Despite the fact that children with ADHD are often impulsive or disorganized, they are also often sensitive to the value of money. In fact, many parents report that money is a good motivator for their children with ADHD. It is important, then, to emphasize financial responsibility and to help your child learn money-management skills.

How ADHD Undermines Money Management

Most of what we know about the interaction between ADHD and money comes from mistakes that adults with ADHD have made, because no research has been done on the way in which children with ADHD understand money. A person with ADHD may:

  • Have difficulty planning a budget and sticking to it
  • Have trouble organizing records
  • Spend impulsively
  • Lose checks or bills
  • Forget when bills are due
  • Have trouble planning for savings
  • Have difficulty tracking account balances
  • Procrastinate on paying bills or taxes

For children with ADHD, the challenges they face with remembering to do and turn in homework can become the challenges they face later with money management.

Teaching Money Management

By the time children are 7 or 8, whether they have ADHD or not, they have a pretty good understanding of what money can do for them, says Gregor Kohls, PhD, an ADHD researcher at the Center for Autism Research at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Kohls and his colleagues have studied the use of money as a way to help children with ADHD learn appropriate behaviors. In his research, he found that parents of children with ADHD frequently rely on money as a reward.

Here are some tips and ideas for teaching good money management to children with ADHD:

  • Set a good example. “The concept of money is learned especially through parents,” observes Kohls. Your child is learning about the value of money from how you manage your own money, so try to share with him, in age-appropriate ways, how you make your spending and saving decisions.
  • Give an allowance. A lot of parents give money when a child asks instead of using an allowance. “What this sets up is a situation where the child learns that whenever I want something then I should have it right now,” explains ADHD specialist David W. Kidder, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Slidell, Louisiana. However, learning to delay immediate gratification is an important part of growing up — so set up a weekly allowance with a clear understanding of what activities or items that money is for. Then hang tough while your child learns to wait until next week before he can get what he wants.
  • Allow earning money through chores. Children should have chores they are expected to do as household members, but allowing them to earn money through additional chores is fine, says Dr. Kidder. “That teaches them that if you work for something then you get a reward for it,” he adds.
  • Do not pay for grades. Earning money by doing extra yard work is fine, but tying money to grades can actually reduce a child’s pleasure in his achievements. “It’s been shown that children will actually decrease the internal motivation to make good grades and base it solely on the external motivation of money,” says Kidder.
  • Set up a structure for your child's money. Children with ADHD benefit from structured environments in all aspects of their lives, including handling their money. In addition to helping your child decide how to spend money, you can also teach your child to set aside a portion for savings — or develop any other similar structured plan that suits your values.
  • Help your child plan ahead. Kohls notes that the problems children with ADHD have with planning also extends to money. “There are theories that propose that children with ADHD seek immediate rewards, and have problems waiting for a bigger reward at a later period of time,” he says.

Learning money management is just that — a learning process. Children with ADHD may face more challenges along the way than their peers, but with your help they can achieve good results.

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