A Helpful ADHD Tip – Chore Sticks for Kids: A Stress-free Chore Hack for ADHD Families
Firstly, if you haven’t heard of Chore Sticks, you can read my recently rewritten introduction here. If you’re familiar with them, then I’m happy to inform you that not only am I still using them after 3 months, but I’ve recently introduced my ADHD kids to them as well! Family chore time has never been easier!
The only adaptation I had to make was to sort the chore sticks I already made into two groups; one that contains kid-friendly tasks and the other that doesn’t. That’s it. Done.
How’s it work?
Our latest schedule involves doing chores from about 11:30 -12:15 Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. On Wednesday and Saturday, we do more or less depending on whatever else is happening on those days. Sundays are generally just for relaxing and spending time together.
When it’s time for chores, everyone grabs a stick out of the jar. We start with daily chores and make sure those are all done before moving onto weekly and monthly chores. When someone completes a task, it goes into the completed jar and they get a new one. We just keep working like that until our time is up. Easy!
Now, my kids are little. There are few things they can accomplish totally independently around the house. Even simple things like gathering laundry and collecting the trash have to be somewhat supervised. But I chose tasks for their jar that they can accomplish with as little direction as possible and if there isn’t anything left they can do by themselves, I’ll choose a task and have them help me with it in any way they can.
A Learning Element
As much as possible, I give instructions for their chosen task and then leave them to do it themselves. I let them complete as much of it as they can independently. And I don’t redo it in front of them when they’re done! If they’ve done their best, I leave it the way it is. If it has to be redone, I’ll wait until they aren’t around and fix it, and make sure to give extra attention to that issue the next time they do it. I want them to have the confidence that they can do these chores by themselves and that they’re really making a difference!
As it applies, I will let the older children give the younger children instructions, also. Teaching others is a great way to solidify knowledge and skills. My approach to chores is pretty much the same approach I take with the independent portion of our homeschool.
And speaking of homeschool, doing chores like this totally counts towards their education. Especially for ADHD individuals, you can’t underestimate the importance of learning cleaning and other life skills well before adulthood. I didn’t start keeping house until after I had kids, so that really set me up for failure. By the time my kids are independent, they should have a whole childhood full of strategies and knowledge for keeping a livable home in spite of ADHD.
Why I love it:
I don’t have to assign chores.
As and ADHD mom, keeping up with a chore chart and/or schedule is just… well, it’s not going to happen. I’ve tried it. Many times. Many ways. Having to stop and decide which chores my kids are going to do and trying to remember who did what last week is just an inconvenience and a hindrance to me. And my kids don’t get excited about doing the same chores every single day or keeping up with their charts.
It’s a surprise.
My kids love the surprise element of reaching in the jar and getting a random chore to do. They don’t always like what they get, but they like the fact there’s a chance they might get something easy (or even fun depending on what they currently enjoy doing).
It’s a race.
When you finish one and you’ve done a good job, you get another. They race in hopes of pulling the chores they like and to see who gets the most done. It’s a natural sense of competition. Plus, our chore time ends at the same time every single day, so as a family, we’re rushing to get as many done as we can before it’s time to start school.
It’s a family effort.
We make chore time a family event at our house. As I mentioned earlier, our exact schedule might vary, but whenever we’re working, we’re all working. We’ve got music playing and we’re high-fiving each other. We’re learning how to work as a team and keep our house livable. We’re learning how to get through the tasks we hate doing, to encourage one another, and to combat our ADHD obstacles as we go along. And I like to think that by doing it this way, we’re all setting examples for and learning by examples of one another, creating a sense of unity and respect for each other and the space we share.
A Bonus Tip: When it’s STILL too much…
Don’t forget that the younger the child, the more overwhelming even small tasks might seem. And every child – especially your ADHD children – will have different obstacles and preferences. Just because picking them out is fun doesn’t mean getting through it is easy. “S”, for example, loves helping with the dishes, but she hates picking up her toys. Friendly competition and a sense of teamwork isn’t always enough to get kids motivated.
For difficult chores, I suggest employing a timer, breaking the task into even smaller pieces, breaking it into two sessions with a short break in between, or even just keeping the child company. It can even be prudent to talk to your child about what he/she thinks would help.
Whatever strategy you use, though, remember that this is an exercise to equip your child to self-regulate in the future. If you constantly bail them out of tasks they won’t do for whatever reason, then they won’t learn to persevere through them. Employing strategies and giving them options will help them to think through their obstacles in the future. The more they accomplish tasks they thought they couldn’t get through, the more confident they will become.
Kids Speak Up: An interview with my children – What do you like about using chore sticks?
“S” (age 5 1/2): I like it when chores go outside.
(She means doing outdoor chores, like sweeping the patio or taking out the trash.)
“A” (age almost 4): I want to do chores, because I just like doing chores every day. And after chores we get to do school. I don’t even want to sleep or anything!
(She’s in denial. It’s nap time.)
“K” (age almost 3): Chore Sticks! H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P!
(Well, at least she knows the middle of her alphabet… Perhaps she’s training to be a politician? If you don’t have an answer, just fill it with sophisticated nonsense…)
What method for doing chores works best for your kids? There are tons of different approaches out there! This one is working best for our family right now. I might combine it with a reward system soon, but I’m not decided on it. You can read more about chores for adhd kids here and here. I’d love to hear from other ADHD parents! Feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email.