Rewards play an important role in helping kids with ADHD stay motivated and on track as they learn new behaviors or follow through on their daily behavior goals. Often when kids with ADHD don’t follow through on a task or aren’t making an effort the way we might expect them to, it’s because they are struggling to overcome the difficulties with motivation that accompany ADHD. Rewards give them the boost that they need, but are only effective when they are provided immediately, consistently, and are something the child truly wants to earn. The difficulties that kids with ADHD have with delayed gratification make smaller daily rewards more effective than delayed rewards that take longer to earn.
For busy families whose weekdays are jam packed with school, after-school activities, homework, appointments, tutoring, dinner, and hopefully a few minutes of family time, finding ways to consistently provide daily rewards is a challenge. Small trinkets or grab-bag style rewards are only motivating for a little while, and often end up creating clutter at home. Screen-time can be very motivating for many kids and it’s inexpensive, but it’s often problematic, especially if you have a child who gets upset when their screen time is over, or if parents is too busy in the evenings to effectively monitor time limits and media content.
Ask kids an open-ended question about what they want to earn, and you’ll probably get a list of activities that are too time consuming or expensive to do regularly or tangible items that are expensive and would take much longer than one day to earn. Presenting your child with a list of daily rewards that they might enjoy can help them think outside of the box and focus their attention on coming up with rewards that are both feasible and motivating. From this list they can select their top choices, or add additional options, and then use their selections to create a smaller “reward menu.” Every day when they achieve their daily behavior goals, they can choose one item from their personalized reward menu.
The list of quick and easy reward ideas below can be a good starting point. You may want to create your own refined list from this larger selection, based on what you think will be the best fit for your family. Just remember that kids’ preferences and interests change quickly, and you might be surprised to learn that something they your child couldn’t get enough of last week isn’t even on their radar today! So, always involve your child in the final reward selection process.
20 Quick and Easy Reward Ideas
- A later bedtime (5-10 minutes later)
- Read an extra book with a parent
- Make a 5-minute video of singing, dancing, telling jokes, etc.
- A 5 or 10-minute phone call or video chat with a grandparent, other relative, or friend
- Choosing the radio station in the car
- A coupon to get out of doing a chore
- Choose a special treat for their school lunch or snack
- Invite a friend to join them for a weekend activity or get together
- A coupon for fun one-on-one time with a parent
- Let the dog or cat sleep in the bedroom
- Help plan or prepare favorite snack or meal
- Build a pillow fort in the living room
- Have a picnic-style dinner on a blanket in the living room or outside when the weather is nice
- Choose individual arts & craft supplies (e.g., a tube of paint, one tub of Play-Doh, a sheet of stickers, a role of mini patterned Duck Tape®, etc.)
- Download one song or short video
- Pick out a special outfit to wear to school
- Create funny hairstyles with hair gel or mouse for 5 minutes before a bath or shower
- Add a fizzy or bubbly colorful bath bomb or bubble bath to an evening bath
- Color pictures that can be used as placements during dinner
- Get to school 10 minutes early to play on the play structure (or stay 10 minutes after pick-up)