Getting any kid to do chores is challenging. This can be even more difficult when you have a child or children with ADHD. Distractions, forgetfulness and difficulty with following direction all get in the way. Chores become a constant source of frustration and you might think it is easier to say, “Forget it, I will do it myself.”
Chores, however, serve a bigger purpose than just getting something done. They help build responsibility, self-esteem and allow children to feel they are contributing to the family. Chores help children develop the skills they will need later in life, like washing dishes, doing laundry and grocery shopping. A study at the University of Minnesota found that the best predictor of success later in life was participating in completing chores early in life.
The following tips can help you manage household chores when one or more family members have ADHD:
Break chores down into steps. Requests such as “Please clean up your room,” are vague and open to interpretation. You might think it means, “Pick up the clean clothes and hang them up, put the dirty clothes in the hamper, put the toys away, place the books on the shelf, make your bed.” But chances are your son doesn’t interpret it the same way. He might simply move a few things out of the way and think he is done.
When giving a chore, list each step. Some parents find it helpful to write steps for common chores and post it so their children can easily refer to it.
Give children some say in their chore. One of your teen’s chores might be to mow the lawn. You can ask for his input on when he would like to complete this. Would he rather do it after school or on Saturday morning? You might also give him the flexibility that it can be done anytime between Wednesday and Saturday, but that he can’t go out with friends on Saturday until it is done.
Use a chore chart. For younger children, keeping track of chores with a chart and stickers works well. List the chore, the steps needed and the day it needs to be done. When the chore is done, your child gets a sticker. You can have several charts: for example, a chart for tasks that need to be completed in the morning, one for after school and one for bedtime routines.
Use positive reinforcement. Look for ways to reward the behavior you want – a completed chore – rather than criticizing for incomplete chores. Younger children can get a reward when they collect a certain number of stickers. For older children, extra screen time or staying up later on a weekend often works well.
Be consistent. Insisting that chores are completed one week and then ignoring when your kids don’t do them the following week is confusing. Your children won’t pitch in to help unless they know it is a week you are going to insist. Set up a schedule for chores so everyone knows not only what is expected but when it is expected.
Focus on one chore at a time. Teach your child how to complete one chore – for example, sweeping the kitchen floor. Before adding additional chores, have her sweep the floor each night after dinner. Once she accomplishes this, add another chore.
Make chores a positive experience. Chores are more likely to get completed if they are seen in a positive light. Use praise when your child has done a good job. Get everyone involved so chores are seen as a family activity. Don’t use chores as a punishment or your child will see them as a negative activity.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.