Home Rewards and Positive Reinforcers for Kids with ADHD

September 10, 2012

by Sandra Rief

Adapted from Sandra’s books: The ADD/ADHD Checklist: A Practical Reference for Parents & Teachers, 2nd edition (2008), and How to Reach & Teach Children with ADD/ADHD, 2nd edition (2005), published by Jossey-Bass/Wiley.


Children with ADHD (who struggle with self-control and self-management), receive a disproportionate amount of negative interactions to positive inteactions from adults over the course of a day.  They typically get far more reprimands, negative attention and critical feedback than most kids receive – which can be very demoralizing and damaging to their self-esteem.    Parents and teachers often have their radar focused on the times the child is misbehaving, and frequently don’t notice or attend to the child when he or she is behaving appropriately.

It is important to notice when your child is demonstrating appropriate behavior, “catch them being good”, and reinforce that positive behavior – particularly being generous with your sincere praise and positive attention.

The following are some social, activity, and material rewards that you might consider in reinforcing your child’s positive behavior.  Some of the activity and material reinforcers listed may be of interest when designing a motivating behavioral plan or incentive system for your son or daughter.


Social Reinforcers



A key behavioral approach for children with ADHD is to reinforce their positive behavior and reward their success in meeting goals.  Find out what privileges, items, and activities your child would find valuable, and would be motivated to work towards earning.  You might develop a “reward menu” together with your child.  Be sure to change that menu as often as necessary to maintain your son or daughter’s interest.


Activity Reinforcers



Note:  Some of these activities can also be considered social reinforcers.


Material Reinforcers



Note: Some reinforcers may be used for daily rewards/privileges (such as needing to earn TV or other screen time); some for weekly rewards (a movie rental or special activity on the weekend); and others for a privilege or item the child is working towards earning or saving up to purchase.

There are also online resources that you may be interested in exploring. Here are two programs for setting behavioral goals with your child, tracking progress and motivating with a variety of rewards:

1. A program called My Reward Board www.myrewardboard.com

2. An app for iPhones and iPads called iRewardChart: Parents Reward Tracker Behavior Chore chart, by Gotclues, Inc.


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