The secret formula for how to clean with a child who has ADHD

Cleaning a bedroom with ADHDBefore, “Bub, please go clean your room,” could end in 2 possible ways.

Possibility #1

2 hours later I would find him quietly playing in his room. The room would look exactly the same as it did when I made the request for him to clean it.

Possibility #2

Full. On. Meltdown. I’m talking tears, body convulsions, and a trip to the liquor store for mommy.

But fear not fellow parents of ADHDers!

I have the secret formula

The trick to working with anyone who has ADHD is to break jobs into smaller steps.

Step 1: Put all the big toys away

I give my little guy one toy to focus on first, usually guns because they are the biggest and bulkiest. Once all the guns are picked up we can move on to books. After books, I’ll have him focus on army guys. Repeat until everything has been picked up.

Step 2: Pick up piles on the floor

While he is picking up the big toys, I sweep the floor. Then he gets to help me sort these piles using the same strategy in step 1.

Step 3: Keep, give away, trash

We have a trash bag for trash and another container (usually an empty laundry basket) for toys he no longer wants to keep (a.k.a. giveaways). As he is picking things up if they are trash they go straight into the bag and if he no longer wants it, straight into the laundry basket.

Step 4: Take out the trash and giveaways

Now that the room has been all cleaned, take the trash to the garbage can and drop the giveaways off at a worthy cause.

The secret sauce

Make it fun. Let him wear the goggles, cape, or act like a robot while he is working. This will help keep him more engaged.

Help. Asking him to clean his room by himself makes him feel overwhelmed. He has no idea where to start. This has always ended in tantrums (see possibility #2 above).

Redirect. He WILL get distracted. Gently remind him of his task.

Good enough. Practice the art of getting things good enough and avoid seeking perfection. You have a limited window of time before you are fighting a battle you can’t win. Use your time wisely. Focus on what’s most important and leave the details for another time. For example, get the floor cleared and save dusting the furniture for another day.

This simple strategy has kept my fella’s room clean and me sober. I hope it works as well for your family!


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