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Why Is It So Hard for My ADHD Kid to Clean Their Room?

ADHD Child Messy Bedroom

Let’s face it, no kid looks forward to cleaning their room. But for most, after some protesting or possibly an incentive, they’ll get it done. For kids with ADHD, it’s not as straightforward.

In the past, I tried tying room cleaning to an incentive, such as money or a treat —anything I thought would motivate them. And my kids are definitely motivated by those things. But that still didn’t work. We still had tears and meltdowns, and I ended up cleaning it and taking the loss. I then realized that they had gotten used to me doing it and began to expect it. I had created a cycle that was hard to break. But not impossible. I just needed to figure out what the real issue was. It would have been easy to write it off as laziness and use consequences or “tough love” to make them do it, but I knew that wasn’t the real issue.

I asked my son what about room cleaning was so terrible. He said 2 things that stuck with me: “It’s such a mess and going to take forever” and “I don’t know where to start.”

And that was my lightbulb moment. For kids with ADHD, it can be difficult to look at a messy room and just “start.” This is even more challenging for neurodivergent kids with an “all or nothing” approach to tasks. Meaning that if they can’t get it all done right away, they won’t even try. This often comes across as lazy, but that’s often not the case at all.

Even though I showed him that it took less than 15 minutes to clean up, he didn’t have that future thinking skill and only saw an insurmountable mess and gave up. Then I remembered how we handle this issue with schoolwork, and I applied it here.

I broke the room into 4 sections, and we worked through what needed to be done one section at a time. That not only gave us a place to start but also helped make the task less overwhelming to him.

Once the room was clean, I took photos of those 4 sections and made a chart to use in the future. I then did the same thing for my other son. So now when they complain after I tell them to clean their rooms (I still haven’t figured out how to solve that problem), I refer them to the chart and say, “pick a section and start.” Also, if there’s not enough time or if one section needs more work than others, I tell them to just do that one. It’s better than nothing and can sometimes be enough to keep the room from complete destruction until there’s time for a full room clean up.

If this sounds like something that could help your child, you can download it for free here.

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Apr 08


Apr 08
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