There are Only 5 Motivators for People with ADHD
This is a quick tip summary of a more detailed article explaining the function of Motivation and its importance to kids with complex challenges. Motivation is one of the most essential concepts for parents to grasp in our community. 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 critical. It's not just something nice – it's really 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 (though NOT everyone with ADHD is motivated by all of them) needs. 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 it with a different acronym: PINCH: play/creativity/humor, interest, novelty, competition, hurry-up/urgency.
Remember PINCH (P.I.N.C.H.):
- Play (Humor/creativity)
- Hurry Up (Urgency)
When you identify motivators for your kids, it really works. 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 (interest) in the morning.
Also, when kids identify their own motivators, it 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, accept that they need the motivation to take 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 prefer it at the end of each paragraph). Make a game out of ... ANYTHING! Sometimes, you might even let them do something fun BEFORE the homework, like read the comics, and then get started. If it helps them get started, you'll find it might even be a motivator for you!