My son’s Doctor told me it was normal for him to have little ‘collections’. Since there is so much in his world that he cannot control his collections of knick-knacks is something he can. What he didn’t tell me is that his little collections will be in pants pockets, on his dresser, in clothes drawers, in boxes, and every other place you can cram a few lego men, some papers, paper clip and what ever other knickknack’s his imagination takes hold of!
At a certain point enough is enough and he must clean his room. After asking, begging, pleading and yelling ‘Clean Your Room’, he says he will. He goes into his room for awhile, comes back out, looks me in the eyes and tell me his room is clean. I am overjoyed by this, until I go into his room and see his ‘cleaning’ includes shoving everything into his closet, or under his bed, or in his nightstand.
Which brings to the first thing you have to do when dealing with your ADHD kid. Define what ‘cleaning your room’ means to your child. Create a list, make a poster, make a laminated dry erase, whatever works. Sit down with your child and go over each item on the list and what is expected of them. Focus on each task separately until they can do each aspect by themselves.
Step 2 is something more the parents need to do rather than the kids. Stop tidying up after your kids! Kids leave stuff everywhere, on stairs, under chairs, in hallways. If you are the one who goes around after them picking everything up they will never learn to clean up their own messes. We have all walked into our child’s room and stepped on legos, books, figurines, papers, pens and a whole lot of other stuff too! For my son he started clearing a pathway at night so I could come to kiss him good night and wouldn’t step on anything. It didn’t take long for me to step off the path and break a toy of his and after that he makes sure everything is picked up every night.
Simply put less = cleaner. So simplify and declutter. The less you have, the less you need to keep neat. Kids get a LOT of toys and presents from family. Only leave a few out at a time and pack up the rest and then every few weeks take some out for them to play with and put others in the box. Once your child gets used to the idea they will know if they want a toy out of the box they must put one away. This also works great with books and clothes too! With ADHD out of sight truly is out of mind. I use this technique all the time to clear kids floors and then after a few months if they haven’t asked for the items they go off to good will!
We tell ourselves that our kids don’t fit into the school system, sports teams, social groups because of the way their ADHD brain works. It’s no different in your home. You need to think like your child. If asking your child to hang their coat in the closet when they come home isn’t working and you are tired of seeing their coat on the floor, perhaps put a coat hook that is at their eye level and help your child develop the routine of coming home and hanging up their coat right away.
Lastly, remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. It will take patience, persistence and more patience. ADHD kids can learn to clean their room, but they first must get used to the routine and make it part of their daily lives. This is a very important skill that will be harder for them to learn, but they will benefit their entire lives once they get it.