If you’re a parent of a child with ADHD, you understand the challenges that can come with everyday activities. The traits of ADHD are commonly misunderstood. The distractible, hyperactive, and impulsive traits might make it seem like your child is misbehaving or disobedient, leaving you feeling stressed and frustrated. One of the most common experiences for parents of kids with ADHD is that their child lacks motivation or more importantly lacks consistency with motivation. You might have had moments where you thought “why is it so difficult for my child to get started on a task” or “I wish my child had the motivation to complete their homework the same way they have motivation with playing video games”. For any child, goal-oriented behaviour might not come easy, but for a child with ADHD, lighting the fire of motivation comes as a more complex challenge.
The first part of this puzzle is understanding the underlying issues. Children with ADHD display deficits in executive functioning. Executive functioning skills are a set of mental skills involved in working memory, organizing, planning, flexible thinking, and self-control. Trouble with executive functioning can make it very difficult to balance tasks efficiently, pay attention to relevant information or follow directions. For parents, it is important to understand that if your child is struggling in these areas, it is going to affect their motivation!
There’s a core reason as to why your child might be finding it challenging to overcome the barriers of motivation…and it all has to do with reward systems. One trademark of children with ADHD is low levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This chemical messenger is responsible for letting the brain know a reward is on the way and we need to take action! If there is a deficiency of dopamine, a child with ADHD might display a delayed sensitivity to reward. In other words, there is more difficulty seeking out rewards, leading to reduced motivation.
But as a parent, what does this mean? You might be wondering how you can foster more motivation in your child with ADHD. There are four main components involved in boosting motivation in your child!
One of the first ways in building motivation is through connection. A child needs to trust the intentions of an adult and feel safe. Connect with your child in ways that you know will be most meaningful. Acknowledge any obstacles they are trying to overcome. Most kids with ADHD will experience intense rejection sensitivity if they perceive criticism – so express warmth towards them when they are faced with challenges and encourage them to do their best!
Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to increase
the frequency of any desired behaviour! As a parent of a child with ADHD, you’ll want to work on praising a child more often than you reprimand them. When you praise them for doing something that requires a lot of response effort, what you are communicating to your child is that their strengths are valued! Rather than focusing on areas of weakness.
As we grow older, we learn more about ourselves and what makes us unique
. We come to learn about how our own beliefs might influence our actions. We become experts in ourselves and gravitate towards hobbies or activities that we know spark joy! Understanding yourself is crucial in building motivation! For kids, this applies just as much! When you help your child build self-awareness, you are guiding them to understand their own motives or desires. What do they think of themselves? How do they think others see them? Do they think that peers or parents believe in them? Make use of personality quizzes and work towards some active goal setting! What parts of their personality help them thrive?
When you allow your child to be more in control of their own actions, it provides them with a greater sense of competence! Providing choice is an effective way to build more autonomy. For example, if a large task or routine needs to be completed, allow your child some freedom of choice. Instead of instructing them to “start your bedtime routine”, try offering a choice such as, “Would you like to brush your teeth first or put on your pyjamas first?” This way, it is communicated that both need to get done, but your child can govern how their behaviours are structured. These small habits can restore motivation in times when kids are resistant or defiant towards demands!
Are any of these core components missing from your child’s life? What gaps are you able to identify? By creating connection, praise, increasing self-awareness, and building autonomy, your child’s motivation can become more goal-driven and less of a chore!
At TNPC, we offer a 10 week brain training program for children with ADHD to help manage symptoms, such as a lack of motivation. Connect with us today if you are interested and book your free 20-minute consult here.