Ten Fundamental Principles

for Effective Rules and Commands

1. Make the expectation crystal clear to both of you. What

exactly do you mean by “clean room", ready to go”, or

“don’t act up”?

2. Keep the request simple and brief. (Like this.)

3. Be sure the rule is enforceable (e.g., Do you break the rule?

Is your child capable of following the rule? Can you effectively

monitor compliance?).

4. It’s generally good to discuss major rules ahead of time with

children. However, . . .

5. Do not entertain arguments about requests or commands.

6. Have a set plan for consequences to respond to

non-compliance to rules.

7. Handle opposition to requests or commands with the

“two simple choices” method.

8. Be persistent. Don’t give in once you’ve drawn the line.

9. Be consistent. We don’t like it when people change the rules.

10. Choose your battles well.

So why isn't this working?

1. We use good encouragement with a negative twist.

(e.g., “So why can’t you do it all the time?”)

2. We ask for compliance to a command or request.

("Are you ready to go home now?")

3. We end a command with “OK?”.

("Come take the trash out, OK?")

4. We use the “two simple choices” method with threat of a

consequence we won’t or can’t follow through.

5. We get bogged down by rationalizing, pleading, nagging,

or arguing.

6. We send a non-verbal message that doesn’t match the verbal


7. We forget that silence is sometimes the best response.

8. We overlook the child’s non-verbal message.

9. We model an undesirable behavior.

10. We give up on a new method too soon.

The Marble Jar

This is an effective method for managing typical misbehavior on a daily basis. The Marble Jar method is based on a simple idea -- people will work harder to keep something they already have than they will to get something that seems impossible to earn. This is especially true with AD/HD kids because they often feel like they can never be “good” long enough or often enough to earn typical rewards. 

You will need a clear (glass or plastic) container and twelve marbles (or any twelve identical objects). Neon ping-pong balls are terrific for this. The bigger and more obvious, the better. Keep the jar where it is easy to see -- on top of the fridge is perfect. 

First, identify your kid’s misbehaviors that typically occur every day. Pick about five behaviors (less for very young kids) that are relatively minor, but normally create the most frustration for the family (arguing, yelling, running in the house, name-calling, etc.). Be very specific about what you expect regarding a behavior. Post this list in big letters on the fridge below the jar.

Next, pick one activity that your kid really enjoys. Make sure that this activity is available in your home, and one that you wouldn’t mind letting him or her do for up to an hour every day. (Video games work well for most younger kids, while time on the phone or internet is effective with older kids.) Set a scheduled time (ideally the same time every day) when this activity begins.

The new rule is that your kid automatically starts every day with one hour of this activity earned. The catch is that they have to work to keep it. Make it clear that this is the only way to earn time doing the activity.

Each marble is worth five minutes of the activity. Every time your kid does one of the behaviors on the list, remove one marble from the jar. It is not necessary to comment on the behavior. At the time scheduled for the activity, sit down with your child and count the marbles left in the jar. This determines how many minutes of the hour remain. Set a timer and do not allow any extra time. Handle disappointment on “less successful” days with a brief reminder that there will be another chance

to earn more time again tomorrow. 

[ For a quick alternative to a jar, use a large piece of neon paper marked with twelve square. Each square is worth five minutes of the activity. Post this on the fridge. When your kid does one of the behaviors on the list, cross one square off. Count the remaining squares to determine how many minutes of the activity are left. A big, bright, three-dimensional reminder is effective with younger kids, while a chart on paper works well with older kids.

The 1-2-3 Method

For frequent and relatively minor behaviors like arguing, whining, being demanding, disrespect, pouting, etc.

1. Calmly give a warning that is both verbal and visual. Hold up

one finger and say, “That’s one.” DO NOT explain, plead,

argue orget emotional.

2. If he or she stops, fine. Move on. If the behavior continues,

give a second warning: hold up two fingers and say,

“That’s two.”

3. If he or she stops, fine. Move on. If the behavior continues,

immediately hold up three fingers and say, “That’s three,

take five.” (The child goes to their bedroom or other time-out

spot you choose for five minutes.) When five minutes are

up, act as if nothing has happened -- no lectures or apologies --

and repeat the process as often as necessary.

Managing Behavior in Public Places

1. Set up the rules before entering the place. Pick three very

specific rules you want your child to follow. Choose the three

you most frequently have trouble with (e.g., “stay beside me,

no running, don’t beg for a toy”, etc.). Have your child repeat

the rules back to you before leaving the car.

2. Briefly remind the child that there will be a time-out for breaking

the rules.

3. Have a time-out plan for the place you’re in (e.g., restroom,

quiet aisle, car, etc.).

4. When your child breaks a rule, tell them, “that’s one” (or “two”

or “three”). For each count, place a small pen mark on the

child’s hand. If they get to “three”, immediately go to a time-

out. In public places, one minute (or less) for each year of

their age is usually adequate. If you absolutely cannot use

a time-out in the public place, the marks will be a clear

reminder of why they must serve a time-out in the car

or at home.