Q. How can I get my child to bed without a major battle every evening?

A. Establish a routine. Determine a specific bedtime and the three to five things that must be done before, such as, get undressed, put on pajamas, brush teeth. Decide on a reward that will be available if your child is in bed by the time a timer rings. Be sure to explain the new procedures and expectations in advance and reinforce the child for his success.


  • Include the child in discussions whenever possible.
  • Identify situations that occur on a frequent basis.
  • Determine 1 to 5 things (depending on child’s age) that need to be accomplished as part of that routine. What do I want him to do instead of what he’s doing?
  • Discuss and decide on number of reminders needed.
  • Determine timeframe for completing steps.
  • Develop documentation (chart, checklist). How can I put expectations and progress in a visual format?
  • Decide on reinforcer for successful completion of routine within specified time. What would make it worth his while?
  • The italicized questions are things parents should ask themselves everytime they establish new routines.

Review steps of routine, tools (checklists, timers) and rewards with child.

Q. My child’s teacher mentioned he has trouble staying on task, where do I start if we want to get him evaluated for possible ADHD or learning disabilities?

A. Often a good first step is to talk to your pediatrician. Some doctors may minimize the problem and a few too quickly resort to medication, but most are highly knowledgeable and will have good ideas about how to proceed. Because pediatricians have seen many challenging children, they are often an excellent first resource and may be part of an initial evaluation. They may suggest reading material or direct you to other professionals. You should also talk to teachers -- not just your child’s current teacher, but last year’s too. Talk to friends who are educators. All of these are potential resources for professional referrals.

An evaluation for ADHD and a screening for learning disabilities do not necessarily involve the same measures, let alone the same professionals. It is possible to complete an evaluation for ADHD and not identify a specific learning disability. Ask the teacher for a complete list of the concerns he or she has regarding your child’s academic performance, including strengths as well as weaknesses. Show the list to your pediatrician. A more detailed list may influence his referral. He may have you complete a checklist or take one to the teacher to complete. Once he has enough information to make a referral, he may suggest you see a pediatric neurologist, a neuropsychologist, a psychologist or an educational specialist.

Often it helps to draw up a list of questions even before you begin your research and revise it according to what you learn. Sometimes, once you begin the process, there’s so much new information you can’t figure out what you need to know. A list of questions keeps you focused on the kind of information you originally thought important. As you read and speak to others, you can modify the list.

Q. How can I get my child to pick up after himself?

A. Getting children to put things away is often a catalyst for family strife. Their definition of a clean room differs from yours and they rarely agree that your time frame or consequences are reasonable. “Sweep” does three things. It establishes a consistent definition of “clean up,” reinforces adherence to it, and provides a means to earn the return of confiscated items as soon as possible. Taking away items permanently or for long periods of time only teaches children to do without them. Eventually he will be adept at putting away his toy, because that's all he'll have - one toy. You will have taken the rest away. Returning them when they have earned them gives children experience putting all toys away, rather than just learning to clean up a reduced inventory. Children do not necessarily like “Sweep” at first, but when used consistently, they adjust and clean up becomes routine. Be aware that the value of the confiscated item can influence how hard a child works to get it back.

A program for household clean up

  • Steps for Establishing Sweep:
  • Define the area to be cleaned (bedroom, family room, community property area).
  • Provide definition of “clean.”
    • Books and magazines on the shelf.
    • Trash in the trashcan.
    • Dirty clothes in the hamper.
  • Determine time of sweep.
    Sit down with all your children to explain the procedures at a time not connected with clean up. (Use a timer to limit length of discussion.)
    • Sweep occurs the same time every day.
    • Give reminder(s) 10 minutes and 5 minutes before sweep.
    • At time of sweep, adult enters with bag. Any items left out go into bag and are not available for use until earned back.
    • A subsequent clean sweep earns child one item returned.
    • A second consecutive sweep (next night) earns two items from bag, etc. If trash is left on floor, adult chooses one item properly put away and adds to sweep bag for each piece of trash left out.

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