How to Avoid Common Mistakes When Using Positive Reinforcement for ADHD

Positive reinforcement is effective but mistakes can sabotage it. Avoid these:

Don’t use food as the only reward

  • Food treats should be occasional, not the main reward.
  • Use non-food rewards like activities, privileges, praise.
  • Mixing food and behavior can create unhealthy habits.

Don’t allow reward menu to get stale

  • Novelty is key to keep them engaged. Rotate reward options.
  • Get their input on prizes they’d be motivated to earn.
  • Refreshing the rewards sustains their interest.

Here are some additional resources that you may find helpful: ADHD Resources

Don’t use charts that are too big

  • Long charts with too many spaces can seem daunting.
  • Keep charts achievable with 10-20 spaces.
  • Move to a new chart with a bigger reward when filled.

Don’t leave charts up indefinitely

  • Leave filled charts up briefly to celebrate success.
  • Then take finished charts down promptly.
  • Keeps focus on earning the next reward.

Don’t allow inconsistency

  • Positive reinforcement only works if it’s consistent.
  • Stick to the plan as much as possible.
  • If you stop using it, the behaviors often will too.

Don’t forget praise

  • Praise is free and should always be included.
  • Be specific about behaviors you want to encourage.
  • Shows you notice and appreciate their hard work.


  • Rotate food and non-food rewards.
  • Keep charts achievable then promptly start new ones.
  • Praise frequently and consistently.
  • Stick with the plan - consistency is key!
  • Avoiding common mistakes results in positive reinforcement success.

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Here are some additional resources that you may find helpful: ADHD Resources