Why kids have trouble following a routine or schedule

Why kids have trouble following a routine or schedule
Why kids have trouble following a routine or schedule

Why kids have trouble following a routine or schedule Make sure the kids understand the routine by giving specific instructions and steps. For example, “It’s time to tidy up your desk for the day. Please put your books and pencils inside your desk. Then throw the leftovers in the recycling bin.”

Kids’ days are full of routine. But for many, it’s hard to follow a routine or schedule. Sticking to a routine or schedule involves a lot of skill – it’s harder than it sounds.

There are many reasons why children do not stick to daily routines and schedules. This is often not a problem once in a while. Children are distracted, busy, or unwilling to do so.

However, for some children, not following a routine is a normal problem. Problems with organization, time tracking, and attention are some of the reasons children struggle with routine. These skills are part of a larger group of thinking skills called executive functions.

The skills to follow a routine or schedule

Following a routine or sticking to a schedule requires many executive job skills. Some children have problems with one or more of these skills. They can struggle with:

time tracking

Organizing and planning

Remember the steps

Stop what they’re doing and switch gears

Stay focused on your task and don’t get distracted

Pay attention to the rules

Many children struggle with these skills, especially children with ADHD. Some children also need more time to process information and act on it.

An overview of the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

It’s not always easy to spot the symptoms of ADHD. This is partly because everyone acts in ways that ADHD can feel from time to time. But children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (also known as ADD) have these behaviors much more often than other people their age.

Children and adults with ADHD often have problems with:

pulse control
control emotions
Start or finish tasks

Some people with ADHD experience hyperactivity. This means that they have to move one way or the other all the time.

The signs of ADHD may look different at different ages. Explore this list and share your concerns with your doctor. Together you can define next steps.
Symptoms of ADHD from kindergarten to second grade

Having trouble following instructions, such as “Put your backpack on”
Standing, fidgeting, or talking during quiet activities, such as story time or while watching a TV show
Not slowing down enough to do things carefully, like writing a note or pouring cereal into a bowl
Reserving items without permission, such as a picture from the teacher’s office or candy from a store
Having trouble remembering things the teacher just taught, such as 2 plus 2 equals 4
Feeling upset or very angry about small things, such as hitting something or not catching the ball

ADHD symptoms for grades 3-7

Postponing tasks, such as writing an essay
Rushing to school
Make work messy with careless errors
Work slowly and not finish in a reasonable time
A class clown and try to get everyone’s attention
Get upset during field trips if it’s not too fun
Saying or doing things without thinking about the consequences
Having trouble following directions with more than one step

Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Teens and Adults

Have trouble prioritizing and making sure important things get done
Forgetting to write down tasks or meet deadlines
“Distancing” and the need to re-read information or ask people to repeat what they have said
Stay away from tasks that aren’t really fun
Having trouble making friends
Take a risk without thinking about the consequences

How can I help

There are many ADHD myths that can make it scary to ask about ADHD. Keep in mind that ADHD is very common and a lot is known about how to help people with ADHD thrive. Here are some suggestions on what to do next.

Watch a video on how to diagnose ADHD.
Parents and Guardians: Explore the steps to take if you think your child has ADHD.
Teachers: Ask about classroom accommodations for ADHD.

Why kids have trouble following a routine or schedule
Why kids have trouble following a routine or schedule

Examples of problems following the routine

When kids struggle to follow a routine or schedule, it’s often easy to see the result: kids aren’t ready on time or have missed essential milestones. At home, children may come out with unbrushed teeth. At school, they could wait in line until the end of the day without doing their homework.

Watch what happens when children miss one or more parts of a routine. If you look closely, you might notice other behaviors that lead to this.

For example, what happens when it’s time to empty the kids’ backpack? Are all items out? Are any of them? If not, what are the kids doing instead of unpacking?

When it comes to the daily schedule, what exactly do the kids do instead of the schedule? Do they regularly forget group practice, but not basketball practice?

When kids really struggle with routines and schedules, it feels like a bunch of missing pieces, not just one or two.

Parents and Guardians: If you start to notice patterns in your child’s routine or schedule issues, talk to people who know your child and spend time with them. They can share what they noticed and give you a fuller picture.

Teachers: If kids have trouble following routines or schedules, use this teacher’s guide to talk to parents about difficult topics.


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