Routines and schedules: We’re starting... - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

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Routines and schedules


We’re starting school in a week and I would love to have a gameplan in place that we all know and can keep up with. We fought nearly every morning last year and I 100% do not want to do that again. For those of you that use checklists and clocks for your kids do you put them in every room? How does your child remember to check the list and complete the items on it? Do they get rewards for doing well and if so what type of reward system do you use?

In the morning my son will have an hour in which he will need to get his clothes on, brush his teeth, and pick what he wants for breakfast from a list of items.

At night I’m thinking when we get home he will do his homework with hubby while our other son and I cook dinner. We eat as a family and then it’s time to get ready for bed. If he sticks to this schedule without being too disruptive I want to reward him for that also. I’m thinking that each time he does the things he’s supposed to he is rewarded with a ticket. Based on how many tickets he has we will have a sliding scale of rewards. Am I making this too complicated? I am open to any suggestions. What do you do that works for your family?

10 Replies

I think that sounds like a great idea. Let him pick the rewards so they are something you know he will like. This is also a good way to start teaching him the value of things and the idea of saving for bigger rewards. Maybe get one of those old fashioned egg timers to help him with timing. The ticking can help with staying focused because it’s a reminder that time is passing. You can give him a certain amount of time for each task based on his ability and your schedule, and adjust if he needs more or less time to complete tasks. This is going to take some direction from you and your husband while he gets used to it. Good luck.

I'm having major anxiety about this very thing! Every year I try something new and it falls apart. Mornings are terrible for us. I like your ticket idea this might be the thing I try this year as well.

Hi there. Can I ask how old your child is? I’ve tried the reward chart and Tickets in a jar with my son but they honestly didn’t work. At first he was excited about the idea but after a week or so he got bored with it, Rewards generally need to be given quickly to get the buy in with my son. Just like his short attention span he lost interest in collecting tickets, To establish a morning routine we used a small blackboard on the wall in the kitchen and wrote a list of 4 items he had to remember to do everyday morning by 6:30am. Keep the list small. After a month or so doing this became routine.

1. Go to the bathroom

2. Get dressed (clothes are put out the night before)

3. Brush teeth

4. Put shoes on

We set the clock on our microwave because it was pretty loud when the timer went off. The goal was to be ready and downstairs for breakfast at 6:30 (he had 30 min to get ready) and if he achieved this goal he is allowed to watch a video or listen to music on his phone with breakfast. It’s instant gratification and what he really wants so it motivates him to get downstairs and be ready, Plus his reward calms him down as he eats breakfast and keeps peace while his meds kick in. My son is 13 so the trick is too find something your child will like and don’t have them wait too long for the reward.

To help with the mornings try to get as much done the night before and make sure you are ready before your child. Have them pick out there clothes the night before, pack book bags, pack lunches, pick out his breakfast for the next day if he can. We had the trying mornings and sometimes still do but sticking to a consistent routine helps a great deal.

Another idea my son liked for rewards when he was young is I used to keep a basket of goodies from the Dollar store and when his behavior was good, I would have him close his eyes and pick an item from the basket. The element of surprise and instant reward helped. I hope some of these ideas help.

Mudpies in reply to Ldydy24

My son is almost 8. The ticket idea actually came from school last year. Each day the kids followed the classroom rules they got a ticket. Once they collected a certain number of tickets they could go to the treasure box. He loved it. I am hoping that keeping a list of rewards he can earn on a board in front of him will help keep him excited. I also have to take into consideration his almost 4yo brother. Our oldest loves to be in charge so I’m hoping that if I offer up rewards like being in charge of picking one show to watch or picking one exercise game on the Wii or picking one board game to play that it will keep his attention. All he has to do in the morning is put his clothes on, brush his teeth, and eat. He has an hour to get these things done in. The last place he ends up is the kitchen so I’m wondering where I should put the list. Maybe the halfway point, the bathroom? We tried an egg timer last year but he just ended up playing with it. I should have added that our son ALWAYS fights to be in control of every situation. I need a way to make him think it’s his idea to get ready and a way to genuinely reward him when he doesn’t make me late to work.

Ldydy24 in reply to Mudpies

Ok your little man is still young so its worth a try. I would have a list in his bedroom /bathroom to help him stay focused when he gets up and perhaps one downstairs if he still needs to complete tasks when he gets downstairs. Get his buy in and maybe buy a cheap dry erase board and have him write out the chores on it if he’s able to. Keep the list short or it will be overwhelming. A parent on ADDitude website uses a magnet board for her kids but in my opinion there are way too many things the kids have to check off their list. Good luck,

ebhartle in reply to Ldydy24

Thank you this really helps. As my step son is 14 and this sounds exactly what would work with him.

Hi Mudpies, I think the idea of reward for motivation is great, but it might not work for everyone. It also depends on how you implement. My son attends an attention class, and at the end of every class he gets a stamp for good behavior that can eventually add up to a toy reward. But the reward of the toy is too far in the distance I think and isn't highly motivating.

Last night I "gamefied" cleaning up with my 5 year old son which worked surprisingly well.

I think the most important thing with using reward / fun motivation is that it's balanced with a basic understanding that we do the right thing because it's right, not just for getting a reward. But I think kids with ADHD particularly need this kind of motivation.


Ugh, right? Rewards did not work for me for a long time. This summer, my children discovered the amazing miracle that is vending machines, and somehow that catalyzed a complete turnaround. Go figure. Now I have a couple of magnetic chore charts on the refrigerator and the chores are all pretty much self-care/ready for school/literacy tasks, and my kids know that if they fill up the chart, at the end of the week they get a dollar to spend and a dollar to save. It took forever to find the thing that would motivate any sort of sustained effort from either of them (both ADHD/PTSD) so don’t give up! You're on the right track with not making it too complicated. I imagine that at some point in your near future, you’ll hear your son indirectly tell you what could motivate him similarly and things will start to click.

Sounds worth a try! We did an elaborate token economy over the summer, which was somewhat successful, though I’m hoping to simplify a bit for the school year. Especially since a lot of days grandparents watch the kids, and they have a hard time following through on my system, and consistency is key.

Anywho, the token economy itself we kinda scrap for mornings, but we do have an incentive system. Here’s our morning:

1. Checklist is in his bedroom, since most things he needs to do besides breakfast involves being upstairs. I made a picture chart of about 6 things, then laminated it so we can use dry erase over it as he finishes things.

2. Analog clock in his room. Digital doesn’t do much for him - analog helps him see time progress better. I’ve actually marked up the clock race with dry erase, with marks saying what time something needs to be done by. (By 10 after, clothes changed, by 20 after bed made & down for breakfast.) I’m thinking of adding more things pre-breakfast, as that tends to be a big slowdown.

3. For breakfast, I set a Time Timer, and use gentle reminders from me. A time timer is an analog timer that also uses a red circle to really demonstrate the time progression. It’s kind of pricey, though there is also an app.

4. Incentives. If he’s ready on time (also done correctly & without nagging), I let him pick his snack for school (this is a big deal for him.) If he’s early, he gets free time, and I even let it include some screen time - though it needs to be mindfulness related (because letting him start a show/game would just set up drama when it’s time to turn it off.) I do find incentive systems can wear out. Sometimes though when it wears out, we’re in a good routine / habit by then so it’s fine. When we start sliding, I step up the incentives or try something new.

Thank you all so much for your comments and replies! I will keep several of the ideas, suggestions, and things you all do in my back pocket for sure. We are one week in and so far so good. I realized that what kept him motivated in class was that there were 20 children earning tickets at different rates so inevitably someone was getting a prize each day. That kept his eye on the prize so to speak. Being in control is his biggest motivator so I made sure to remind him what he would be earning. This was a great week so he is getting one hour on Saturday where he gets to be in charge of picking what we do. He has chosen wii fit games and I couldn’t be happier about that. He’s super excited and it’s kept him motivated. YAY!!!!!!!

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