Rewarding Children and ADD

Rewarding Children and ADD
Research has shown that when a child with ADD/ADHD knows that a strong reward is waiting for him; the reward (medication also works) helps to switch off the region of the brain that controls mind wandering and that allows the child to focus attention. How does this work?

Brain research done at the University of Nottingham shows that rewards can help children with ADD attend to a task. The Default Mode Network (DMN) is the natural state for the mind. It controls daydreaming and creativity. When attention to a task is needed, the brain switches to an attending mode. Children with ADD have a faulty switching mechanism. Their brains tend to stay in the wandering mode. The brain won’t switch off the DMN. Two things seem to help this faulty off switch. Stimulant medications and rewards tend to help with the problem, according to these researchers in the MIDAS (Motivation Inhibition and Development in ADHD Study) group.

Given that strong rewards help the brain of the child with Attention Deficit Disorder make the switch from the DMN to an attending state, what is a parent to do to help the child? Find out what rewards the child wants! This doesn’t mean that parents need to buy out the toy store or empty their bank account.

Positive Remarks and Genuine Praise

Many children like to please the adults in their lives. Too often, they don’t feel like they are doing so well in that department. Why? As adults, it is our job to correct errors when we see our children make them. Usually, we are quite good at the correction part. It is also our job to give genuine praise. We are less likely to give verbal praise than we are to give correction. That gives kids a skewed vision of how well they are doing.

One reward that most kids desire is a positive remark. Acknowledge when the child does something well, or even when the child is showing progress! Be specific. “Good job,” doesn’t carry the same punch as specific praise. “You have gotten so much better at cleaning your room. You picked up all of your socks today!” Positive remarks and genuine praise cost a moment of your time.

You can play games designed to help your child achieve at higher levels in school. This site has several games to help develop math skills. Really, for most kids, a parent's time is a huge reward!

10 Free or Inexpensive Rewards for Younger Children

1. Snuggle with your child and read their favorite story with them.
2. Make “finger-paints” from instant pudding. Color it with food coloring. Have the child finger-paint on a cookie sheet or other slick surface. Make sure that everybody is wearing old clothes.
3. Make cookies or muffins together.
4. Have a puzzle hour. Put puzzles together. Do hidden pictures, word searches or Sudoku. Find coloring sheets or paper toys on the internet.
5. Go to a park and play.
6. If your library has a play area, go there. Let your child check out books, too!
7. Use a building program like Legos, and build something special together.
8. Play Uno or another card game together.
9. Let your child choose a special meal. Make the meal together.
10. Take a neighborhood walk or bike ride. Do a scavenger hunt looking for whatever is a special interest of your child.

10 Free or Inexpensive Rewards for Older Children

1. Get two booklets for the written driving test, and study them together.
2. Let the young person get his driver’s permit.
3. Go camping, and allow your child to bring a friend. This child should be somebody that you know well. One of the best things that we did for our youngster was allowing him to take a friend camping with us in Colorado. His friend was very well known to us, and was almost a part of our family.
4. Allow your child to join a youth group or to take a class that he wants to take.
5. Let your child choose a special meal. Make the meal together and let him invite a friend over for the meal.
6. Make coupons for privileges that your child wants. When you want to reward him, give him the coupon to use at a time of his choice, subject to your approval, of course.
7. Give your young person driving lessons.
8. Let the child paint his room to suit his tastes.
9. Give your child a “skip a chore” coupon.
10. Allow your child to plan a family outing. Tell him how much he has to spend, and ask that he choose activities that the whole family will enjoy. (You could also have him plan an outing for him and some friends.)

The most important thing to remember about rewarding a child is to choose something that the child desires. The best way to do this is to ask the child what they want! A reward is only reinforcing when it is a preferred object or activity. It doesn’t need to be expensive; it only needs to be desired.

Research Resource:
Retrieved May 30, 2011, from¬/releases/2011/01/

This kit will help a girl, ages 9-12 learn to reward herself to help achieve her goals.

You Can Do It!: A Kit to Help You Do Just about Anything [With Stickers for Rewarding Small Successes and 6 Smart Cards to Keep You Going & Feeling St (American Girl Library)

Boys from about the ages 10-14 enjoy these Percy Jackson books. This inexpensive boxed set would make a great reward.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Paperback Boxed Set (Books 1-3)

You Should Also Read:
Attention Deficit Disorder and Rewards
ADD and Memorizing Multiplication Facts
Building School Success with ADD EBook

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This content was written by Connie Mistler Davidson. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Connie Mistler Davidson for details.