Getting Chores Done With Your ADHD Kid: A How-to Guide

December 3, 2019 by dccinc

One of the most important lessons a parent needs to impart upon their children is the importance of housework. Learning to clean up after themselves and the house, as well as being able to cook for themselves are chores that all teach children the essential life skills that they’ll need to survive when they become adults. These tasks also provide the child with a lesson in taking responsibility for their home or shared living space in the future. These lessons can be difficult to impart upon your children. Even more so if you are raising a child that has been diagnosed with ADHD. Your child’s difficulty in focusing on tasks, especially typically non-stimulating ones like laundry or cleaning can make teaching them to do household chores difficult. However, there are a number of ways you can tailor chore time in order to keep it stimulating and motivating for your child. Here are a few tips to help your child with ADHD learn their chores and other household duties.

Provide A Way To Visually Keep Track of Chores

ADHD header by DCCI


The first thing that you can do to help your child with ADHD learn to do their chores is to provide them with a reference of what they need to do. Your child will be more receptive to visual learning so creating a task board and updating it as your child finishes tasks is a good way to remind them visually of all the tasks they need to do as well as how much they’ve already done. Use the same board as well to keep track of the rewards that they are working towards by completing their chores. 

Break Tasks Down Into Separate Components

It’s important that you be clear to your child with ADHD what each chore entails. Simply telling them to “clean your room” can overwhelm them with all the tasks that need to be done. Instead, provide them with a checklist detailing each task that you want them to do like so:

  1. Pick up Your Toys and put them back where they belong
  2. Take dirty clothes into the hamper
  3. Fix Your Bed
  4. Arrange your shelves

It’s also advisable to not just tell them what they need to do but also provide them with a written checklist. The inability to prioritize is a major factor that may affect your child’s ability to perform their chores. Having a checklist that defines clear steps for your child will help them get over this. Visual aids detailing these step by step procedures are particularly helpful in teaching them the proper way to perform their chores. As they grow up, they will need these less and less and for older kids, vocal instructions may be enough.

When cooking, the same concept helps when you teach. Keep a copy of the recipe on hand in a piece of paper. This way you and your child can go through the recipe step by step and provide your child with visual cues to focus on. Avoid using a tablet, or at least turn off all notifications when you use it, as notifications can disrupt the focus of your child.

It also helps if you start with recipes with simple steps and with tasks that the child can do themselves with some supervision. Giving them a stimulating task to perform during your little cooking lesson will keep them focused and give them a tangible sense of ownership over the meal you’re preparing together.

Organize Your Home to Be More Helpful For Your Child To Learn


Another issue your child with ADHD may face when cleaning up is that they can be paralyzed by the small decisions like where things should go, and which things should go first. Reorganizing your child’s room can help them immensely when they are faced with this issue. Labeling where your child’s toys should go, where their dirty laundry is supposed to be placed and where clean clothes should go can go a long way. Clear containers are your best friend here as they provide a visual reference for your child.

Provide Incentive for Completing Tasks

It definitely helps any child, not just those dealing with ADHD to reinforce the value of doing their chores by providing a reward for completing them. These rewards can be simple, like providing a bit of spending money, or you could reward them with something more substantial like a day out with them or letting them visit their friends have them over to play.

When teaching them to cook, sometimes the meal itself is its own reward. But once they’ve become more accustomed to cooking with you in the kitchen, a good reward might be to invite a friend or two for a meal for them to bond with friends. It’s the perfect way to also boost their social skills while teaching them valuable life skills as well.

What’s extremely important here however is that you keep your promise of the reward as much as possible. Nothing will kill your child’s motivation to do things more than being essentially lied to. Only define rewards that you are willing to commit to, and do not add extra tasks in the middle of their chores as further stipulations to receive the reward.

Set Deadlines to Break Up Tasks


Another way you can help your child with ADHD learn to do their chores is by setting deadlines. This is related to the earlier tip on breaking down tasks into separate components. For some children, having a set deadline can help them focus on the task at hand. Make these deadlines reasonably long and make sure to remind them of their deadlines at regular intervals to keep them focused on the task. Using a timer might also be a good idea to help keep track of time.

Allow For A Little Flexibility by Giving Your Child Choice

Chores and other mundane tasks are even harder a child with ADHD to do because it typically doesn’t stimulate them. In these cases, an effective motivator is to let them choose which tasks they want to do first, or which tasks they’ll find the most fun. 

Alternatively, for the more mundane tasks assigned to them, you can find a way to passively stimulate them while they work. Auditory stimulation like music on shuffle is typically a good way to do this. Avoid visual stimulus like TV when doing this as it can end up distracting your child from the task that they’re supposed to be doing

Be Ready to Assist Your Child When They Need It

Sometimes a child with ADHD will feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks that go into a chore like cleaning their room. At times like these, you should come in and help your child out by assisting them in their work. You can make a game out of the task to keep their attention focused on cleaning. The same principles apply when you do this. Give them discrete instructions that they can follow one after another.

In the kitchen, this works the other way around. Have them assist you in picking up ingredients from the store, and preparing the utensils you’ll be using for the dish. This will keep them stimulated and interested in cooking, holding their attention to the tasks at hand.

Don’t just take over for them when this happens because you’re trying to teach them to do it themselves. Instead, instruct them calmly while assisting them then step back and supervise them as they finish the job on their own. 

Encourage Your Child For A Job Well Done


You have to remember that for a child with ADHD, the mundanity of household chores can be a struggle for them. So when you see them successfully finish a task, give them praise and some positive reinforcement.  

Parental approval is important in the growth and development of a child’s self-esteem and the simplest bit of encouragement can do wonders for your child. Reinforcing good household habits with praise is a good way for them to associate with housework more positively.

Properly Explain the Consequences of Not Doing Chores

Sometimes, you’ll come back to see your child not having done the chores you’ve assigned them at all. Or perhaps they still won’t do it after you’ve offered to help them. At times like these, discipline is required. But before you dole out the punishment, it’s better if your child understands the consequences of not doing their chores properly first.

Telling them that not doing their laundry properly will lead to them not having any clean clothes for school or that leaving their rooms dirty could lead to them getting sick can be effective at dissuading them from shirking their duties.

Punishments, or the threat of punishments should be a last result. Typically, the threat of removing privileges like their allowance, or opportunities to hang out with friends are more effective than just the threat of a time out or the fear of corporal punishment.  

Change Up the Rewards 


Depending on the child, sometimes the same rewards over and over can bore them. They can bore you too. So make sure you change up the rewards every once in a while. Maybe instead of going to the park one week, you’ll take them to the movies instead. Changing up the type of incentive you’re giving them will keep them from being complacent as they’ll be receiving a variety of experiences that can stimulate them.

Observe Your Kids and Get to Know Them

The most important thing to do as a parent for your child with ADHD is to observe their behavior. Take note of what they find exciting, what frustrates them, and what sorts of strategies they are receptive to. A parent needs to remember that not every negative action their child does is out of defiance. Sometimes it’s because they are feeling overwhelmed,  or frustrated. 

It’s also important to remember that like every other person, your child will have good days and bad days. Some days they will gladly be able to do their chores with minimal supervision, while other days you will need to use these strategies. Patience is paramount during these times, as the structure is something your child will need and having a calm authority figure will help refocus your child.

Housework is important for a child to learn at a young age. It provides them with a sense of responsibility for their own room and eventually workspace and it teaches the importance of keeping a shared space like a home clean. It’s also a worthwhile chance to teach them the value of work. 

These are all lessons that are necessary when they reach adulthood and the most effective time to learn these lessons is as a child. Teaching these lessons to a child with ADHD can be challenging; but by carefully observing your child and taking their habits into consideration, you can create an effective strategy to teach them these life skills to help them prepare better for their future.

Aside from tips on making a strategy for your child, it’s important that you learn as much as you can about their condition and, of course, reveal ADHD as early as possible with the help of our ADHD Test & Self-Assessment. Parents can find resources from The Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance for more information about ADHD. The Center for ADHD Awareness Canada also provides valuable information that can further assist you as well.

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