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ADHD Parents Together
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Effective alternatives to nagging?

Anyone have good alternatives for nagging? Since my 7 yo adhd son is so distracted I spend A LOT of time nagging/reminding him to do things which is very mentally and emotionally draining. I'm not type A by any means but he leaves a trail of destruction everywhere he goes and i literally ask him to "pick up" about 100 times a day or I get burnt out and do it myself. It's especially bad in the evenings when his meds have dwindled down. Any advice?

6 Replies

As I'm sure you know, due to his ADHD and deficits in Excecutive Function, he's going to need extra help to accomplish some tasks. But, the good news is that help doesn't have to come from you via nagging and reminding; it can come from other tools and techniques that he learns and can take with him into adulthood.

For example, instead of saying over and over "pick up!", you could create a chart that lists step by step specifically what you expect when you say "pick up". e.g., Step 1. put your backpack in your room, 2. put your legos into the red container 3. bring the red container to your room and put it in your closet, etc. etc. Even better would be to create it together (when you're both feeling calm), so he's clear on every step of the process and can give his input. You could also discuss ahead of time what the consequences are for not

completing the pick up list, e.g., any items left out after the timer

rings will be taken away and have to be earned back. Then, you could have him complete the entire list with a timer going to see how fast he can do it and set that together as the do-able goal for completing the list.

When you've finished the detailed step by step list, you could post it on the wall or a mirror. Then, when it's time to pick up, you calmly tell him and then just point to the "How to pick up" list and set the timer.

From time to time, if he's in a good place emotionally, you could offer a challenge where he has to complete all the items on the list within a faster time than usual in order to win a prize (like maybe more screen time) or you it could be a way of winning back items that were confiscated in the past when he didn't pick up.

Some days this won't be fun for him and he won't complete the list, in which case you still don't have to nag; you just simply put in place the consequences you both discussed ahead of time when you created the chart. You're no longer the bad guy because he knows that his choices resulted in his results.

Hope this helps!

Joyce Mabe


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Thank you for the great advice. I have a chore chart for the regular, predictable tasks (feeding dog, brushing teeth, etc) but it's the constant trail of half finished lego sets on the kitchen counter, markers all over the floor, dresser drawers dumped out in the closet etc that are a constant struggle. He does ok if i sit there and talk him through specific instructions but with 4 kids and an adhd husband i dont always have time to do that. The timer is a good idea. Thanks again


We have used an invaluable tool called a watchminder( if you google it it will pop up) it allows be to set 40+ vibration alarm reminders into a regular looking wristwatch. We have set 18 throughout my sons day. These remind him to do many different tasks, from brushing his teeth to, being out the door for the bus on time. It has been a lifesaver and a great alternative to all the nagging! It is pricey but has been so worth the investment!

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I've heard of those just wondered if he was old enough for one yet. How old is your child?


You could try incentives. Rather than saying "pick up", you could say, "if you pick up, you can earn two marbles for the marble jar!"

In our house we have a three part incentive system that's working pretty well. Not all the time, but most of the time.

Part one.... I have posters for Morning Routine, Homework Routine and Bedtime Routine which list the steps I expect him to go through. I kept it VERY simple. Three steps only each. The posters are on the wall in his bedroom, his bathroom, and in the kitchen, so he can always refer to them if he looses focus (which is often). If he looses his focus, I can just say to him "go check your list and see what to do next". Once he has completed the particular list, he IMMEDIATELY gets a marble for his marble jar. So he has three opportunities each day to put marbles in the jar. And I can give him extra marbles if he does something extra good. Once he fills his jar, he will get a prize that he picked out that's under $20.

Part two.... I have a big poster in the kitchen that lists all the "ways he can earn his privileges". Privileges are anything that he likes... tv time, video games, dessert, play dates, etc. Examples of things on the list are.... using kind words, obeying parents, putting dishes in the dishwasher, hanging up back pack, be on time for the bus, feed your cat, etc. At any time he is NOT earning his privileges, I can remind him to refer to the list. Anytime he asks for a privilege, I can ask him to refer to the list and tell me if he thinks he has earned it. This makes him reflect on his behavior and decide for himself if he has earned it. It takes away the feeling that you are oppressing him and puts the responsibility AND ability into his hands. Gives him something to feel good about, or to do better on. At the end of the day, if he's basically done a good job on this list, he gets and extra marble for the marble jar. If he hasn't, then I simply say "you can try again tomorrow" or "no big deal, there's always tomorrow" or "you'll do better tomorrow" in a kind and supportive way. Nothing else said, no punishments, no taking things away.

Part three... There are always bigger or more problematic behaviors that you want to address individually. We had a problem with him coming in our bedroom in the middle of the night to sleep on our floor. We had a problem with dropping his backpack and coat on the floor right in front of the door and leaving it there. Right now we're working on remembering to bring home all homework supplies and completing homework without complaint or distraction. So, we agree on something he wants to earn. I print out a black and white picture of it and put it on the refrigerator. Then I print a color picture of the same image and cut it into ten pieces. Each day that he successfully brings home his supplies and completes his homework, he gets to glue a color piece on the b&w image. By the time all pieces have been earned, we have altered the behavior and he gets his prize. Again, this gives him a sense of accomplishment, he can be proud and have ownership over his behavior.

All of this takes a lot of vigilance and you have to be prepared and stay on top of things. He will need constant reminders and help to focus, but at least it puts it in a positive light. You can both feel good about helping him learn to develop strategies he can use going forward and it takes away the feeling that you're nagging or constantly coming down on him. For both of you!

Anyway, that's what we've developed at our house over three years and with a lot of help from our child psychologist. Its working for us and I hope it might help you. The other thing I would say is that you need to make sure that YOU are getting the professional support YOU need too. It's impossible to have a kid with ADD without outside help. It's too exhausting emotionally and physically.

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Wow, thank you for all of the great advice. It sounds like you've found a system that works really well for your family. I love the marble idea. I tried a reward system but feel like it backfired on me when my son expected to be paid or rewarded for every little thing he did. I think adding marbles would help with that problem since they're not getting a tangible treat every time. Do you have any other non ADHD children? If so, do you use the same program with everyone so it is fair? I have 3 other children so I always struggle with that.


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