Ask the Experts

I Need a Reward System (Not Bribes) to Motivate My Child

Good behavior and effective discipline for children with ADHD often follows the implementation of a behavior chart and rewards like regulated screen-time, quality time with family, and sports after homework.

Q: I need help motivating my child’s good behavior with a behavior chart and incentives. What are examples of effective reward systems for children with ADHD that aren’t just bribery?

A: When developing a reward system or behavior chart for a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD), it’s important to keep in mind that most children today want one reward: technology. But if technology is going to be useful as a reward, it has to be used in a specific way. I recommend the “Easy On/Easy Off” method: you decide how much technology you would like your child to have every day. If you choose an hour a day, your child will automatically get 30 minutes of screen time, except if they use the technology inappropriately (going to porn sites, bullying people online, etc.). Give them the second half hour only if they get off the screen without arguing and do things that they need to do — homework, chores, etc. — before logging back in.

A great reward for younger children, and especially teenagers, is time with you. I know one family whose reward was “Parks and Rec.” If they didn’t cooperate to earn watching that TV show, they got a different kind of family time: chore time.

Brainstorm rewards with your child – some children want to earn points toward a purchased item. Some like to play games, puzzles, or play sports. If you know they already enjoy something, you could add more of it: If they are read two stories at night, read them three or four. If they have completed homework on time and they want to shoot some hoops with you, shoot some hoops.

[Free Guide: 13 Steps to Raising a Child with ADHD]

The content for this article came from Sharon Saline’s webinar titled “Build Life-Long Executive Function Skills in Your Child with ADHD.” You can watch the replay here.