Tips for Helping ADHD Kids Follow Through on Commitments

parenting kids with adhd

Sometimes children with ADHD can have negative experiences that make them think they can't possibly be responsible. However, there are some strategies they can learn that will increase their responsibility for a lifetime.

Organization Helps With Responsibility

Helping kids with ADHD follow through is a challenge. Often they genuinely forget to follow through with tasks because they lack the organizational skills to keep track of their obligations. In other cases, parents allowed them to use their diagnosis of ADHD as a reason for their failure to follow through. People with ADHD, just like a person with another diagnosis, are capable of getting up in the morning, and being productive and respectful members of society.

student working

It starts with teaching kids with ADHD organizational strategies that they can use for the rest of their life. For example, teach students with ADHD how to organize themselves using a planner. They need to learn how to map out tasks in their planner. This process starts by teaching them the routine of using a planner. For example, as a student first, they would go through and put in the deadlines for any tests, assignments, or projects they have in a course in their planner.

But being organized is a lot more than just writing down deadlines in a notebook. You have to teach students with ADHD what to do once they have the deadlines in front of them. Just like in their careers when they are assigned a project, they have to learn how to break tasks down into smaller tasks. For example, if they have a big test coming up they need to make a study plan. They need to set goals each day for what they are going to study, how long they will study, and the strategies they will use to study. Having the student keep track of their assignments, and set daily plans and goals will make them more invested in the process of learning. Using a planner daily will increase follow through in terms of completing tasks and meeting deadlines.

Color Coding Works

It's easy for ADHD students to blame their academic struggles on their diagnosis. While their diagnosis presents challenges for them in academic settings, it can't be used as an excuse for failures. We have to enable ADHD students for success by teaching them the strategies they need to be successful. We have to model and teach them strategies they can use their entire life.

One strategy involves color coding which is proven to work with students with ADHD.


As students color code their planner, get them a colored bracelet that corresponds to the color they use for each class in their planner. For example, if they have homework to do for English and they write it in blue, make them a blue plastic bracelet to slip on their wrist in class when the teacher assigns it. That becomes a visual reminder for the rest of the day that they have homework in that class. Then when they get home after they have done that assignment, they can put the bracelet in a pencil case in their binder.

Take color coding a step further. Have a folder for each subject that is in the same color as the bracelet, and the color they use to write the homework in their planner. Color coding reinforces the organization and will help them follow through and be responsible for their work.

Use Pets to Teach Responsibility

Pets come with many benefits for your child with ADHD and your family, including teaching responsibility and routine. Pets are immediate positive reinforcement. If you get a pet, whether it is a cat, dog, or a gerbil, they will help reinforce routine. Set a schedule with your child for feeding, walking, brushing, etc. their pet. The routine reinforces responsibility because your child will receive love and affection back from the animal for being cared for.

child and pet

Additionally, if you get a larger animal like a cat or a dog, they won't be ignored. If your child forgets to feed the dog, the dog is going to remind them that they need to be fed. Animals have a way of making sure they are heard in a house. This will help reinforce the routine that helps build responsibility because pets are creatures of habit. If you always feed them at 4:30 and forget, they will vocalize and remind you.

Pets also reinforce the idea for your ADHD child that they can be responsible. Depending on the age of your child, they may have come to think that they can't be responsible because they tend to forget to do or turn in assignments. A pet is a good way to overcome that mindset. They will learn that they can remember to do things. If they can remember to feed their cat, they can find strategies to help them remember to turn in their homework. Sometimes for ADHD students, that is the motivation they need to try strategies to help them be responsible for other aspects of their life.

By Rachel Tustin
January 2017
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