering and nagging, and motivate your ADHD child to finish his boring-but-oh-so-important chores.

by Linda Karanzalis  (re-published with permission from

Quick word-association game: When you hear "chores," you think "stimulating," "fascinating," and "creative," right? Fat chance.

Even for people without attention deficit (ADD/ADHD), chores are nothing short of torture. But they also help lay the groundwork for success in life — forcing us to clear the clutter, establish priorities, and be held accountable to family, friends, and colleagues.

In fact, research conducted recently at the University of Minnesota concluded that the best predictor of young-adult success is not IQ or even internal motivation, but rather chores. The earlier a child starts doing chores, the more successful he will be.

Now, here's the problem: ADHD brains don't produce enough of the neurotransmitters needed to maintain sustained focus. This chemical imbalance makes it tough for children with attention deficit to complete anything, let alone boring chores that provide none of the stimulation or feedback that engages an ADD mind.

Thus the "chore wars" — a daily reality in many ADHD and non-ADHD households. As parents, we know that chores help our kids develop the life skills they need to become independent adults. But we also know that the fight can be exhausting — sometimes more exhausting than just doing the work ourselves.

But this stuff is important, and behavior modification can help. So here are some tips and pointers that will help you (along with a lot of perseverance) implement a consistent, accountable routine of chores in your household.

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Motivation for ADHD Children

How to Reward Behavior Without Technology

By Linda Karanzalis (re published with permission from

Screen Time

"The thing that motivates my 11-year-old son with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) is screen time — whether on the computer or watching TV,” one reader tells us. “He gets one hour a day during the week and two hours a day on the weekend. Unfortunately, it's about the only thing that motivates him. I wish I could find something new."

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) crave stimulation and immediate feedback, feeding into the use of technology. Both kids with ADD/ADHD and their neurotypical peers need to spend less time on the computer and more time in the real world interacting and communicating with others. The amount of time you have allotted for screen time is good. However, your child needs to earn this time.

Other Activities

The good news is you can find additional activities for your child to enjoy that do not include the use of a computer. He may feel more comfortable on the computer than interacting with others. To work on changing this, give your child tools to succeed in interpersonal relationships by enrolling him in a social skills training class to learn how to make and keep friends.

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