Socks in the Dogfood: Managing Distractible ADHD Kids


Socks In The Dog Food Bin? Yes.

I found my teenage son's socks in the dog food bin.

No joke. I even took this picture to show you.


It's classic, isn't it?

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A Temporary Lapse

You know what happened, don't you? Early in the morning, brain checked out, he was on his way to put his socks in the laundry basket (upon my request) when he remembered he needed to feed the dogs. So he stopped to feed the dogs, and accidentally left his socks in the dog food bin (because, I'm guessing, he needed two hands, so he put the socks down “temporarily”).

Accidentally? Temporarily? You're skeptical, I get it. But yes, in a matter of sorts, this was an “accident” that came about from a “temporary” choice – made permanent through distraction.

You see, his distracted ADHD brain didn't finish one thing before it started another, and so he ended up with socks in the dog food bin. Haven't you ever found your keys in the refrigerator? Or your phone in the bathroom?

A Learning Opportunity

So you know how Diane and I are always saying you have to manage ADHD, because you can't fix it? Well this is a great example. While you can limit distractions, you're not really going to “fix” them. They're going to happen, and our kids can't really prevent that.

But we can teach our kids to use strategies to stay focused on one task at a time, through to completion. For example, had my son said to himself out loud, “I'm going to put my socks in the hamper,” that would have drawn his attention to it. Maybe it's not so crazy to talk to yourself – not when it can help assure that you're more likely to complete a task.

So how do you manage the daily challenges of distractibility?

Here are some strategies to try to keep the brain focused when it has a tendency to get distracted:

  • Get very clear about the specific task you're doing
  • Externalize the task either by voice or a written note
  • Pay attention to keeping the brain activated with sleep, exercise, nutrition, etc.
  • Have a plan for getting back on track as soon as you notice you've gotten distracted (make sure the plan does NOT include beating yourself up for getting distracted)
  • Ask others to help you with accountability (my daughter likes an occasional check-in when she's doing her homework. All I have to say is, “how are you doing?” and she'll either say, “great” or “thanks – I was distracted, now I'm getting back to…”)
  • Use timers and other structures as reminders

The bottom line, here, is that you can't avoid inevitable distractions – even for those of you who do NOT have ADHD. So search for the humor in the chaos whenever you can – and just ignore those people who think talking to yourself is crazy. Truth is, it's one of the sanest things you can do!

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