Morning Mayhem? Try These 7 Steps

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

Mornings can be hard for kids with ADHD and their parents. Having ADHD can make it hard to wake up in the morning, keep track of time, and get things done independently. So, it’s very common for families of kids with ADHD to feel rushed, stressed, and disorganized before the school and workdays even begin. Starting your day off this way is hard on you and your child. A few simple changes can make mornings better.

  • Good mornings start with a good nights’ sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children between the ages of 6-13 require 9 to 11 hours of sleep, and teens between the ages of 14-17 need 8 to 10 hours of sleep.
  • Wake your child up at the same time every day. This routine will help regulate their circadian rhythm and make it easier for them to get out of bed in the morning.
  • Create a checklist. Together with your child, make a list of the things they need to do each morning. Try to keep the list limited to no more than 7 items. For example:
    • Wake up with only 1 reminder from mom by 7:20
    • Brush my teeth
    • Wash my face
    • Brush my hair
    • Get dressed
    • Eat breakfast and finish my 7:50
  • Post the checklist in a spot where your child can see it every morning. Make it look fun and let your child decorate it -- it helps your child feel like they own the routine too.
  • When your child finishes all the steps, provide a lot of praise. Make sure your praise is truthful, specific and positive. “Great job brushing your teeth without needing a reminder.” or “7:45am and done? High five! Way to go!”
  • Consider providing your child with a reward as an extra incentive to finish their morning routine independently and on time. Rewards can be simple, but they should be immediate. Things like picking a special snack for lunch, choosing the radio station in the car on the way to school, getting a special hair style, or getting 10 minutes of screen time.
  • When your child is first learning their new routine, you may need to provide supervision and an occasional reminder. So, try to get yourself up and ready a bit early on the first few days of the new routine. This way you’ll be able to give your child your full attention when they need it.


Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

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