12-year-old Asher On ADHD & Strategies for Setting and Reaching Goals

gender nonconformity kids

​In this special kid’s POV edition, Asher and I talk about having ADHD and goal setting, a topic near and dear to my heart, but also an issue we hear from parents about a lot. Asher is someone who always seems to have a lot of projects he’s working on and he sets often ambitious goals centered around those projects. Yet because of the way Ash is wired, he can often get distracted or derailed, which results in him being frustrated with himself.

I know a thing or two about goal setting — it’s actually the topic of a book I wrote for teen girls in 2015 called Doable, and so I am committed to using what I know about goals to help Asher learn how to successfully set and reach his own goals while also developing his planning, organizational, and time management skills. If you have kids with lots of ideas for things they’d like to do but seem to get stuck before they finish, or maybe even struggle to begin in the first place, this would be a good episode to listen to with them.


About Debbie & Asher

Debbie Reber is the founder and CEO of Tilt Parenting and the host of the TiLT Parenting Podcast. 11-year-old Asher is Debbie’s child and is regularly featured on the podcast. Find out more by visiting the About Page.


Things you’ll learn from this episode

  • The connection between ADHD, executive functioning challenges, and goal planning
  • Asher’s strategy for setting, measuring, and reaching goals
  • How Asher uses both daily and weekly goal planning to keep him on track
  • What typically derails Asher when he’s pursuing a goal
  • The power of the daily check-in
  • Asher’s tips for other kids looking to set and reach their personal goals


Resources mentioned for ADHD & goal setting


Episode Transcript

Debbie Reber  0:00

The last line on this was my “personal why for pursuing this goal.” Do you remember what I meant when I said a personal why? 

Asher  0:07

Well look at my reason for trying to run five kilometers. 

Debbie Reber  0:10 

And why is it important to have a personal why? 

Asher  0:13

Because otherwise it’s not really your goal. It’s somebody else’s goal that they set for you. If you’re working towards a goal that you set, but you don’t really want to, you should really consider why you’re doing it.

Debbie Reber  0:26

Welcome to the Tilt Parenting podcast, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host Debbie Reber and today’s episode is a special kids POV episode with my 12-year-old son Asher. Today we’re talking about goal setting from Asher’s perspective as a kid who has executive functioning challenges while also having a lot of goals he wants to pursue. We’re going to talk about the strategies we use to help ask your set and reach goals, while also developing his planning and organization skills. We’re also sharing our goal planning worksheet on our website. So if you want to download that after listening to the show, I’ll share at the end how to do that. This is our first show of 2017 and I’ve been very busy lining up super interesting topics for the coming year including the birds and the bees, aka sex ed for differently wired kids, fostering a love of reading how to organize your home to support your child’s executive function development, ADHD tools, nutrition challenges, and much more. I also wanted to share with you that I recently launched a Patreon campaign for the podcast. In case you’re not familiar with it, Patreon is a tool to allow patrons or fans to support the work of artists, musicians, and yes, even podcasters. I’m hoping to get a little support with some of the more time-consuming aspects of producing this weekly podcast such as editing, which as we all know costs money on Patreon, you can support what we’re doing for as little as $2 a month and there are some fun perks too. If you’d like to support our Patreon campaign, please check out our page at www.patreon.com/tiltparenting. Thank you for considering supporting us and for your patience during this little PSA. And now without further ado, I’ll get on with the show. Hey, Asher,

Asher  2:25  


Debbie Reber  2:27

Thank you for doing another Asher special episode with me today. 

Asher  2:30

You’re welcome. 

Debbie Reber  2:31

And today, I just have to share for listeners, we are going to be talking about goal setting. And when I suggested that as a topic to you, you know, you said to me?

Asher  2:40


Debbie Reber  2:41

You said, Oh, good. I love goals. 

Asher  2:44


Debbie Reber  2:45

Is that true? 

Asher  2:46


Debbie Reber  2:47

Awesome. And also, I just want to let listeners know we are trying something different today. So Asher and I are Skyping this interview, we’re in different rooms in our apartment. And we are looking at each other. So we’re pretending it’s face to face. But this should make the editing process easier. So we’ll see how it goes. Sounds like a plan. 

Asher  3:08


Debbie Reber  3:09

So you said I love goals? What is it about goals that you love? Just curious?

Asher  3:14

Well, it’s nice to have things that you’re planning to do.

Debbie Reber  3:18

That’s true. Before we get into talking about our specific process for goal planning, I wanted to just talk a wee bit about executive functioning. Do you know what executive functioning is Ash?

Asher  3:32

Yeah, it’s part of your brain that controls goals, I think? Well, I mean, the part of your brain is not called executive functioning. But executive functioning means that controls goals.

Debbie Reber  3:44

Right. And actually, I’m going to pull from understood.org, which is one of our favorite resources here. And they have Yeah, they have some great information on executive functioning. And they describe executive function as the CEO of the brain. 

Asher  4:00

Exactly. It’s like do this, do that. 

Debbie Reber  4:04

On their website, it says it’s in charge of making sure things get done from the planning stages of the job to the final deadline. And when kids have issues with executive functioning, and a lot of kids who are differently wired to have ADHD or learning differences, or autism, any sort of neurological differences often go hand in hand with executive functioning challenges. And so kids like you might have trouble with the planning or the organizing or time management and all those other pieces. Right, right. So as I’ve shared with viewers before, and you know, this Asher one of my biggest goals and being our homeschool teacher, of course, we need to do all the subjects right like math and science and the language arts and stuff. But I consider one of my biggest jobs to be to work on executive functioning with you and So we’ve been working on that stuff for years now. And actually my most recent book that came out in 2015 is all about goal planning and goal setting. It’s called Doable. And I forced you to read it to remember.

Asher  5:14

Yeah, that was great. Has a cool cover. 

Debbie Reber  5:19

It does have a cool cover, they did a nice job designing that cover. So Doable is all about how to accomplish just about anything. And what I’ve done in our work together is take the approach that I included in that book and try to adapt it for you specifically, to break it down so that you could start learning how to take a big goal or to do and you are someone who has a lot of big goals. So we get to practice this a lot. But to break that down into steps so that you can start working on all the different areas that go into planning and organizing so you can achieve those goals. 

Asher  5:54


Debbie Reber  5:55

Do you remember what the first big goal was that we worked on together through?

Asher  5:58

The Color Run? 


The Color Run? Yes, that was almost two years ago.


And the reward was supposed to be for LegoLand. But I enjoyed the hotel. We’re staying next to Lego and more than like,

Debbie Reber  6:10

that’s true. I forgot we did have a big motivation, reward at the end of that goal,

Asher  6:17

Going to Legoland, and we went to a really cool hotel, and I just stayed there. 

Debbie Reber  6:21

Right, because they had an awesome waterslide. And yeah,

Asher  6:24

They had one of those bungee jumping things. 

Debbie Reber  6:26

Yeah, the bouncy thingamajiggy 

Asher  6:29

Yeah, you know, the Wichman. Jaeger. The doohickey?

Debbie Reber  6:32

Yes, exactly. So yeah, and the color. And that was a big goal, because that was a 5k. And you never run anything more than probably a couple 100 meters or something. I mean, you were not a runner. So it seemed like a big goal. And do you remember how.

Asher  6:48

We were practicing the run another 5k? 

Debbie Reber  6:50

Now we are indeed we are indeed. Do you remember how we organized that goal or went about trying to achieve it?

Asher  6:58

Yeah, we had a goal planning worksheet, I will goal by date. I shall go or die to try.

Debbie Reber  7:07

I made this worksheet at the time you were really into Minecraft. So I tried to use a funky cool font, and I put some Minecraft characters on it. And I had four things I had, I will and I wrote in parenthesis school, and that’s where you wrote down, I will complete the Color Run 5k. And then the next line was by and that was the date and we wrote in the date of the event. The next line was I will know I have completed this goal. When do you remember what the purpose of that line was?

Asher  7:39

Yeah, that was what it was when I can reliably run five kilometers.

Debbie Reber  7:45

Right. And the purpose of having that in there is because it’s something that’s measurable, right, I’ll know I have completed this when I have run it will know that it’s done. And that’s part of making sure a goal is concrete that you can measure when it’s finished.

Asher  8:00

It’s like my goal is to not die. Right. 

Debbie Reber  8:04

That’s a great goal. 

Asher  8:06

But you don’t know when you finished it. 

Debbie Reber  8:08

That’s true. It’s not a concrete goal in that way. 

Asher  8:11

There’s no deadline. 

Debbie Reber  8:12

Yes, exactly. Thank you for that example.

Asher  8:16

Yeah, your goal has to be you doing something not you not doing something. 

Debbie Reber  8:21

The last line on this was my personal why for pursuing this goal. Do you remember what I meant when I said a personal why?

Asher  8:29

Well, what’s my reason for trying to run five kilometers? 

Debbie Reber  8:32

And why is it important to have a personal why? 

Asher  8:35

Because otherwise, it’s not really your goal? Is that right? Somebody else’s goal that they set for you? 

Debbie Reber  8:41


Asher  8:42

If you’re working towards a goal that you set, but you don’t really want to, you should really consider why you’re doing it.

Debbie Reber  8:48

That’s a good point. And that’s actually that happens a lot for anyone pursuing a goal. They’re working on a goal and they haven’t considered why they’re doing it. And sometimes they might be doing it because someone else thought it was a good idea. Or because their parents told them to or because they’re feeling pressure from their friends to do that. And if you’re not personally have a personal motivation to do something, then it’s going to be harder to achieve it and it’s not going to be very satisfying, even if you do Yeah. So since we have since we did that Color Run, which we did finish I have the photographic evidence to show us covered in different color powder at the end of that event. I’ve kind of amped up the goal planning worksheet, and this one I’m going to share on the show notes for people who want to check it out. We have what is simply called The Goal planner worksheet. You see this ash?

Asher  9:45

Yeah, I do. And that’s our upgraded version.

Debbie Reber  9:49

When you’re writing down the big goal, what is it that I kind of drill into your head about what a goal has to be or how to write that goal down?

Asher  9:57

Well, usually say I should be very specifically about my goal. I don’t just say like, run out 5K and run the Color Run the one this year,

Debbie Reber  10:08

Right? Or in the case of a school project, I’m thinking about your, you had a big WWI project, last year’. And that was like a three-month long project, I think. And it was a huge project. 

Asher  10:14

Yeah. And I planned all the different stages. 

Debbie Reber  10:22

Right? So the big goal was, you were doing a museum exhibit about WWI. So the big goal was to post that online, so that people can read it. Maybe our big goal was to complete your WWI project by the end of school and to have a museum opening for it. Right. Yeah. So it was super specific. It was concrete. And it was measurable. And then the next line is a deadline, because we’re all about deadlines. But what have you learned about setting deadlines?

Asher  10:52

Well, I’ve learned that if you feel like you’re not going to be by your deadline, you should change your deadline right away. Oh, yeah. You shouldn’t just say, Oh, well, I’ll I’m it. It’ll be impossible to do it by this time. But I’ll set this as my deadline anyways, you always want to try and keep your deadline as a realistic estimate. And that means changing it whenever there’s a setback or you. Yeah, you should update the deadline at all times to be an estimate of when you’ll be finished.

Debbie Reber  11:22

And you said the magic words there realistic expectation? 

Asher  11:27


Debbie Reber  11:28

That’s really important part of this right is setting a deadline, that is actually doable, because if you don’t, you’re just setting yourself up for failure, which isn’t really helpful when you’re trying to pursue goals, right?

Asher  11:40


Debbie Reber  11:41

The next line is how will I know I’ve accomplished the goal? And that’s just like an extra step. So in the case of your museum exhibit, how would you know you accomplish the goal?

Asher  11:50

Well, when my museum is ready for people to see,

Debbie Reber  11:54

Right, you would have held the opening? That would be the ultimate good. And you did, and we ordered pizza, and you had some friends come through? That was really nice. 

Asher  12:04

Yeah, it was great. 

Debbie Reber  12:05

So one of my favorite lines on the goal planning worksheet is, the next one is how will I feel when I’ve reached my goal? And why do you think I asked you to write that out for every goal you’re working on?

Asher  12:18

Well, it makes the goal more tangible. Right?

Debbie Reber  11:22

In what way?

Asher  12:23

You don’t think, oh, wow, I should do this, you should think, oh, it’s gonna be so great when I do this.

Debbie Reber  12:29

Yeah. And one of the things I think when we first did this, you were like, I don’t know how I’m gonna feel. And so I would ask you to close your eyes. And imagine the goal being accomplished, and really trying to tune in with that emotion, like, how will it feel like crossing the finish line? Close your eyes? And imagine that moment? Or how will it feel to be showing your friends around at your museum exhibit at the big opening and spend a few minutes kind of imagining that? 

Asher  13:00

Yeah, definitely. 

Debbie Reber  13:01

And so I think that you actually like that process now. 

Asher  13:06

Yeah I do. 

Debbie Reber  13:07

It’s kind of tied in with our visualization. I think too, which is part of what we do in our morning routine is visualize how we want things to go. Yeah. So the last part of the goal planning worksheet is many steps to accomplish the goal. So can you walk listeners through what that is? Exactly?

Asher  13:26

Yeah. We were super specifically breaking down exactly what needs to happen in order to accomplish the goal. Right. So it’d be like run 1k, run 2k, run 3k, run 4k? Run 5k. Run the Color Run?

Debbie Reber  13:43

Yeah, that’s pretty straightforward. Maybe How about for your museum exhibit? What were some of the many steps?

Asher  13:49

Well, I needed to choose what I was going to do. I needed to plan everything. And then after I chose what I was going to do, I was like, okay, so what am I going to do my art on? And then I needed to get all the pictures for that. And then I needed to put them all together. And then I needed to make a brochure. And then we needed to invite everyone and get some pizza.

Debbie Reber  14:09  

Yeah, there were a lot of steps. And one of the things I encourage you to do and I encourage listeners to do is to break the steps down into the tiniest, tiniest, tiniest, tiniest possible steps. It’s like breathe, well.

Asher  14:25

Walk over a table, breathe again.

Debbie Reber  14:29

But one of the things that we know about you and then I know is the case for a lot of kids with executive functioning challenges is that it’s called Task initiation. Sometimes starting a task can be really hard, especially the bigger the task, the more overwhelming it can be. So one of the great parts about breaking it down is suddenly this overwhelming task that you don’t know where to start, you have a starting point because if you have a small enough step, something you could do right now or today Yeah, then you’re making progress. And you’re no longer looking at this big daunting project, you’re looking at these little things, and you can, you know, cross it off a thing or two a day, right? Yeah. So this is the structure that we use all the time now for any goals. And again, we use it for personal goals, and for school goals, school projects, right? And certainly do. So while we use the goal planning worksheet for big goals, we also then do a daily goal. We’re really about goals here, I’m realizing, Oh, we do a daily goal planner, which we’ve talked a little bit about on a previous podcast when we are talking about screen time planning. But right now we’re using the productivity planner from intelligent change. And I’ll include a link to that in the show notes. It’s a great resource that I use, they also created the Five Minute Journal, and they’re really helpful for me and structuring my day. But as it turns out, they work well for you as well. Do you want to describe the productivity planner that you do in the morning? 

Asher  16:08

Yeah, that’s great. How it works is I fill out my most important task to do first, I estimate how much time it will take. And then I fill out the second and third most important task control only when I’m finished with the first one, then I’ve got any other tasks that I have to do. Right, and with estimations of how long they’ll take. And then as I do the task, I feel I’m supposed to fill out a little bubbles, and then see how much time it took. But I don’t really

Debbie Reber  16:37

I do that part. But for you what seems to work the best is just the fact that you are, yeah, that I know what I’m gonna do. Yeah, it’s that daily check in the daily kind of looking at the day, what’s going on? And what are my priorities today in order to stay on track with the big picture, right? 

Asher  16:58


Debbie Reber  16:58

So I have a couple of questions I wanted to ask you that might be helpful for listeners. I’m curious to know what derails you personally, when you’re working towards a goal, like what are the things that typically get in your way?

Asher  17:11


Debbie Reber  17:11

when I get distracted with something else, yeah, and we’ve talked about that thing. It is, it’s still the biggest thing. What else, sometimes you lose, you lose momentum halfway through a project. And

Asher  17:26

I’m like, and I’m like, I don’t really want to do this project. Some of the time, I actually don’t want to do the project, and I cancel it. But some of the time, it’s just, I just need a little break.

Debbie Reber  17:38

Right? That’s the thing we’ve been working on a lot, actually, you’re very, you have a lot of projects, personal projects that you’re always wanting to work on, during your free time. And you place a lot of pressure on yourself to achieve those goals. And so that is something we’re also talking about is like giving yourself a break, and being gentle with yourself. And knowing that you can, you know, once you set a goal, you’re also allowed to change the goal. You’re allowed to realize halfway through, you know what, this is not what I really wanted to do, and I’m going to, I’m going to cancel this, that is not the end of the world to do either. The important part if you do that is to kind of consciously do it and reflect on why what went wrong, and what you’d like to learn from that situation. Right. Like, I’m curious to know where your goals come from, because, again, you always seem to be working on a lot of things. Where do they where do your goals come from?

Asher  18:40

I don’t know. I think a lot of them come from just wanting something to do with my free time. That’s kind of boring not having anything to work on.

Debbie Reber  18:48

So you’re just someone who you’re definitely your mother. Oh, son, you need to be working on something at all times. Yes. Were you initially resistant? When I first started what I kind of slipped a copy of doable in your room and said, Hey, this is my book. You should read it or you know, when I introduced a little bit, yeah, to the idea of goal setting in general. Why do you think you were resistant to getting more formal about it?

Asher  19:16

I’m not sure because it seemed like a big bother to me. 

Debbie Reber  19:20

Like more work than it was worth. 

Asher  19:23

Yeah. It was like I have to do all this stuff just so I can finish things. 

Debbie Reber  19:28


Asher  19:29

Who needs to finish things.

Debbie Reber  19:31 

I think you also thought it was adding more work. 

Asher  19:34

Yeah, to achieving the goal rather than getting rid of it.

Debbie Reber  19:37

Do you still feel that way? 

Asher  19:39

No. It is more work but it makes me achieve that goal faster? Leave me on a ridiculously easy goal where it would slow down Got it. For example, go for a run today. Right? will be more work to do the productivity planner and then go for a run the Then just to go for a run.

Debbie Reber  20:02

Exactly. Agreed. What do you like the most about our goal planning process? Or what parts of it do you think work the best for you?

Asher  20:11

I don’t know, it just feels like it makes it easier to accomplish things.

Debbie Reber  20:15

Do you think breaking the big goal down helps a lot? Yeah. Why?

Asher  20:20

I think it’s just because it makes it feel more. It’s no longer one big goal. It’s a series of small goals that I can achieve easily.

Debbie Reber  20:29  

And that feels really satisfying to cross something off, doesn’t it? 

Asher  20:32

Yeah, it does. 

Debbie Reber  20:34 

I thought we could quickly share some of our tips for listeners as well. So one of the things that we do is, every week, we have our goals of the week on the wall. So we go through our not just school goals, but we also include your personal goals. So if you have something you’re working on, you want to achieve that week, it goes on the wall. And then what did we do every morning in our morning meeting,

Asher  20:58

You check in on our goals, I mean, cross off anything we’ve done, right? And we plan what we’re going to do next?

Debbie Reber  21:04  

That’s exactly right. So we’re always checking in. So we’re remembering it so it doesn’t get lost. And then we can be intentional about what we’re going to do that day towards it. We have another tip that has really worked out well. And that is with regards to when you’re estimating how long something’s going to take like a specific task. What’s your secret for that? Asher?

Asher  21:27

I always give myself at least twice as much time as I need. While I do that, usually, to accomplish my goal. That way I can I just assume that all the setbacks combined will be twice as long as with no setbacks,

Debbie Reber  21:43

Right. Because that’s a real challenge for you specifically, and I know it is for a lot of kids with learning and attention issues is this idea of figuring out how long tasks take and time management. So

Asher  21:55

Just think how long it would take if everything went perfectly and then double it. 

Debbie Reber  21:58

Yeah, that’s a great rule of thumb. And then you can continue to gather information about like, oh, okay, so now I’m starting to learn how long things take, but it’s much more satisfying to finish something ahead of time than to have something take away longer, and then you’re not achieving your daily goals. Right, 

Asher  22:15


Debbie Reber  22:17 

And then also, just to keep it real, this is not something that you fill out this worksheet, and you’re on your way, and we have no problems like there is a lot of support that we have built into this in the way you and I work together. Correct? Definitely. So like what kind of support How do I support you in reaching your goals?

Asher  22:36

Oh, you check in. You see, I’m using Skype. It’s like, how’s your story going? I’m like, Oh, I wasn’t working on the story. I’ll get right back to work on that.

Debbie Reber  22:47 

Yeah, I do. It’s kind of funny. Now in the afternoons, often, I will go out to a cafe for a few hours. So I can get some work and just have a change of scenery, and get some focused work done on my projects. And you and I have been communicating via Skype. And it’s really been actually great. I think we when we’re both at home, doing our own things, we’re in other rooms, and we’re not necessarily talking.

Asher  23:13

But when we’re both in different buildings, doing our own things. And

Debbie Reber  23:17

We chat all the time. But yeah, and that is something that I do is I will check in on you. But more specifically, I’m trying now to be more than just me being like, Hey, how’s it going? Hey, how’s it going? Are you working on this? Are you doing this? I’m trying to ask you? What do you need from me? Because that would be my goal is for you to be initiating the kind of support that you need. Yeah, exactly. I’m happy to help you reach your goals. But I don’t want to be driving it. Right. It has to come from you. Yeah, but at the same time, I can’t just say okay, you’re on your own. So it’s called scaffolding. Yeah, we’re actually watching them take the scaffolding down the building across the street. But it’s like building in support, layer by layer, and then slowly 

Asher  24:07

Get rid of it when you’re done. 

Debbie Reber  24:09

Yeah, exactly. So I mean, my personal goal for you is, eventually you’re going to be able to approach any task like any school project or any personal goal and say, I know what to do. I have to write it down. I have to set a deadline. I have to break it down and I need to find a way to be accountable to myself every day.

Asher  24:33

Sounds great. Sounds like we should get another worksheet for that.

Debbie Reber  24:38

We should get a goal planning worksheet for you to be independently doing goal planning worksheets. Yeah, exactly. Is there anything else that you want to add today? Any other tips or suggestions for other kids who are listening who may get overwhelmed by goals or not know how to approach them? Like any advice?

Asher  24:58

Remember your deadline is not fixed, if they’re the only reason you want to do it by this time is just because you think that’s when you should be able to do it. If it’s not concrete, like, you have to do it now or in two and a half years when there’s the next launch window to Mars. Right, right. You have to finish your rover before there’s a launch window, or else, your whole goal is ruined. That if your goal is just do this. You can finish it whenever you want. But if you think you should do it by this time, then you should always make sure the deadline is the most realistic estimate of how long it will take you.

Debbie Reber  25:41

Right? Yeah, that is really important. Because it can be really disheartening to not reach your goals when you’re trying to exactly but it also I would just say consider it a learning process. We’re big into self-knowledge here. So every time you pursue a goal, you’re gathering information about your own process, and about how you do things and how you can be successful. So even when you don’t reach your goal exactly the way you wanted to, you can still learn about yourself and what you need to be more successful next time. Yeah. Well, Ash, I want to thank you for being on the show and sharing all of your insights about goal setting today. This was a very interesting conversation. You’re welcome. You’ve been listening to the Tilt Parenting podcast for the show notes for this episode, including links to the resources Astrid I talked about, as well as our downloadable goal planning worksheet, visit tiltparenting.com/session39. If you like what you heard on today’s episode, and you haven’t already done so, please consider Subscribing to our podcast on iTunes or leaving a review. And lastly, if you’re not already signed up for our newsletter, I’d love for you to join our till parenting online community. I send out short weekly updates with links to new content on the website, articles and resources just for you. Thanks again for listening. For more information on Tilt Parenting visit www.tiltparenting.com


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