New Issue!

Spring 2017 Issue ADDitude magazine Read the 'ADHD Therapies That Work' issue now!

The New ADDitude Forums Are Live!

Reach our full community by posting to ADDitude's discussion forums here

Parents of ADHD Children

I hate having to sound like a broken record

Does anyone have any effective strategies that work well to get your child to listen?  I feel like a broken record everyday.  Just for her to complete one simple task, such as put on your socks, brush your teeth, get your hair brushed….I have to tell her over and over and I get frustrated after awhile and I just end up putting on her socks or brushing her hair.  I got a chart and thought about rewarding her for getting them done without reminders, does that sound like a good idea?


I hate sounding like a broken record as well. I get frustrated too and end up just breaking down and helping my son. I got a chart and starting using that. I also got a treasure box just stuff from the dollar tree. It seems to work. I almost turned getting dressed into a game.I will count and see how fast he can get dress. Or I will race him to see who can get dressed faster in the morning for school and work.

Posted by Caitlinpm on Mar 24, 2014 at 6:20pm

Perhaps this is where some of the problem may be?  But perhaps I’m reading this too literally.  You wrote, “Just for her to complete one simple task, such as put on your socks, brush your teeth, get your hair brushed…” Technically that is not one simple task but three separate tasks which comprise the larger task of “Getting ready in the morning.”  One of the early developmental milestones (neurological tests) that ADHDers often flunk (which leads to a possible diagnosis) is the ability to perform a Three Step Command, which is what this really is.

Posted by BC on Mar 24, 2014 at 7:42pm

I get what you are saying BC, I start with the socks first, and then after that task is completed after several reminders, then we move onto the hair and brushing teeth, but I’m more interested in knowing why ADHDers don’t have the ability to perform a three step command.

Posted by klsmidwestmom on Mar 24, 2014 at 7:47pm

I would first have her set her things out the night before. No electronics in the morning (until she is ready to go). I would tell her by looking her in the eye or touching her shoulder one task at a time. I know that it is difficult to get yourself dress as well as other children, but this has been very effective when our children clean their rooms. Maybe your daughter has a hard time processing, so when you tell her several times she needs to reprocess every time.

Rules, expectations, and follow through. I watched 1-2-3 Magic on youtube and it made alot of sense.

I once told my son…“I am going to tell you this once, you were asked not to do this, and this is the only time I will tell you, you will have to deal with the consequences when we get home. He didn’t do what he was not suppose to:) Success… One step at a time.

Good Luck to you and your family!

Posted by lindy300 on Mar 24, 2014 at 8:58pm

I’m going to guess that “knowing why” isn’t really what you’re wanting to know either, though; or is it?  To me it doesn’t help much to “know” that the most basic things required to simply repeat back a three-object-sequence of words to someone else is a fully functional ability to concentrate, pay attention, and utilize working memory (the ability to maintain information in memory while manipulating that information).  When there’s more involved than just simply remembering which three things make up the task of Getting Ready—each task must actually be performed (something that takes time) and some can only be performed in a certain order (socks then shoes) then even more brain areas/functions have to be recruited and work together efficiently (executive functions/frontal lobe).  Something as simple as a Huge Distraction (“there’s my favorite toy laying on the floor one foot away”) can cause all focus/attention to be directed at the distraction (then only if working memory remembers that the task at hand is Getting Ready and the prefrontal cortex inhibits the impulse to reach out and grab the toy instead) does The Distraction get ignored and the child remain on task.  And after some random distraction, working memory might be able to remember what the original task was—Getting Ready—but not remember which part of which step came right before The Distraction.

Compounding everything is that children in general simply don’t place as much “value” on things like time OR what is “necessary” to Go Out In Public.  (“Why do I need to not wear these clothes—PJs—or these shoes—slippers?”).  Motivating any child to always stay on task & on time to do something they have no real vested interest in accomplishing requires some finesse.  Doing that with working memory & executive function deficits requires even more finesse (plus patience & creative problem solving & planning)—and lots of repetition!

The things that we can do as parents are to simplify the process as much as possible, eliminate anything that could possibly become a distraction, find ways to help jog that memory and/or automate the system.  And do it enough times over & over again the same way each time until the system eventually becomes self-automatic.

I think some concrete ideas on how to work around the neurological deficits is more what you were hoping for? wink

Posted by BC on Mar 24, 2014 at 9:37pm

charts worked well with us when DD was younger. Now that she is almost 10, tasks are often based on iPad play. Some things, though, just don’t improve. Considering having a toothbrush and paste downstairs so that mornings go more quickly. Once she goes upstairs, she’s lost.

Posted by momodoodle on Mar 24, 2014 at 10:34pm

Charts are great, but I think part of the solution for these kids at times is starting really small and working your way up. Tell her that everyday she has to do one thing, brush teeth, and make sure it happens at the same time everyday.

I think we all feel like broken records, I still do, in part because their short term memory can be so short that they can be distracted before we even get the words out.

That in combination with the fact that ADHD children are typically 3yrs behind in maturity means we have a larger task as parents.

I’ve heard the saying that you have to parent an ADHD child 5x. Meaning 5x what you would have to do for a non-ADHD child.

At age13 my son still cannot write down his assignments in a notebook and bring them home. We tried a lot of rewards, still do, and he wants them, but doesn’t have the capacity with all of the distractions at school to do so. I’ve stopped asking. But, he does many other tasks on his own now so my broken record days have lessened quite a bit.

Good luck with the chart and positive reinforcement! Ritual and reward do wonders, but we have to keep our expectations to the level that they’re able.

Posted by Havebeenthere on Mar 25, 2014 at 12:57am

Excellent post and feedback! Just one thought to add to the rewards chart, along the lines of expectations. I learned in an applied behavior analysis class I took to set it up so there will be rewards for the child being able to do what you *know* they can do. You set them up for success.

In our case it was a bedtime routine. A certain amount of points meant our 9 year old son got a reward. We made sure he could get the 20 points or whatever right away. It made him feel successful - so important for people with ADHD - and he WAS successful too. So we kept it up for a long time, lots of praise, had to duct tape our mouths shut when we wanted to nag (OK, we didn’t but maybe we should have). Life got a lot more relaxed - much, much less stress for our son. He was 9 at the time. And much less stress for us parents too. We worked together to make a list of chronological steps in hid bedtime routine, each of which was worth a certain amount of points. He could NOT remember what to do without that list, and it really helped him.

Once the behavior is reliable over a few weeks, you can start shifting points around - less for stuff they are able to do easily, more for stuff that is challenging, always making sure they can easily succeed, and always praising.

Sometimes wish we still used the checklist - bedtime has become a trial again - maybe we will!

All the best!

Posted by Rosemary on Mar 25, 2014 at 10:36am

I used a checklist for getting ready with my son when he was younger. It was a very simple list (put clothes on, put dirty pjs in hamper, brush teeth, swish mouthwash, take medicine, eat breakfast). At the end of the list it read, “If finished by 7:20 am, you can have screen time.” (7:20 am was 20 minutes before we had to leave for school.)

I printed this in 4"x6” format and got those peel and stick laminating pockets from Target. I put a large paper clip on the side—its tip rested over the item in the list he was on. As he went through the steps, he moved the clip down. It worked for three reasons: (1) he could carry it with him to each task, (2) it had an immediate reward when finished and a reward that truly motivated him, and (3) it felt like a game. This greatly reduced my reminders and constant nagging.

Worked like a charm for us!

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Mar 25, 2014 at 4:34pm

Thank youo for all the wonderful ideas, adhdmomma, that is a great idea, it would be so much easier on her if she could carry it with her!  Rosemary, thank you…that makes alot of sense, starting with something I know she can easily do.  I have to remember that she is basically three years behind her peers, my expectations of her are probably not realistic, I wish things were different for her.

Posted by klsmidwestmom on Mar 25, 2014 at 6:29pm

My ADHD husband (of 30 years) and 2 of 6 kids ALL have ADHD.  No matter WHAT I’ve tried in 30 years (and I’ve tried EVERYTHING) have I been able to lessen my constant need to structure EVERYTHING for ALL of them.

I want a life…

Posted by Resigned2B on Mar 26, 2014 at 7:09pm

Resigned2B….  I have just ADHD hubby of 32 years no kids and I have spent countless hours, days, years restructuring to fit his needs. I cannot imagine your level of frustration.  Stay strong.

Posted by Lila on Mar 26, 2014 at 8:21pm

Similar to ADHDMomma, we have a nighttime chart of all the things that need to get done (brush teeth, PJs, clean room, etc.). We set a time limit for the chart to be completed (usually 6:45 but if dinner goes late we will set a timer for say 20 mins.). The entire chart needs to be checked off with NO reminders (although I will give “time checks” periodically like “10 more mins.” to keep him on task). If completed an immediate reward previously agreed upon will be given—screen time, Wii, ice cream party, Krispy Creme donuts, board game, etc.  The race against the clock seems to be motivating as well as the reward that he has chosen.  If too much time is allowed he will dawdle.  This has worked wonders for our nighttime routine. Also helpful is if he is still on his Ritalin for the day but we have been doing this effectively before his med lasted through the evening hours. Hope this helps!

Posted by StephanieMommy on Mar 30, 2014 at 7:46am

Ok, I just started this but it worked amazingly for my 8 yo girl and 10 yo boy… It’s an App called “30/30”. You input a list of “to do’s” and set a time amount for each one. It counts down while they do it… They can check it off, pause it, edit amount of time, move the item to the bottom of the list, etc. they loved it!

Posted by renata99 on Apr 01, 2014 at 7:45pm

This scenario is so so familiar to me. This my life every morning and evening. On top of that add in objections such as “I don’t want to clean my teeth. It’s weekend”. My daughter is nine. I would say she is regressing at the moment. I have used reward charts. They did work but didn’t last long after stopping. I am worn out with it. Since realising both myself and DD prob have adhd i am more able to be patient as i have more understanding. My current strategy is to give constant reminders and keep checking on her. If i send her to the bathroom to brush teeth she will get distracted and sing in front of the morror. I keep popping in and saying “brush your teeth”. I usually help her getting started with dressing just to get her out of bed. Some days are better than others. I only give one instruction at a time. Sometimes i say “what do you need to do now? ” to encourage her to be more aware. My current strategy is repetition of her name to get attention, using eye contact or hand on shoulder. There are some good suggestions in this thread.

Posted by Janeybee on Apr 02, 2014 at 12:09am

I rhink fairly immediate rewards may work best, such as screen time when ready etc. Especially if the parent has adhd too- its hard to be organised with a reward system!

Posted by Janeybee on Apr 02, 2014 at 12:14am

Forgot to mention I help my daughter more when she’s tired, she struggles more with it then. One of my daughters non-adhd friends is still dressed by her mum at age 9 to make things easier in the morning if thats any comfort to you!

Posted by Janeybee on Apr 02, 2014 at 12:18am

I still need charts and notes and reminders and phone calls everyday, all day, for ALL three ADHD men in my life!

There isn’t ONE trick here that I haven’t used on my two boys while they were growing up. Now they are 24 and 25.  One of them lives at home and will LITERALLY go to the grocery store THREE times for a written list of THREE THINGS!

This is a child, now adult, that I used every method here to teach he and his brother. He is very kind and accommodating but it STILL happens and it drives me insane!

After 20 years of me taking anti-depressant meds and therapy we just found out, in earnest, that my husband of 30 years has it as well—and ALWAYS did.  All this time we all thought it was me who was simply depressed.  Well, who wouldn’t depressed when your husband lays all this responsibility at your door and you truly believe that YOU should be able to balance everything - and if you can’t - you must not be a very competent wife OR mother!

So for all these years I thought it was just me who couldn’t jump the bar, when if fact, no wife and mother of this many with ADHD POSSIBLY could!

My hats are off to all you mothers/fathers who are working so hard to come up with new and inventive ways to teach their ADHDers.  My husband’s mother couldn’t do it and I, a non-ADHDer, could not do it either…

What I pray for your children is that they meet someone you can pass the baton to - because THEY will be taking your place FOR LIFE!

“Honey, have you filed our taxes? What??? You are on your 186th ACTION novel in TWO YEARS! Are you ever going to finish the ONE month remodel of our kitchen, PLEASE, it has been TWO Years, dear… Oh, we owe the government $80,000 dollars in back taxes and penalties, no problem, I’ll find a bank that will refinance our home, taking nearly every penny of equity out to pay the IRS, just sign here…”

And that is just a few of MANY ‘broken record’ conversations between me and MY ADHD spouse…yes still, after 30 YEARS and everything I can possibly think of, including leaving him, and nothing works…

And no, the kitchen still is not finished.  But - his 190th Kindle ACTION novel IS finished!!!

Any STRUCTURE or charts or notes or e-mails or calls or positive reinforcement I may have missed that any of you can come up with for me to do for my own husband, nearly 60 years old - please - POST them!!!

But don’t suggest I hire it out - been there - done that - just one more reason for him to resent MY own - obviously selfish (to him, anyway) - needs…

Posted by Resigned2B on Apr 02, 2014 at 12:42am

@Resigned2be, you sound beyond frustrated, you sound deeply angry at your husband—not just for his ADHD but for his attitude.

The one thing it sounds like you haven’t tried (yet) is detachment. You’ve done your best with your two adult sons. *Detach*. Emotionally detach. He’s an adult now. With him living at home, tho, that makes it harder to treat him as a not-your-young-child adult.

Your husband? You can’t change him. He is the way he is, and unfortunately that’s gotten you both deeply into debt. There’s a forum or two here for those married to ADHD spouses. I hope you’ve checked those out?

Posted by JavaMonster on Apr 23, 2014 at 9:36pm

Dear JM.,

You’re right. I need to grieve the loss of what I could have been and had over the course of the past thirty years. And that now, at nearly sixty, with no way to recover, I am looking at my golden years under a viaduct.

Our son was living with us because he had Stage III Lymphoma Cancer.  Pretty hard to kick him out… He’s now back at college.

New things have surfaced about our financial retirement
promises (like, they were all empty promises and there is no retirement, surprise!) that have made it even harder. Just one more brick to carry as I’m struggling to tread water in an abyss.

I don’t see how things could possibly work out. Even our own government now is willing to give more value to the earth than the well being of its citizens.  ‘If you care about the earth and your carbon footprint, step this way to be euthanized!’

I don’t think much matters at this point…

Posted by Resigned2B on Apr 23, 2014 at 10:26pm

Reply to this thread

You must be logged in to reply. To log in, click here.
Not a member? Join ADDConnect today. It's free and easy!

Not a member yet? Join here »

Search the ADDConnect Group Discussions