Effort for reward...: Happy New Year... - ADHD Parents Toge...

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Effort for reward...

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Happy New Year everyone!

When I was at a thearpy session recently with our son, we discussed something that really impacted my perspective on our child with ADHD. We discussed the concept of how much effort ( the child puts in) and them weighing the reward for the effort. This concept really helped to explain many issues we have with our son.

He many times puts very little effort into things like: chores ( he has to unload the dishwasher) redoing school assignments he has already turned in and done poorly on. And so on.

His thearpist told me often times it is this way becuase he doesn't see the reward.

Any thoughts.. do you guys see this in your kids. Sometimes even when we try to reward him he doesn't respond. The thearpist says it might not be what he wants as a reward.

Just wanted to hear from other and share.our experience.


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The therapist is correct. I am a school counselor and I am responsible for creating 504 plans and Behavior intervention plans for students with ADHD. Typically we have to meet with the student and find out what interests them most. Most students will say they love playing video games or going outside to play. So we use their top three interests as rewards. When they complete tasks in class or have a successful day/week they earn 30mins/hour of something they enjoy. Since interests change over time the interest inventory has to be conducted periodically to adjust rewards based on students new interests. I would recommend sitting down with your son and letting him help you develop the plan. Have him pick his top 3 interest or possible rewards and then set the expectations of how he can earn those rewards. I hope this helps. :)


Thanks for this information. Where can a parent find an interest survey?

I know about the COIN ( job interest survery)..

But didn't know there is an interest survey

Thanks for helping.

This seems like something all kids with ADHD could benefit from.


Depending on the age of your child the interest inventory can vary. With the PK-1st grade the interest inventory is conducted by asking the student questions such as 1. What is your favorite snack? 2. What game do you like the most? 3. What would you rather do, Play outside or on the computer? There is no specific template we use, but there are many templates that can be found online.


I'm just curious, instead of rewarding them with something that interests them, why not teach them using topics or in the medium that interests them, thus increasing their interest and enjoyment and possibly progress while simultaneously decreasing the need for rewards at all since the learning process itself becomes actually enjoyable for them? I know it's difficult to do in our current educational system, but wouldn't that work better for all?


You are spot on! In addition to creating a reward system to manage behavior (typically only done in elementary) the idea is to have students off the reward system by the time they get to middle school. This is done by tailoring instruction to student interests. For example, I had a student who loved fishing, hunting, and outdoor activities so his reading teacher would select informational texts that he enjoyed and his math teacher would create problems that included his interest. But for managing behavior at home, the system continues to be reward based. Even as adults we have a reward for doing our job... it is money.

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My kiddo responds really well with rewards. I have a a variety that I use depending on the level of effort involved to get the reward. I was having trouble with him filling out his agenda or having his teacher fill it out and bringing it home with the related homework assignments. So I set up the reward that if it does it then he gets a snack sized kitkat bar. It rarely misses a day now! Good days at school are rewarded with funny cat videos. Chores at home including school work get a dollar each day they are completed. Finishing a workbook at school or extra ones I do at home or reading an appropriate sizes/skill level book get a bigger item from the prize box. These have all worked as great motivators. Eventually I would like to move this to less materialistic rewards like going to the trampoline place for a full weeks compliance without any other mini rewards but it is a work in progress right now.


From my research and experience:

Seeing the Reward, is a future-based perspective often underdeveloped in our ADHD kids whose relationship to time is influenced by impulsivity. The “Right Now” is dominant and hugely important to them whereas matters in the future including rewards and the sense of satisfaction for completing a task over time is barely perceived. Similarly, the ability to learn from past consequences is clouded in the past and contributes to our children repeating undesirable behavior despite positive reinforcement and repetitive behavioral modification coaching. I observe all of these traits in my 12-yr-old. I know what his preferred rewards are, and I know that his view of the steps involved and time required are more daunting than the value of the reward. It’s a vortex and an ongoing cause for concern.


The Pax Good Behavior Game used in elementary schools is based on the Law of Effect. (Google it) Know that rewards are more effective than punishments if used correctly. Paxis Institute, which trains teachers in Pax GBG, also created a Parents United platform to help parents of teens. the following is from their Mystery Motivator page:

The Mystery Motivator is a way to motivate your teens to choose the right paths.

It is built precisely for the teen brain. The Mystery Motivator can help your teens

learn to take smart risks for the future, not stupid risks that can get them in trouble

with the law, their school, or their friends. It will improve your teen’s relationship with

you and other family members. Anybody who knows teens knows they can be

stormy—with lots of thunder and lightning. The Mystery Motivator increases responsible,

respectful, and safe behavior. That brings more peace and less heartache to families.

Mystery Motivator consists of rewards you give to your teen that have been proven to

motivate the behavior you want to encourage. Here are some the behaviors you may

want to encourage:

 Clean his or her room

 Help around the house (cooking, cleaning, pet care)

 Run errands

 Talk more about his or her life

 Share plans or goals

 Go to bed and sleep properly on school nights

 Use manners

 Do physical activities

 Be ready for school

 Make the bed

 Play music more softly

 Get home on time

 Eat meals with the family

 Talk about what they are learning or like at school

 Complete homework

 Turn in assignments

 Present logical arguments about things

 Practice a gift like music, art, dance, etc.

You can also reward your teen for not doing things. You could reward your teens if they didn’t do things like:

 Text when you are trying to talk

 Ignore you

 Complain

 Get into fights with siblings

 Forget to take important medications

 Wait until the last minute to ask

 Curse or be rude

 Use tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs

 Stay up too late

 Not turn in school work

 Be absent or tardy

 Oversleep



How it Works

Each day find something that your teens do that you want to recognize and appreciate. It could be something different each day

or it could be a particular activity that you are concentrating on, like feeding the dog without being asked. You might also reward

something they didn’t do. For example, if they curse a lot and they got through dinner without cursing, you might reward that.

Let your teens dip into the prize bowl and deliver the reward as soon as you can.

Here are some other things to consider:

1. Don’t take a reward back once you have given it. Even if your teens do something else

that you don’t like, deliver the reward they have already earned.

2. Be generous! Don’t feel you must wait until your teens do something perfectly. It is better to

reward small steps than not to recognize their efforts at all.

For example, if you wanted your teens

to get to bed with lights out and all electronics off by 10 PM, you might start by rewarding them

when they are in bed by 11 and then work toward 10 over a week or so.

3. Show your admiration and appreciation. Use these occasions to let your teens know that you

like and admire them and believe in their abilities. This is just as important as the reward itself.

Picking the Rewards

The mystery motivators that your children might earn are based mostly on

activities or things that are free or don’t cost much. The fact that the prizes are

random or mysteries increases the value of what they earn, because teens

cannot predict what they will earn

. It also reduces resistance—especially from teens.

Get a bowl or a box that you can put rewards in and your teens can

reach in and pick one out. You can take pieces of paper or cardboard about

the size of a standard business card. Write the name of a reward on each one.

Picking Rewards

You want to have about 21 or more different rewards that vary in value.

For a start, you and your teens should come up with 15 inexpensive or no-cost prizes.

Here are some things that other families have used:

1. Late Night Coupon for 10 minutes of extra time to stay up past normal bedtime

2. “Just a Minute” Coupon that gives a child a chance to say “just a minute” three times before doing what he or she is asked

3. Car Stereo King/Queen Coupon allows your teen to select CD to listen to in the family car audio system going to or from shopping, school, etc.

4. A “Mad Money” Coupon worth a quarter

5. Laughter Coupon lets your teen tell a joke from a joke book

6. Play a Game of Hangman

7. Desk Football for five minutes. Play desk football with your child for five minutes.

Next, come up with a list of four or five more valuable prizes. They don’t have to be expensive. Many could just be things that

your teen likes to do with you, like playing a board game or throwing a football around. Here are some others:

1. Mad Money worth a half dollar

2. A “Just a Minute” Coupon gives your teen a 5-minute delay in following non-urgent instruction

3. A “One-Chore Pass” that allows your teen to pass on a single chore

4. Eat Dessert First

5. Late Night Coupon for 15 or 20 minutes for teen extra time past normal bedtime

6. TV King/Queen Coupon allows your teen to select the channel for the family to watch for 30 minutes

7. Stereo King/Queen Coupon allows your teen to select station to listen to in the car.

Finally, you and your teen might come up with two highly valued prizes. They do not have to cost money. Here are some examples:

1. Mad Money worth a dollar

2. Permission to be late by half an hour. With this card, your teen can come home later than usual

3. Car privileges. Extra time to drive car

4. A favorite meal or dessert. Make your teen something they really like

5. iTunes cards. A card that lets your teen buy a song on iTunes

6. A date during the week. Teen gets to go on a date during the week

7. Chore pass. Gives teen a morning, afternoon, or all day pass from chores normally designated for that time

(still has to do homework, brush teeth, go to sleep, etc.)

Once you have the rewards written on sheets or cards,

put them in the box or bowl and put it someplace.

Sorry it was very hard to copy and paste off the pdf. There is a whole science to the Mystery prize box. Reaching in is like pulling the lever on a slot machine. Anticipation is good. Winning something is better than winning nothing, which is why raffle tickets in schools don't really work and why most people don't buy lottery tix unless the prize is HUGE.

Contact Paxis Institute for more information. And ask your elementary school teachers if they've ever heard of Pax GBG.

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Thanks so much for this information


Kids with ADHD want immediate gratification. I have found working for a reward days away does not work well. Immediate rewards like video gaming, TV shows, a favorite desert, board game with the family etc. work much better until they get older.

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ADHD kids rarely have intrinsic motivation. Russell Barkley talks about it. The rewards usually need to be immediately given which is why they can work really hard at video games- which entail setting goals, doing things repeatedly, ect... You have to find his but in. My kids but in are his phone and computer. Constant battle. He enjoys Boy Scouts too but I don’t use it usually as an incentive bc it’s so good for him. I will sometimes, if he has a trip coming up that he’s excited about. Anything he wants, use it. Friends parties, google play cards to spend on the dumb games, a few minutes after bedtime, skip a shower ( with the idea he’ll wash his pits, hands and face) pizza night ect...

Google “Children’s interest inventory” see if you can find anything. Basically ask him what he enjoys and use those things as an incentive. For my son to participate in his CBT, I have told him he won’t have to return to school for the last hour ect. I’m sure. Some people think I’m crazy but you gotta work with what you have...


I meant BUY IN not but in. Lol


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