Because I Said So! ADHD Motivation Tips

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.

What Is Behavior Modification?


In layman’s terms, behavior modification involves identifying inappropriate behaviors and implementing methods that will fix them. This often means changing your child’s environment and improving your ability to follow through.

The goal is to gradually decrease undesirable behaviors and reinforce appropriate behaviors by using a token system based on rewards and consequences. You know you’re on the right track when the intensity, frequency, and duration of the undesirable behaviors decreases.

Behavior modification comes down to consistency, consistency, and more consistency! This means you must respond the same way each time your child demonstrates an inappropriate behaviors, and follow through with consistent rewards and consequences. No matter how tired or frustrated you feel, you cannot give in to your child’s whining, yelling, outbursts and tantrums (unless he is hurting himself, others, or destroying your home). When you cave in, you teach your child that she can get what she wants by increasing out-of-control behavior.

Make a list of strategies for maintaining your self-control. How you will handle resistance? Will you take deep breaths, count to ten, ignore and proceed with what you were doing as if nothing is happening?

If you lose control how can expect for your child to stay in control? Actions speak louder than words, do what you say and say what you do. Easier said than done, especially if the parent also has ADD. Therefore, you must have a plan and a support system in place before you implement behavior modification.

All of the adults in your family must be united and respond the same way to inappropriate behaviors. I always tell parents you either “pay now” or “pay later” as your child becomes older and the problems become bigger.

Rewards and Consequences

Step One: Schedule specific chores for each day of the week.

Step Two: Each day your child completes her chores, she earns the use of electricity that day. That means iPods, TV, computer, PlayStations, etc. Make sure each day is a fresh start with the promise of rewards.

Another option is the marble-in-the-jar method. Each time your child does a chore, he puts a marble in his jar. Determine marble values for a menu of rewards, and allow your child to cash in his marbles for prizes at the end of each week.

Rewards by age

A reward is something special that your child would not otherwise receive. And remember, rewards cannot be taken away once they are earned! A few ideas…

  • Play date
  • Sleepover
  • Later bedtime
  • Special alone time with parent
  • Out for ice cream and/or dinner
  • Movie with a friend
  • Trip to the dollar store
  • Coloring books
  • DVD
  • Gift cards
  • Clothing
  • Indoor rock climbing
  • Manicure or pedicure
  • Sports event
  • Extra computer time
  • Books
  • Magazine subscription


1. Create and post a chore list for your child
2. Model good behavior for your child
3. Select types of tokens ( i.e. chips, marbles)
4. Choose rewards to motivate your child
5. Visually post rewards menu
6. Set deadlines for each chore
7. Create a contract that both you and your child sign
8. Expect resistance 10. Be consistent and follow through on promises


1. Change the plan and confuse your child
2. Give in to inappropriate behaviors
3. Shout to your child from another room
4. Take away earned tokens or rewards
5. Lose your temper
6. Give in to avoid conflict
7. Make rewards too hard to earn in the beginning
8. Delay in giving your child immediate feedback

Chores for Younger Children with Your Help in the Beginning

  • Make bed
  • Pick up toys and books
  • Sort laundry in to light and dark baskets
  • Feed pets
  • Wipe up messes
  • Dust
  • Water plants
  • Set the table
  • Clear off table and load dishwasher
  • Rake leaves and pull out weeds
  • Put away groceries
  • Rake and bag leaves

Chores for Teens

  • Mow lawn
  • Wash car
  • Shovel snow
  • Fold clean clothes and put away
  • Do own laundry
  • Vacuum
  • Mop
  • Wash windows
  • Iron
  • Clean room
  • Light home maintenance, painting, paint deck, etc…

Linda Karanzalis, M.S., is an adult with ADD/ADHD, a learning specialist, the founder of ADDvantages Learning Center, and an ADD/ADHD coach who specializes in helping both children and adults with ADD/ADHD and learning disabilities to reach their potential.You have permission to republish this article as long as it retains this information box and the link.



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