Dear ADDitude

Dear ADDitude: How Do I Get My Boys Under Control in the Morning?

“The mornings in our house are chaos no matter how much I prepare the night before. Clothes are out and lunches are made the night before, but no one listens to me. My boys jump, spin, sing, make all kinds of noises, bait each other, play fight, you name it!”

ADDitude Answers

Morning chaos is a common problem for parents of kids with ADHD.

These are the steps I followed for my son at about the same age and it worked wonders: Wake Up and Smell the Calmness!

Offering immediate rewards once the routine is complete can be very effective. I created a 4×6 laminated card with a checklist of morning to-do’s — eat breakfast, take medicine, get dressed, brush teeth, get shoes on…

The last item on the checklist read: “If you get to this task by 7:20 am [that was 20 minutes before we left for school] you can watch TV or play on your DS.” This was what would motivate my son. There was a paperclip on the side that pointed to the task he was on, as he worked through the list, he moved the clip down to the next item. He carried it around with him for the tasks. It felt like a game to him and he was very motivated by the reward at the end. Be sure to ask your kids what order they want to do the tasks in — my son was very particular about this and not going in the order he wanted was always disastrous. Find out what motivates your children the most and that you can do immediately for their reward.

Here’s more on taming morning chaos:

> Happier Mornings for ADHD Households

> Morning Routines for ADHD Children Rise and Shine for School

> Reliable Routines for Children with ADHD and Their Parents!

Posted by Penny
community moderator, author on ADHD parenting, mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

[Self-Test: Could Your Child Have ADHD?]

A Reader Answers

I agree with Penny that some kind of visual schedule helps. There are many many kinds. I find the most useful ones are ones that the child can check a box or move a Velcro® item from ‘to do’ to ‘done’ on a board/wall. It gives kids something to do and to give attention to.

A general tool you can use to control behavior mornings and beyond is the Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA). Transforming the Difficult Child by Howard Glasser teaches NHA. The approach helps you find the things your kids do that are right and teaches you to vocalize praise for those things with enthusiasm.

We all know it can be VERY hard to find what they are doing right when they are running around crazy seemingly ignoring us. But Glasser points out that anything, no matter how small, that is done right should be praised. Eventually, your boys will seek your positive reinforcements, rather than your constant, negative reminders — much more desirable for kids with ADHD.

For example, “Wow, you are putting your shirt on like I asked you!” “You are very respectful in doing what I asked” (even if you asked a million times). At first, your boys will probably look at you like you are an alien. But that’s OK because in that moment, he is putting on his shirt and now he is looking at you listening to what you are saying, which is what you want. Keep practicing that, and it will happen more and more.

FYI, we read the book and watched the DVD. We have been ‘trying’ NHA for a few weeks now. We fall off the wagon every day or so because we are tired and frustrated. But I can say that it does work. Even doing it halfway has helped.

Posted by EveAdele

[Free Download: Routines for Morning and Night]

A Reader Answers

A Reader Answers

I boiled my daughter’s morning routine down to “Five Things.” I eliminated anything that wasn’t truly necessary to get out the door, so the list wasn’t too long. Now it has become, “Did you do your Five Things?” We both learned them by heart and a list was no longer necessary (Get dressed, eat breakfast, wash face, brush teeth, brush hair).

She has no sense of time, so veering off from the “Five Things” or adding things to do, like putting in earrings, changing her shoes or looking for a hoodie that was not left in its proper place, throws her off.

Invoking the “no electronics/TV” rule before the morning routine is completed is a good one.

Posted by Suxie

A Reader Answers

Mix it up: Reminders tend to get boring quickly to kids, and then just fade into background noise. About once a month make a new visual checklist, change the tone for alarms, or what you say to get their attention.

Listening: This is a huge problem in my house. My son simply doesn’t hear me and can be completely unresponsive. He does better when he’s had a good night of sleep, spent time outside, and gotten some exercise. He also seems to respond better when taking a supplement like Kid’s Calm Multi, or ADDed Attention. 15 minutes of 1 on 1 time is magical. Perhaps your sons’ morning antics are trying to get your individual attention.

Put them on the team: I always have better results and sometimes surprising insights when I ask my son for his ideas on how to solve a problem. Our kids are smart and creative.

Posted by Stephanne

One thing that we tried is putting our son to bed a little earlier and waking him up earlier as well. Instead of pj’s, put the kids in clothes the night before and let them sleep in them. The extra time lets us give our son 10-15 min of play time once he has gotten ready and finished eating. This can be watching TV, video games, or riding his bike on the driveway. It may motivate your boys to get ready sooner. It doesn’t always work but at least 3-4 times a weeks, better than nothing!

I did find asking that asking my son for his help in getting ready on time, rather than talking at him, caused him to listen and to move along more calmly.

Posted by 3Equines

A Reader Answers

I started giving my son his medication about 40 minutes prior to actually waking/getting up for the day, then letting him go back to sleep. It has made mornings so much easier. Talk with your doctor if you are worried about a lapse of medication at the end of the day.

Also what helped my son was setting up an incentive program. We used poker chips. Each chip represents time to play on the computer or whatever privilege he wanted. Red chips are 5 minutes. Blue chips are 10 minutes, and black chips are 15 minutes. Then we created a board of tasks, like getting a shirt, pants, socks, and shoes on in 10 minutes. For each item he completes, he earns a chip. Make sure to be very detailed about tasks and set time limits. We used this system to get the basic things done everyday: brushing teeth, cleaning room, homework.

Posted by LoveofBugs

[If Your Mornings Are Hell, Read This]