I have a 8 year old kid with ADHD. He never turns off the lights when he leaves a room. Never. It's a pet peeve of mine when lights are kept on when not in use. His younger sister has learned and turns off the lights. I have told him hundreds of times to turn off the lights. I feel my words are going nowhere. Now I make him go do it whenever I see them on even if that means he has to go up the stairs or stop doing whatever he's doing.

I feel I am nagging too much and he's getting resentful. I can't get him to learn. I am not sure if this is part of ADHD behavior.

Should I just give up and let it go and have more peaceful times with him?

  • 2
    I envy you. I'd like to figure out how to keep mine from turning it off when I'm still in the room working. :)
    – cabbey
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 17:33
  • My teenage daughters are still pretty bad at turning the lights out as well. I suggest you look at your electricity bill and calculate how much it costs to leave a light on for an extra hour to see if you're getting worked up about nothing.
    – WW01
    Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 7:34
  • 3
    If you find out how, let me know, we have offenders in our house that range in age from 12 (best at turning them off) to 48.
    – boatcoder
    Commented Sep 2, 2011 at 4:36
  • "Now I make him go do it whenever I see them on even if that means he has to go up the stairs or stop doing whatever he's doing." Um, why are you just now doing this?
    – Kevin
    Commented Sep 2, 2011 at 19:52
  • 1
    Why are you worried about leaving the light on? Because of the cost? Or because of the environmental impact? Maybe you should calculate how many hours you need to leave the light on to equate to 5 minutes of hair drying, or 20 minutes of using the oven and see if it is worth expending the energy over.
    – dan
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 8:15

5 Answers 5


People with ADHD are very, very good at ignoring stimuli that doesn't fit their world. Your telling him to turn off the lights clearly fits into that category.

You need to both praise and/or reward when he does it properly and punish when he does it improperly. Both have to be immediate, or they are useless.

When you see him leave the room and leave the light is on, get up, stop him, take him back to the room, show him the light still on, make him flip the switch, and take a favorite possession away for the evening.

When you see him remember, stop him and thank him with a big smile on your face.

That said ... I wonder if this is the right battle to fight. The kid has enough problems without having to worry about your pet peeves. Perhaps a motion-sensing switch is a better alternative.


I would suggest acting as though the world stopped for a while every time he forgets to turn off the light. Make a comical game out of it - no matter what activity he wants to do next, you silently stand rock-solid, looking around the home in an exaggerated (but silent) manner as if wondering what is wrong with everything. What could it be? Nothing can continue until whatever it is gets resolved...

It won't be long before this becomes irritating and inconvenient because it gets in the way of whatever he might want to do or say (you're ignoring him because you're so "distracted" by this issue). Soon turning off the lights becomes a priority for him if he wants your attention.

(And it'll allow you to turn the tables and get a chuckle out of your own odd 'Stop the world!' act).

  • I'd even go for a 'slow/easy going' punishment system. If he forgets to turn of the light, turn on the lights in his room so he knows he forgot to turn off the lights somewhere.
    – Barfieldmv
    Commented Aug 28, 2011 at 6:33

You could try a reward system. Rewards such as praise increase dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a primary driver of brain plasticity. It's presence is necessary in order to cement new connections in place. These new connections pertain to the activity for which the praise was given. So, if you reward him when he does turn out the light, he is more likely to repeat the action next time.


  • That works if I catch him in the act of turning off the lights which is very rare. What happens is that he goes to the bathroom and leaves the lights on. Most of the time I am not around. Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 15:50
  • I've had hit and miss with rewards, my oldest doesn't really get the concept even when we make a big deal of it. I'm hoping my younger does better.
    – MichaelF
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 16:19

Just keep reminding him, but in a neutral tone. Sometimes my 6 year old doesn't like to do certain things, and unless my wife and I end up talking loudly he uses "selective hearing" to listen. He'll either ignore us, talk about something else, or try to change the subject, all tactics we have seen but he tries.

This situation seems more like its a child syndrome, nothing medical, since many children I have known (including my own) tend to forget to do certain things regardless of being told many times. On occasion if I see lights on in a room, and it's a pet peeve of mine as well, I just ask my son to turn the lights off.

Eventually they pick it up.

  • -1 ... I totally disagree. You have trained him that until you ask two or three times and start yelling he doesn't have to comply. Why does he get a freebie? You need to start negative consequences after the first, normal volume request is ignored.
    – tomjedrz
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 15:52
  • Hardly, negative reinforcement is not the only way to handle things. He isn't "trained" in any respect but he will assert himself, if I ask him normally, in a nice manner, to turn off the light he does it. You've read way too much into my response.
    – MichaelF
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 15:56
  • OK .. perhaps I misread. It won't let me upvote until you edit. But the "just keep reminding him" struck a nerve. At what point are you going to expect him to do it without having to be told? At 6, he should have figured it out. And the selective hearing thing ...
    – tomjedrz
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 16:06
  • At what point? Well, it depends on when he gets it. Generally we have no issues, and with the lights I have few issues...occasionally he leaves a light on and I ask him to turn it off. Which he will do. Getting him to clean his room, or do homework, without oversight on the other hand....
    – MichaelF
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 16:17
  • I presumed some similarity to the OP, who had told the ADHD boy "hundreds" of times with no significant improvement. Continuing the same failing strategy seems senseless.
    – tomjedrz
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 23:16

If someone is ADHD it can be a challenge. It isn't because they 'forget' or cannot remember. However if the wrong approach is taken by the parent IE, negative feedback vs positive feedback, the chances of having success is slim. The reward system is the best approach. Negative feedback and hurt relationships, especially if the child already understand the benefits to turning off the light

Personally now at 30 years old I still have trouble always turning off the light. It was a challenge for my mother while growing up to constantly remind me, but now it drives my wife nuts sadly... I am good about 80% of the time, but if i am interrupted or in a hurry to leave a room I don't even 'think' to turn off the light. Negative feedback from my wife would lead to a divorce, so I am trying to get her to just write down the number of times a day I forget, and reward me for improving.

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