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5 Simple Ways to Motivate a Child with ADHD

This post was first published on ADHDSupergirls, a site all about girls with ADHD and how to motivate a child with ADHD!


So many tears.

Did my daughter’s pet goldfish just die?

Nope, it’s just homework time.

Every night it’s a battle to get through the homework. My mother used to call this experience as fun as pulling teeth.

With a child who has ADHD, homework time isn’t just hard, it’s torture. Teaching ADHD is a struggle for both child, teacher, and parent.

But all is not lost.

5 easy ways to motivate a child with ADHD! Implement these tips in the classroom or at home with ADHD students and maximize learning potential.

I have ADHD, and so does my daughter. I come from a family with at least 7 people who have ADHD. The struggle is not only recognized, it’s the only thing I know.

Over the years of working with my daughter, I’ve found that there is a good way to try and motivate a child with ADHD, and there are a bunch of really bad ways to motivate that same child. Today, I’m sharing the ADHD motivation tips that work best in our family with you.

If you have a child with ADHD, use these ADHD motivation tips to keep them on track and avoid power struggles.

ADHD Motivation Tips for Teachers and Parents

For the child with ADHD, anything they don’t currently want to do is The Worst Thing Ever. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to teach them a new math problem or telling them to tie their shoe. There will be equal hatred for any unwanted activity.

Most children with ADHD that I know don’t respond well to negative consequences. Many children will consider the consequences worth it to get out of doing what they didn’t want to do.

This list takes a different approach to ADHD motivation and teaching ADHD and offers practical, positive encouragement and motivation tips so you can help your ADHD child learn without power struggles.

ADHD Motivation Tips that Work Without the Battle

Use these ADHD motivation tips to relieve power struggles and facilitate learning throughout the year. These tips work just as well at home as in the classroom!

Let the Child Be in Control

Sometimes I think to have ADHD is to be a control freak. Have you ever tried to get a child with ADHD to do something they don’t want to do? You might as well try to pull a donkey through a doorway.

Pull them aside when they are not emotionally charged (you would do this on a weekend, perhaps, or before the school day starts). Talk about the goals of the week/month/year/whatever and discuss how the child wants to arrange their schedule to fit everything in.

I find that when I discuss the plan with Monkey and she comes to the realization that she will have to devote a certain amount of time to each daily task, she is much less likely to fight me when assignment time comes.

Two girls with ADHD writing in a textbook together.

Brain Breaks

Kids are easily overwhelmed with work if they have ADHD. One simple way to help a kid with ADHD reset is to implement brain breaks. These 60-second or less activities help reset a child’s brain and gets her out of the flight or fight mode. You can use these at home or in the classroom!

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Create a Reward Tracking System

Monkey, my daughter, and most ADHD kids I’ve met, love working toward a goal.

However, if the goal is too far off, or you can’t see the goal or progress, the child will get sidetracked and probably forget what she is working toward.

This is where I like to use visual progress trackers.

When I was a child, I LOVED these sorts of trackers and I would work extra hard to reach the goal sooner. This is probably why Sing Spell Read and Write worked so well as a reading program for my siblings, because they not only could see their progress on the race track, but they also got a small prize at the end of each milestone.

Any sort of daily checklist to reach a reward at the end of the school day, or a slightly longer-term progress tracker to earn a big reward (Monkey likes trips to the frozen yogurt shop) will make a huge difference to the ADHD child.

The ADHD child wants to know WHY she/he is doing something they don’t want to do, and if there is a constant reminder of the goal they are working toward, it will eliminate much of the teacher/student struggle.

Here are some of my favorite reward trackers for kids with ADHD:

Engage in One-on-One Time

I don’t know if all children with ADHD are like this, but Monkey prefers me to sit with her when she is doing her homework. Usually, we go over the lesson and then when she is completing her assignment, she sits next to me while I work.

When I’m not with her, she gets distracted, makes sloppy mistakes, and takes longer to do her lessons. The one-on-one time helps eliminate much of this problem.

Make a Checklist

Monkey and I thrive on checklists. We love seeing everything we have to do and getting it done in a methodical way. We like wipe-away daily to-do lists.

There are a lot of printable to-do lists that you can find. Laminate it and you can re-use it over and over. Checklists are one of my favorite ADHD motivation tips.

A Word on Timers

Some parents love using timers to keep kids on track. This might work with some kids, but for Monkey, it creates high anxiety. If you find your kids reacting poorly to timers, I suggest using other motivational tools. 

adhd brain break cards

More Activities for ADHD

Science Fair Projects for Active Kids Who Need to Move

DIY Fidget Spinners and Fidgets for Kids with ADHD

Educational Fidget Spinner Activities for the Classroom

ADHD Sensory Tools

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