Quick Tip

There are Only 5 Motivators for People with ADHD


Important Note:

This is a quick tip summary of a more detailed article explaining the function of Motivation and its importance to kids with ADHD and similar complex challenges of executive function. Motivation is one of the most essential concepts for parents to grasp in this realm. For more detail, please take a few minutes to review the more in-depth article here. For more on how to use motivators as part of a coach approach to parenting, get your copy of The Essential Guide to Raising Complex Kids with ADHD, Anxiety, and More.


When kids face challenges with executive function, finding Motivation for anything and everything that “needs to get done” is not just something nice – it's essential. Without motivators, executive function-challenged brains lack the “just get it done” button required to activate, stay with, and complete a task.

There are basically five motivators that the ADHD brain needs, though NOT everyone with ADHD is motivated by all of them. Psychologist William Dodson talks about an importance-based nervous system (motivated by things like obligations and deadlines) vs. an interest-based nervous system (motivated by what's compelling enough to get activated). He refers to the five motivating factors with the acronym INCUP: interest, novelty, challenge, urgency, and passion. At ImpactParents, we teach a similar idea with the easy-to-remember acronym: PINCH.


  • Play (includes humor & creativity)
  • Interest
  • Novelty
  • Competition, Collaboration & Connection
  • Hurry Up (Urgency)

It is really effective identify motivators for yourself or your kids. For example, we had one family whose entire routine changed when they started waking up their 3rd-grade son with tickling. It wouldn't work for all kids, but this kid NEEDED the FUN (humor), the arousal energy (urgency), and the connection with his dad (connection) in the morning.

To increase effectiveness, you can invite your kids to identify their own motivators, which sets them up for long-term success. They have a lifetime to manage their complicated brains, and the sooner they learn to use Motivation for their own benefit, the better!

So ... I invite you to accept that people with ADHD need motivation to take independent action. Learn spelling words or math facts while bouncing a basketball; set a timer to see how many spelling words a kid can write before the timer goes off; put a gummy bear at the end of each page of a textbook (my teenagers preferred it at the end of each paragraph). Make a game out of ... ANYTHING! For some, you might even let them do something fun BEFORE their homework, like reading the comics, and then get started. If it helps them get started, you'll find it might even be a motivator for you!

Want to Motivate Your Kids?

Download a free guide "The Parent's Guide to Motivating Your Complex Kid" to help your child find the motivation to do... anything and everything!

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