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How to Help Children with ADHD Set and Achieve Goals

ADHD Child and Goal Setting

One characteristic of kids with ADHD that every parent is familiar with is the slow development of “executive function.” Setting clear goals and working towards them is both the toughest and the most necessary skill that many of these children must acquire in order to be successful. The following are some research-supported tips for helping your child master the crucial skills of goal-setting.

Focus on Personal Best Goals

Helping ADHD kids set goals based on reaching their own “personal best” results in outstanding outcomes, according to research conducted at the University of Sydney. Personal best goals were associated with greater engagement in school activities as well as homework completion, planning and perseverance. Even more encouraging is the fact that ADHD children benefited to a greater extent than other children from the approach of setting goals based purely on the child’s own track record.

Use a Token System to Track Goals

A numerical method for holding children accountable is very useful for keeping everyone's expectations clear. Kara Tamanini, MS, LMHC, writing in Psych Central, suggests creating a “home token economy.” A few goals are mutually agreed upon by parent and child, and each goal is assigned a token value. More difficult goals earn more tokens, which can later be exchanged for privileges or rewards. Negative behaviors result in tokens being subtracted. It is important to keep the token system simple, covering only a few goals at a time, and to involve the child in creating the token system.

Put Goals to the “SMART” Test

A great way to help your ADHD child set goals with the greatest chance for success is to make sure the goals pass the “SMART” test created by ADHD And You. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. This research-based approach is actually quite simple, resulting in clearly spelled-out goals such as “Complete homework with X or fewer reminders,” where X is an agreed-upon number.

Demonstrate Goal Setting

To convey solidarity with your child and let him or her know that everyone faces similar challenges, it’s helpful to demonstrate your own goal-setting process. ADDitude suggests confiding in your child something specific that you are personally trying to achieve today, and asking the child to help you notice whether you succeed.

The wonderful thing about helping your child set small achievable goals is that he or she will experience many individual instances of success. Discovering that goal-setting results in good feelings will motivate the child to increasingly want to repeat the process. This chain of successes sets up a positive feedback loop, so that the child can move forward and recognize new strengths and capabilities.

If you suspect your child has ADHD or has already been diagnosed with ADHD, contact us online or find a center near you to learn more about how the Brain Balance Program can help.

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