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Wake Up and Smell the Calmness

I created a game with rewards for my ADHD son, and guess what? We no longer go crazy in the morning.

I have been involved with the ADHD community for over six years. I feel like I've seen it all - the highs, the rock-bottom lows, and everything in between. Truthfully, I've read about it all, but I haven't lived it all (thankfully). Each of our kids with ADHD has their own crazy quilt of behaviors and symptoms. I've noticed some common threads, though, that run through a lot of our lives - like chaotic, super-stressful mornings.

Ricochet and I (and his big sister) mucked around in the morning mess ever since he started kindergarten (Daddy was lucky enough to leave for work before the rest of us were up). I posted on forums and blogs pleading for someone to tell me how to fix our daily morning disasters. Token systems and reward charts didn't work for Ricochet. Yelling didn't work either. It was time to put on my mean-momma hat and get serious. We were going to have a routine. We were going to stick to it. It was going to work. There was no choice.

I implemented a no-TV, no electronics rule. You couldn't watch or play until you were ready to walk out the door to school. The TV could be seen from our family breakfast area, but eating and watching was taboo. TV was too distracting.

I wanted to reward Ricochet for getting ready on time and keeping our mornings calm, so I decided electronics was a great reward, if he was ready to walk out the door to school with time to spare. After all, electronics were his biggest motivator, so it had to work.

So I created a very visual checklist. I typed up, in order of completion, a simple list of each task Ricochet needed to complete in the morning to be ready to leave for school. It was 4 x 6 inches and encased in a self-adhesive plastic pouch to keep it from tearing. I used a large paper clip to mark the task that he was working on. When he was done, he slide the clip down to the next task.

Ricochet carried the list around the house with him, so he always knew what he needed to do next with a quick glance. It felt like a board game, and he got into it. The real motivation to play the game, though, was the last item on his checklist, the reward. It read, "If complete by 7:20am, you can watch TV or play a video game!" Now that, my friends, is what we call external motivation. When you don't have the motivation to do something, which is often the case with ADHDers, external motivation will move you off the mark.

To continue reading the full story and learn some morning strategies, visit the ADDitude website:

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