Fewer Demands/Better Behavior for Kids with Inattentive ADHD

I attended the CHADD conference this week and heard many excellent speakers. I hope to share what I have learned with you in several posts but I wanted to share a hysterical Youtube video that I saw in a lecture by Sharon Weiss, MEd, a behavioral consultant and former CHADD board member.

I am breaking my rule of putting all the links at the end of my posts as I feel as though you need to laugh first and then read.

Ms. Weiss’s lecture was entitled, What to Do and Why: Strategies For Success, and it addressed some of the strategies that ultimately lead to better behavior in kids with ADHD. Perhaps one of the most valuable strategies to improving behavior is simply limiting the number or things that you demand of kids with ADHD. Ms Weiss suggests that requests be made one at a time. Though these kids need to be constantly reminded of what to do, only demanding one important thing at a time is crucial to their success.

If we tell kids that are inattentive to do too many things, "Get your books, sharpen your pencil, sit straight in the chair, write in your neatest handwriting, put your name at the top of the paper, don't scratch it out, use the eraser..." what is likely to happen is that the child will be overwhelmed with the chorus of demands and will likely do very little.

A simple,” Please do your homework." Will get the message across and you simply need to let go of the 'how the homework gets done' until the child is in the habit of satisfying that one demand. Once that one demand is satisfied, you can slowly begin, one at a time, to work on whatever other things need improvement with the child's performance of their homework.

Researchers tell us that for kids that have been diagnosed with ADHD, behavioral goals will only be achieved if the goal:
  • Involves the right here and right now (or is 'time-wise' close to the here and now)
  • The goal is stated in a clear, not complex, manner (One goal, stated clearly)
  • The reward for the success is immediate (You can have your screen time after you finish that.)
  • Likely distractions or barrier to goal performance are minimized.
  • Any improvement towards completing the goal (if the goal was not accomplished) is recognized. E.g. "You kept your hands to yourself for half the car ride, you get 10 minutes more of screen time."

If you are going to use a checklist for goals, make the goals achievable and state them simply. Try to avoid cluttering the checklist with many goals and demands. A visual representation of what is expected is very valuable but the visual checklist must be clear, concise, and doable.

Remembering the William Tell Overture, mom video when we are asking our ADHD kids to do anything will go a long way to making what we ask of our kids much more doable and will improve the chances that the goals that our kids have will be reached.


  1. "you simply need to let go of the how..."

    Easier said than done, right? My son does do his homework, but it is messy, so messy. It drives me batty to have him rush through it and look so horrible. Surely there is an entire post to be written expanding on that simple phrase!

  2. Yes, I think the 'how' comes later. I try to think about it in terms of a baby learning to walk. We don't tell the baby to stand up straight, to not spread their legs apart so much and to not wobble and fall. We applaud every baby step no matter how sloppy. I think this is what we need to do when we are trying to teach skills to kids and adults with ADHD. You are so right, this deserves a post of it's own!


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