Ask the Experts

Q: How Can I Motivate My Son In a Positive Way?

Teens and kids with ADHD hear too often that they are lazy or apathetic. I know my son’s behavior is a result of his brain chemistry, and I know it’s not productive to linger on or emphasize his faults. But how do I motivate him to improve? What positive approach can I take?

Q: “I understand that we shouldn’t call our child with ADHD lazy — this his behavior is a manifestation of ADHD affecting the brain. But I’m not sure what positive but forceful language we can use instead to motivate him.”  –Gloria


Hi Gloria:

Instead of focusing on ways to avoid calling your son lazy, I would like to give you some strategies to use to help your son strengthen his executive functioning muscle when it comes to perceived effort. As you know, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) have a difficult time regulating alertness, sustaining effort, and achieving strong processing speeds.

Many of my coaching clients have a difficult time sustaining effort. I see this clearly when too much information is thrown at them — and I immediately know it’s time to modulate how I am presenting information. How do I do that? First, I speak in sound bites. If I’m giving instructions, I only use words that are necessary to get my point across and I eliminate all unnecessary information from my verbiage. Think Jerry Maguire and “You had me at hello.” Dorothy didn’t need any more information from Jerry after that statement! He had gotten his point across just fine, so she stopped listening!

Second, when speaking to my students, I introduce to them that I am about to say something important and ask them to increase their effort level so they can listen to me. This gives them time to receive the information I’m about to give. This strategy allows them to get their brain to “high alert.” And once I’m finished, I then give them permission to bring it back down.

Try these strategies with your son and see if that doesn’t change his behavior. Crazy as they may seem, they work!

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Updated on August 26, 2019

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