You know it. The never-ending battle of your son's messy room. His room isn't like other children's, though. Your son's room is an all-out black hole where things disappear…never to be seen again. You feel the anger starting to boil up inside of yourself and before you can collect your thoughts, words are spewing out of your mouth yelling, "Pick that up! How did your room get this messy? Why are your comic books torn up? Are these wrappers under your bed?" The truth is, kids with Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have a hard time getting organized and staying organized. There are few things short of threatening your child with taking away his electronics for the rest of his life that will let him know how serious you are about picking up after himself. Try these five tips the next time you walk into your child's crumb-infested bedroom.

  1. Tell her one thing at a time. Kids with ADHD have a hard time following multiple directions. Give them one command at a time. For example, you might say to your daughter, "Please put all of the LEGOs in the red bin. When you are done with that, come back and see me." Notice the command was not vague. It was very specific. This tip is imperative for children who process commands differently than other children. It can be overwhelming and frustrating for kids when they can't remember which order to do things, which almost always ends up in a meltdown.

  2. As the parent, this extra and sometimes timely step can feel like just one more thing on the laundry list of tips to remember with our children, but in the end, it really does benefit everyone involved. Once your child has put all of the LEGOs in the red bin and is now standing in front of you, go ahead and give her another task. "Please make your bed and then come back and see me." Even after specific commands like these your daughter might still feel overwhelmed with the constant picking up. For these types of children, it is important to give a timeline or a plan. For example, "After you put the LEGOs in the red bin and make your bed, you can take a break and swing outside, but after your 10-minute break, you will need to go back to your room and hang your clothes up." This storytelling to your child serves more than one purpose; it lets your daughter know what's expected of her and it tells her the plan in a very clear way.

  3. Don't be afraid to give rewards. Some kids do better with tangible rewards. Forget the guilt of thinking you're bribing your kids. Do what works for you and your child, and get on with your day. Too often, guilt plays a role in parenting children with ADHD. Let it go and remind yourself that you know your child best, and what works for other children does not always work for yours.

  4. Allowing phone time or screen time can be a lucrative incentive for kids who crave media. Use this to your advantage. If you see that your child is getting frustrated because he flat out does not want to pick up his room, tell him he can have five minutes of Minecraft for every command he does without whining. Be sure to remind him of this after he successfully does what you have asked him to do. Kids with ADHD crave structure and routine. It may not always seem like it, especially when they're yelling back at you or being defiant, but these children need boundaries. Even though they like control and they like to test you, they ultimately do better when they know what is expected of them.

  5. Make a storytelling board and go over it with your child. A storytelling board is exactly what it sounds like. This is ADHD advice 101. Get a piece of poster board, markers and maybe even some stickers. You will write out and draw what you want your child to do each day. Keep the commands short and to the point. Below is a very simple example of a storytelling board.

  6. Monday

    Tuesday

    Wednesday

    Thursday

    Friday

    Saturday

    Sunday

    Eat breakfast

    Eat breakfast

    Eat breakfast

    Eat breakfast

    Eat breakfast

    FREE DAY

    FREE DAY

    Get dressed

    Get dressed

    Get dressed

    Get dressed

    Get dressed

    Brush teeth

    Brush teeth

    Brush teeth

    Brush teeth

    Brush teeth

  7. Take a picture of each area cleaned up the way you want it. This is a really simple way to have a visual example for kids about what you expect their space to look like. Remember the LEGOs mentioned earlier in this article? Take a picture of them in the red bin. When it comes time for your daughter to pick up her room, pull out that picture and show it to her. Kids need visual reminders of what needs to be done. This will take the guess work out of what she thinks you expect and instead, it will be an exact example of what you want her to do.

  8. Praise. It's a toss-up for kids with ADHD on whether or not they like praise. Some do and some don't. If your child does, than by all means, praise him as he picks things up. If you have a child who actually reacts negatively when you offer positive reinforcement, just wait until he is done with everything you have asked him to do and simply say, "Good job." You may want to say more because your other children love it when you tell them how proud or happy you are, but some kids can't stand this. If this sounds like your child, simply acknowledging the hard work he has done is enough.

It may not seem like it now but kids really do want to be good, especially those with ADHD. Depending on how old your child is, she may not understand why she acts the way she does sometimes. This is all part of navigating the tricky world of having a child with a behavioral disorder. Use these five tips the next time you walk into your child's room and see a huge mess. You'll thank yourself later for having a plan in place instead of reacting in the moment.


Related Articles

Help Kids With ADHD Complete Homework
How to Recognize and Treat OCD in Children


Meagan Ruffing has a 9-year-old son with ADHD. Just when she thinks she's got him figured out, he throws her a curveball and they find themselves starting from square one again. For more information on how to help your child and yourself, visit her at meaganruffing.com