5 Unrealistic Expectations People Place on Kids with ADHD

Kids with ADHD

If you are raising or working with kids with ADHD you probably have realized that your typical approaches aren’t working with these kids.

I greet exhausted and frustrated parents every week in my therapy office. I hear things like, “He just won’t listen!” And “If it is a video game – he can focus just fine!”


Working or parenting kids with ADHD can be exhausting, especially if you have the wrong expectations. Here are some expectations that people should throw out the window - and here is what they should do instead.

What I have learned, is that caring and loving parents, educators, caregivers and relatives often misunderstand ADHD and therefore they don’t get kids with ADHD.

It is important to highlight that I meet tons of parents and educators who can  teach me tons on how to work with kids with ADHD – but this article is for those parents, teachers and relatives that may struggle because their expectations are off base.

Parenting or working with kids with ADHD can be completely exhausting. Even after an hour therapy session with them – my energy is spent (although it doesn’t take much these days)!

The biggest lesson I try to teach people is to stop paddling upstream. When you try to work against a child’s high energy and lack of focus you will both walk away feeling frustrated and unproductive.

Here are 5 unrealistic expectations some (not all) people place on kids with ADHD:


Kids with ADHD fidget, squirm, hop, bounce, chew, pick, tear and tap. They have an internal engine that isn’t going to slow down. Getting angry or telling them to stop isn’t going to help. They aren’t doing it to upset you or their peers. They aren’t trying to be distracting. They physiologically have a hard time stopping.

* Get them fidget toys they can keep in their pocket.

* Get them cool textured chew necklaces that are specifically made to chew on.

* Get a Small indoor trampoline that they can jump on.


Kids with ADHD have a hard time following multiple step directions. When you say, “Go brush your teeth, get your pajamas on, clean up your toys and come back downstairs” kids with ADHD may only hear “Go brush your teeth.”

If you want kids to succeed, give them one direction at a time. “Go brush your teeth and let me know when you are done.” This will make them feel more successful and it will reduce your level of frustration.


People will often dispel the notion that kids with ADHD have a focusing issue because of the ability for these kids to focus so effectively on what they enjoy. Kids with ADHD can’t focus on a ten-minute homework assignment, but they can build Legos and play video games for hours.

This doesn’t mean you are being manipulated. This doesn’t mean that these kids are lazy.

We all have varying degrees of focus depending on our interest level. Kids with ADHD have a harder time tuning out all the distractions around them. When a task isn’t engaging this struggle magnifies.


How many times do you find yourself saying “Lower your voice.” Or “Calm down.” Kids with ADHD often have no internal gauge on how loud they are being or how hyper they are acting. This is often a social struggle as well. Getting angry because they are bouncing around right after you told them to stop – won’t help.

Help these kids by giving them a 1-10 gauge. Let them know they should be at a 5 for volume. When they are being too loud or too rambunctious let them know what number they are at. “You are at an 8, please bring it to a 5.” You can also turn down an imaginary radio dial as a visual cue when trying to prompt them non-verbally if that doesn’t embarrass them.


How often do you feel like kids with ADHD might be deaf? You are talking directly to them and they act as if they haven’t heard a word you said. Unless their eyes are directly on you and they are not trying to do another activity – they may not be hearing you.

Don’t shout directions from another room. Make sure you tell them to stop doing what they are doing before you start talking to them. Turn off the TV, tablet or phone and ask them to listen to you. If you aren’t sure they are listening, make them repeat what you said.

These tips are not rocket science, however there are many well-intentioned people out there who have some basic misconceptions and expectations that don’t work with kids with ADHD.

How do you manage kids with ADHD? Do you have some tips that work well in your home, school or work? Share with other readers and help them out!

Do you know someone who could benefit from these ADHD tips? Share this article with them.


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