How to use positive rewards to teach ADHD time management

How to use positive rewards to teach ADHD time management
Build positive activities as rewards into your day

Poor time management due to ADHD can have a big impact on life. I have seen the problems it creates for my husband. I am starting early with Little Bit, to hopefully give her techniques to use into adulthood. Here’s how to use positive rewards to teach ADHD time management.

What does time management look like with ADHD

People with ADHD experience time differently. Check out this article that describes some of it. They commonly have difficulty estimating how long tasks may take. They can experience time blindness, when doing something they enjoy. Time passes by without them recognizing it. Difficulty with executive function causes difficulty prioritizing. Time is often organized merely by now, or not now. Anything that is in the not now category may get missed until too late. Read about how this and other factors affect RSD here.

Useful tools to keep track of time

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Visual passing of time can help immensely with time blindness. For Little Bit, shower time can take become an ordeal with all of the potential distractions. I have found this shower timer to be a big help. On days that we are on a tight schedule, I will have her set the 10 minute timer. She can then set a second 10 minutes, but has had the reminder of the passing of time. Another timer we often use is this visual analog timer. Having timers makes it impersonal, visual, and takes the task off of the parent.

Grouping or associating tasks

To help with the ”now” or ”not now” way of seeing time, create routine times fro high frequency task. Visual cues, particularly when teaching kiddos, can help. Check back next week for printable checklists for the whole family. For the neurotypical brain, it may seem excessive. However, having checklists and solid routines makes it easy for the parent to refer to something concrete. Make sure to schedule in tools for success. Check out my post for successful mornings, and my post for nightly habits for success.

Time high frequency tasks

Estimating how long something will take is difficult with ADHD. To help build routines that will work, practice timing high frequency tasks, such as daily morning and bedtime tasks. Make it fun with this colorful stopwatch. This can be kind of a fun game, depending on the age. Once it is known how long tasks will take, it makes it easier to schedule sufficient time to complete required tasks.

Plan the day together

When teaching kiddos, particularly with ADHD how to manage time, it helps to do it together. I like to plan with the kiddos either the night before, or in the morning. I often work backwards from scheduled activities, which for us is usually gymnastics or dance practice. Having at least a loose schedule to point to when things start to get off track is an easy reminder.

Add positive rewards to earn in sequence

When we are forming our schedule for the day, I add in some “want to do” tasks. Right now in our household, we have relatively new hamsters. We are trying to regularly socialize them. Since they are nocturnal animals, they need it to be on a somewhat regular schedule. I will schedule this playtime after several of the ”must” tasks for the day. Other ”want to” events in our schedule might be trampoline time, a special arts and craft project, play a game together, or even girl bonding time like painting nails. If required tasks such as meals, hygiene, gymnastics practice, and school are completed in the appropriate time window, we have time for some extra fun.

Allow natural consequences to teach

When tasks are not completed as agreed upon in a timely fashion, there is a natural consequence of losing the ”want to” activity. I try to make it matter of fact. It is something that they are not in trouble for. The clock dictates wether they get the desired activity or not. It is good practice for later life, as responsibilities increase. We talk about why the ”must” tasks need to be prioritized, and how to accomplish making time for the ”want” activities.

Even as an adult, I run out of time. In the interest of minimizing RSD, I make sure it is not a matter of being ”in trouble”, however there are built in natural consequences. I make it clear that I, as the parent, am not doling out punishment. As with anything though, the key to learning is sticking with what was agreed upon to aid learning. With ADHD, it will take extensive practice, but losing a positive activity will be something that can be the reminder when getting off track the next time.

Follow our ADHD journey

Hopefully this has been helpful to learn how to use positive rewards to teach ADHD time management.

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The content in this post is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  It is merely opinion based on personal research and experience.

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