“Q: Why Can’t My 10-Year-Old Remember to Make His Bed?”
ADHD impacts a child’s executive age, causing a 30% delay in skills related to planning, prioritizing, organizing, executing, and following through on tasks. Don’t mistake this phenomenon for laziness; it is not.
Q: “My 10-year-old seems disorganized and lazy. He just can’t seem to do things on his own without reminders or one-on-one help. I know all the tricks I’m supposed to be doing to help him, but what I want to know is if this is him behaving badly or part of his ADHD. He’s 10! He should be able to make his bed without me telling him to!” —MMRMom
I’m thrilled to be answering your question as we spend a lot of time in our Order Out of Chaos community talking about executive age. Let me explain.
If your son has ADHD, then he also has executive functioning challenges. (If you need a crash course on EF, please check out either ADDitude’s many articles and resources or my website, orderoochaos.com.) And the challenges you describe above – disorganization, inability to activate on one’s own, even the “perception” of laziness – are all controlled by our executive functions.
“Executive age” refers to a person’s age based on how their brain is working. Individuals with executive functioning challenges are, on average, approximately 30 percent behind their peers in executive age. Though your son is 10 years old chronologically – and he might be 10 academically or athletically as well – if he is challenged with organization, activation, and weak memory, he is going to behave as a 7-year-old when performing tasks that require these skills.
How you support him and, more importantly, what you expect from him should be different than for a 10-year-old child without ADHD.
Now I know you mentioned that you know all the “tricks.” Therefore, I’ll just offer one piece of advice: Focus on your son’s brain and what he’s capable of instead of on his behavior. Helping your son strengthen his executive functions requires learning new behaviors, developing unique strategies, and practicing a great deal of patience. As his “coach,” you’ll want to help him identify his struggles so he can work to overcome them.
And I also invite you to check out one of my previous columns that dives into the perception of “lazy” behavior that is a warning sign that your child is feeling overwhelmed.
Executive Age with ADHD: Next Steps
- Free Download: Common Executive Function Challenges — and Solutions
- Read: What Parents Misunderstand About Executive Function
- Read: Your Child Is Not Giving You a Hard Time. Your Child Is Having a Hard Time.
ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.
Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.