Think Like Your Child’s ADD Coach

I hear it from clients all the time, “Why can’t he just do what I ask?” Looking at the situation, we see two steps, 1) listen to what I say, and 2) do it!

Seems simple. In reality it’s really very complex, particularly for the ADHD brain. Here’s an example: your child is watching TV, and you want him/her to take a shower. In order for that to happen, here are (some of) the steps your child’s brain has to go through:


  1. Notice that there is “something else” going on besides TV
  2. Decide that “something else” (mom’s voice) is more important than watching TV
  3. Stop focusing on the TV
  4. Focus on mom’s voice
  5. Keep focusing on mom’s voice to get all the information (i.e. avoid going back to the TV or getting distracted by something else)
  6. Figure out what mom wants me to do
  7. Take action (initiate)
  8. Keep the action moving forward (i.e. avoid going back to the TV or getting distracted by something else)

You get the picture. Each one of these steps requires executive function, something that most of our kids have in limited supply. By the time you are done making your request, she/he is likely still on step #1. That means your child doesn’t really hear what you are asking.

The most important tip here is… Get your child’s attention first! Before you give instructions, make sure you have his/her attention. This will hugely increase the likelihood that what you are requesting will actually get done.

At our house the rule is:

  1. Say the name
  2. Wait for eye contact
  3. Make the request

Try it out this week, and let me know how it works for you.

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