"I typically just clean my son's room myself because asking him to do so is a sure-fire trigger for a meltdown. Any advice on teaching him this responsibility without all the drama?"
by Linda Karanzalis, M.S.
Children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) need structure -- lots of it. And that includes strategies to accomplish tasks that may seem 'easy' or 'common sense' to others.
Many children with ADHD often shut down when overwhelmed and may act out when confronted with meeting parental expectations, like cleaning their room, as they have no idea how to start and finish. By cleaning his room for him to avoid a meltdown, you are actually reinforcing and rewarding your child for inappropriate behaviors. Of course this is not your intention, but the cost of keeping the peace backfires in the long run. It is better to endure the short-term stress to teach your child life-long skills to manage himself and the expectations of others. This is how your ADHD child becomes an independent adult.
Your child ~can~ learn how to clean his room with consistent practice. First you need to define what 'cleaning your room' means. Break down the steps and put the list on a poster board that hangs in his room. Laminate the poster board so your child can use a wipe off marker after he completes each step. Practice with your child by showing him how to do for each item on the list.
For example, if you want him to put his clothes in the laundry, place two baskets in his room. He will put all the whites in the white basket and the darks in the dark basket. If you would like him to pick up his shoes place a plastic shoe holder that is hung over his bedroom door. Assess your child’s belongings and provide a home for each one.
One child I worked with loved baseball cards, he knew exactly where they were, strewn all over his bedroom floor! I worked with his mother to devise a system of placing them in plastic card holders and organizing them in binders by leagues, teams, Hall of Famers, and positions. The child was proud of ability to manage his cards as was his mother.
Break down each task and practice with your child until he masters each one independently, and the next time you say 'clean your room’ your child will know exactly what to do!
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