Reward System for Kids with ADHD

Instructor: Abigail Cook
Implementing a reward system may help students with ADHD behave appropriately in the classroom. This lesson looks at how different types of reward systems work.

Students with ADHD

Educating a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) can be a challenge for any teacher. Students with ADHD have strengths and weaknesses that set them apart from their peers. This requires teachers to get creative in lesson planning, classroom instruction and behavior intervention.

While each student is unique, many students with ADHD share similar behavior issues that can make it difficult for them to succeed in school. Some of these issues are:

  • Having a short temper
  • Arguing with teachers and other adults
  • Annoying peers and teachers intentionally
  • Refusing to comply with teacher requests

These behaviors not only affect the classroom environment, but they also may be barriers to learning for students with ADHD. If these students do not get help with their inappropriate classroom behaviors, they may fall behind their peers, score lower on standardized tests, and fail to complete their assignments.

Implementing positive consequences for good behavior, or a reward system is an effective way to help students with ADHD.

Reward Systems

Most children, including those with ADHD, respond better to praise and positive reinforcement than punishment. This means that if we want to help eliminate problem behaviors in the classroom, teaching and rewarding good behavior should be our first response. Focusing on a reward system for students with ADHD will result in more positive interaction between teachers and students, which leads to higher student motivation and self-confidence.

Let's look at the key elements to consider before implementing a reward system.

  • Target behaviors
  • Rewards
  • Token economy

Target Behaviors

Target behaviors are the appropriate behaviors you want the student to practice. We cannot expect a student's behavior to improve if we randomly reward them for 'good behavior'. Specific, concrete expectations are more effective. Target behaviors are listed in a simple and positive way. For example, rather than No running in the halls you might simply use Walk as a target behavior.

The behaviors will vary depending on the student's abilities and your expectations. Some students may need a system set up for one behavior, while others may have a checklist of things they are working on throughout the day. The following list includes some examples of target behaviors.

  • Say nice words
  • Turn work in on time
  • Complete work
  • Raise your hand
  • Use inside voice
  • Follow directions
  • Hands to yourself


The purpose of a reward system is to look for opportunities to positively reinforce good behaviors. For the system to be effective, teachers should work with individual students to determine how they will be rewarded. This ensures that the reward is motivating enough to change the student's behavior. Among other things, rewards may include computer time, stickers, treats, a phone call home or breaks.

Some type of verbal praise should be given when a student earns a reward. This gives teachers a chance to tell students that they are doing well, while reinforcing the target behaviors. Some examples of praise statements are:

  • Thank you for sitting in your seat.
  • I love that you finished your assignment.
  • Awesome work! Thanks for following directions and hanging up your backpack.
  • I am so proud of you for walking in the halls.

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