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7 reasons kids with ADHD often rush through homework

adhd not doing homework

By Gail Belsky

Why kids with ADHD rush through homework, kid laying on the floor doing homework

All kids rush through homework once in a while so they can get to the things they’d rather be doing. But for kids with ADHD, rushing can be an ongoing challenge that results in sloppy, incorrect, or incomplete work.

Why does this happen? A key reason is that kids with ADHD struggle with executive function skills . They often have a hard time staying focused, managing their time, waiting, and monitoring their work. 

Other factors may come into play, too. Kids with ADHD may be worn out after school. Or they might have “ medication rebound ” if they take stimulants for ADHD. 

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Here are some of the most common reasons kids with ADHD race through their homework assignments.

1. Trouble holding on to information

Trouble with working memory can make it hard for kids with ADHD to keep information in mind as they do their homework. Instead of taking their time to think through their answers, they might scribble them out as fast as possible before they lose their train of thought. That can mean incomplete or even incorrect responses.

2. Poor time management skills

When kids with ADHD have multiple assignments, they may have trouble gauging how much time to spend on each one. They also may hyperfocus on one task and then have a hard time moving on to the next. Having spent an hour on one assignment, they might speed through their remaining homework.

3. Difficulty staying interested

Kids with ADHD have trouble with focus and often tune out quickly when tasks are tedious. Faced with a worksheet of 25 similar math problems, they might zoom through it carelessly because they’re bored.

4. Difficulty with self-monitoring

For kids with ADHD, doing homework may seem endless. So the idea of sitting even longer to check over their work for mistakes can be unbearable. They may also think it’s OK to just turn in their first effort, rather than spend more time making sure it’s correct and complete.

5. Trouble with self-control

Kids with ADHD can have a hard time putting off what they want, even if it’s better for them to wait. If they’re itching to play their new video game or watch TV, they might rush through homework without even thinking or caring about the fact that taking their time can result in better grades.

6. Learning challenges

Kids with ADHD often have learning challenges like dyslexia and dyscalculia as well. So on top of the challenges that ADHD presents, they may struggle with the work itself. That can lead them to rush through homework just to get it over with.

7. Feeling defeated

Struggling at school can wear kids down and make them lose confidence. Over time, they may come to believe they won’t “get it.” Or that they won’t do well no matter how hard they try. If kids believe the outcome will be the same whether they spend 20 minutes or two hours on homework, they might not think it’s worth it to take the time to do a careful job.

If your child races through homework, knowing the reasons why lets you find strategies that can help. Observe your child during homework and look for patterns . Get tips for helping kids slow down on homework in grade school and middle school . And download a free homework contract that your child can follow.

Key takeaways

Rushing leads to sloppy, incorrect, or incomplete homework.

Kids with ADHD often also have learning differences that can make homework so difficult that they rush just to be done with it.

A medication “rebound” effect can make some kids get very tired or sluggish after school. Fine-tuning ADHD medication can help.

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About the author.

Gail Belsky is executive editor at Understood. She has written and edited for major media outlets, specializing in parenting, health, and career content.

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Andrew Kahn, PsyD is a licensed psychologist who has served as an evaluator and consultant in public schools for nearly 20 years. Kahn, who describes himself as neurodivergent, is a subject matter expert at Understood.

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10 Homework & Study Tips for Students with ADHD/ADD

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Every child will likely have trouble with homework at some point. But for children with ADD and ADHD, the problem can go beyond a few assignments. Among other things, children with ADD and ADHD face challenges with focusing, patience, and organizing. These challenges can make it hard for students to perform to the best of their potential in, and out of, the classroom.

Helping Your Child Tackle ADD/ADHD and Homework

Children with ADD and ADHD can be hasty, rushing through their homework and making mistakes. They may lose homework, struggle to organize thoughts and tasks, and fail to plan ahead.

The challenges your child faces can be overcome with practiced habits and proper study skills for ADD/ADHD students. With these 10 ADD/ADHD homework tips, your child can learn how to focus on homework with ADD/ADHD and achieve success in the classroom.

Learn how you can help improve your child’s academic skills with these homework and study tips for kids with ADHD/ADD.

student boy reading book or textbook at home

Study Strategies for ADHD & ADD

1. create a homework-only space.

Children with ADD and ADHD can be easily distracted by their surroundings. Find a comfortable place where your child can work with few distractions. Use this as a quiet study space away from noise and movement where your child can clear his or her mind and focus.

Homework Tip:

Don’t do homework in the bedroom. The bedroom is a place for sleep, rest, and relaxation — not work and stress.

2. Create a consistent schedule

It is important for kids with ADD/ADHD to have a consistent routine. This will help your child start his or her homework and focus. Set a time each day for your child to sit down and complete his or her work.

3. Study in spurts

ADD and ADHD can make it hard to focus, so breaks are a must. Studying in short spurts can help. Give your child regular breaks from homework for a snack or a walk, and let the mind refresh and reset! This will give your child a chance to burn off extra energy and improve concentration when he or she returns.

4. Get the teacher involved

It’s hard to always know what is happening with your child at school. Talking to his or her teacher can help make sure you’re informed. Ask the teacher about sending regular reports on your child and updates on homework assignments. If possible, meet with them every few weeks and for progress reports. Knowing what is going on in the classroom can help you and your child’s teacher make changes to make sure your child is learning effectively.

5. Get Organized

Organize school supplies and make checklists and schedules for homework and assignments. Help your child get his or her bag ready for school the next morning and make sure all homework is complete. You can make organization fun for your child with coloured folders, special pencils, stickers and cool labels that if you want to make yourself, you should read firs this cricut machine reviews to make something better.

6. Show Support

Encourage your child to always try his or her best. Although your child should be completing his or her work independently, it is okay to help when asked. Help your child look at challenges in a positive light to keep him or her motivated. This will show that you are willing to always help him or her do better.

7. Understand how your child learns

Whether it is auditory, kinesthetic or visual, knowing how your child learns is important. Change studying habits to fit his or her learning style with graphs, visuals, music, walking, or talking out loud. Every child learns differently. Studying in a way that works for him or her can help improve understanding and retention.

Read our Complete Study Guide For Every Type Of Learner for more study tips!

8. Know when it’s time to quit

Children with ADD/ADHD can become easily frustrated and overwhelmed. Encourage your child to keep going as long as he or she can, but don’t push your child too much. If he or she has hit his or her limit, stop for the night. If homework hasn’t been completed for the following school day, send the teacher a note to explain.

9. Offer praise and positive feedback

Congratulate your child after he or she finishes his or her homework. You can also do something special, like a small treat or trip to the park. Even if your child was not able to finish his or her work, praise his or her efforts and strive for a new goal the next day.

10. Move around

Sitting for long periods of time can be challenging for students with ADD/ADHD. Letting your child get up to move around can help him or her maintain focus. Try making studying into a physical activity, where your child counts out steps when practicing math problems like addition and subtraction. Having something he or she can fidget with while doing work can also help. Stress balls are a great item your child can take with him or her wherever he or she goes.

Children Can Succeed With The Right ADD/ADHD Study Skills

Children with ADD and ADHD feel at times they cannot control their own actions. They can become easily distracted, which can lead to poor grades, frustration, and disappointment. These ADD/ADHD study tips will help your child conquer these academic challenges, with improved concentration, time management and organizational skills. Most importantly, they will also help boost self esteem and confidence.

Remember, these changes won’t happen overnight. It will take time for your child to adjust to new routines and habits. Once you, and your child, understand how to study and do homework with ADD/ADHD, your child will be on the way to more effective learning.

Does your child struggle with a learning difficulty? Find out more about Oxford Learning’s Learning Disability Tutoring programs.

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adhd not doing homework

My ADHD Child Refuses To Do Schoolwork. What Should I Do?

adhd not doing homework

"My ADHD child refuses to do schoolwork. What should I do?" This is a common question among parents of students with ADHD. The good news is that there are changes your family can make to help. 

In this article, we'll discuss how ADHD impacts schoolwork and how solutions such as limiting distractions, mixing learning with pleasure, and scheduling study time in a way that's beneficial to your child can help. Then, we will go over additional challenges that might affect kids with ADHD who are struggling in school.

Note : If your child struggles with school assignments or other tasks, Joon can help. Joon is a game specifically created for children with ADHD and their parents. Kids receive points and finish missions by completing tasks set by the parents, which allows them to care for a virtual pet of their choice in the game. Many parents have seen their child build better habits and become more motivated and autonomous with Joon. Try a 7-day free trial here .

Does ADHD make it hard to do schoolwork?

ADHD makes it harder to stay focused, which no doubt affects schoolwork. However, ADHD is more than that, and it can be hard to understand from the outside. Many ADHD symptoms directly impact functioning at school. For adults, similar problems may show up at work. Take inattention symptoms as an example:

Hyperactivity/ impulsivity symptoms can also affect kids at school, as well as during homework time. These signs include:

ADHD isn't a character flaw, and people with the disorder aren't doing these things on purpose. After all, with ADHD, there are marked differences in the brain. Treatment can help, as can at-home and in-school support. Once you identify that your child has challenges with homework or school assignments, it gives you the opportunity to help them overcome them.

Remember that you don't have to have every symptom of ADHD to receive a diagnosis. Discover more about the different types of ADHD here.

Try the new to-do app for kids with ADHD called Joon. Joon is a new type of video game that makes routine tasks fun for kids (ages 6 - 12). Motivate your child with ADHD to focus and stay on top of their daily tasks with a game that turns routines into actual fun!

How can I help my ADHD child do schoolwork?

Getting a child with ADHD to listen and do tasks like schoolwork and homework can be tricky. Most kids would rather watch TV or play as it is, but with ADHD, the battle can be even more significant. One way to find suggestions that work is to look at some of the techniques and accommodations that help kids with ADHD in school, as they may also help with homework time, too. For example, you might give your child multiple breaks or let them work in short bursts, provide time to move around in between study sessions, implement reward systems, or sit with them while they work on assignments and offer guidance or encouragement as needed. These are all similar to the accommodations for ADHD you might see in a school setting.

Where do you start, though? Let's go more into depth about what parents can do to help their children focus on and complete tasks.

Getting Your Child To Do Tasks

Homework and school assignments are only two examples of tasks that people with ADHD might have trouble with. Here are some quick tips to get your child to initiate and complete tasks such as school assignments when they are crying or refusing to do it.

Limit Distractions

Limit distractions to help your child avoid getting sidetracked. First, determine what tends to distract your child most when they work on assignments. Is it sounds from the TV? Toys? What about items on the table where they sit down to work? Then, remove those distractions. White noise may be beneficial and even calming, but for the most part, noises in the home can be highly distracting, so keep this in mind.

Engage your child

People with ADHD don't necessarily just struggle with staying focused. It is also common to have trouble initiating tasks, which can certainly be the case when it comes to schoolwork. Having another person there during a task can really help people with ADHD, so sit with your child as they work on school assignments to engage them. Prepare to re-engage your child gently if they get off track. Make sure that you remain calm and patient.

Simplify instructions

Break instructions down into small, easy-to-follow steps. When tasks are brief and come with a fast reward (e.g., "you can play outside afterward,") your child is a lot more likely to follow through. Spend time with your child going over an assignment's instructions little by little. If there is a difficult problem in their assignment, walk them through it.

Mix pleasure with learning

When you mix pleasure with learning, there's extra motivation for your child to engage with school assignments. This might mean that you implement strategies such as a reward system (e.g., a sticker chart, time with electronics post-homework time, etc.). Or, it could mean that you use strategies to make the lesson itself more fun. Parents able to sit with their children while they work on assignments might read the instructions in an animated fashion or make a game out of the assignment.

Additionally, don't hesitate to implement external tools that can support kids with ADHD. A game like Joon is a great way for children to mix pleasure with schoolwork and other tasks. With the app, kids complete not just schoolwork but other goals a parent might set, such as making breakfast, getting dressed, brushing their teeth, or putting the dishes away.

Try Joon App

The Joon app is designed for kids between the ages of six and twelve who live with ADHD. Many families say that it helps improve their child-parent relationship, boosts their self-esteem, and makes tasks less stressful. Kids are often drawn to games, and what sets Joon apart is that it aids real-life functioning. 

Now, how does it work?

How Joon Works

Games and gaming devices are emerging as forms of support for ADHD. In fact, in 2020, the FDA approved the use of the first video game-based digital therapeutic for kids with an ADHD diagnosis. Joon is a new kind of video game explicitly designed to help children with ADHD complete tasks. In the app, parents assign age-appropriate tasks that children must complete in order to take care of their pet, called a Doter, in the game.

Since a child must complete tasks to get what they need to care for the Doter, it motivates them for school to get each task done. Parents can add tasks (also known as quests) themselves or select recommended tasks through the app. The point of Joon is to make tasks fun.

Features of Joon

Occupational therapists, school teachers, and psychologists all back Joon. The Joon app is safe to use, and parents are in control. Here are some standout features of Joon:

Joon sends reminders to your child to help them stick to their routine and goals for the day so that parents don't have to, and it is effective almost immediately. Every task in the game is positive, supporting confidence and well-being in children with ADHD. 

Test-drive Joon for 7 Days

If you're ready to try Joon, you're in luck. It's easy to get started, and when you download the app, you get a 7-day free trial . Parents must sign up for Joon via iPhone*, but kids can use an Amazon or Android Device to access the game.

* Joon is coming soon to Android. If you don't have an iPhone, join our Android Waitlist .

Break up study time

Plan study time in short bursts rather than one long session. In part, the reason you want to break up study time is similar to why you might want to break large tasks or long-term projects into smaller pieces. Lengthy work is intimidating, and kids with ADHD are more likely to stay focused, attentive, productive, and happy if it's approached in smaller chunks. 

Furthermore, breaking up study time means that kids will have breaks, which is vital when it comes to ADHD. One thing that can be helpful is to add physical activity to these breaks, as exercise is known to support school performance in children with ADHD. Even more, it is shown that when people study in smaller chunks of time, they retain information better.

How much time should you set aside? The amount of time may vary from child to child, but it should not extend past 45 minutes at once. Even those without ADHD find that their brain loses steam if they attempt to focus for too long. Short intervals of study time dispersed over 4-5 days per week will likely come with better results than attempting to get a child to study for hours per day.

Stick to schedule

Create a schedule for your child that includes a certain amount of time set aside for assignments. Stick to the schedule meticulously. In time, the schedule will start to feel natural. Kids will grow to understand that the certain time of day you designate for studying is meant for just that. When you implement a new schedule or routine, it can be difficult to adjust to at first, so be mindful that it might be a process to get your child to sit down and work on assignments initially. It should get easier and come with less of a fight the more consistent and unwavering you are. We've talked a little bit before about how vital routines can be for the ADHD brain, and this is an excellent example.

A reminder system may be useful, especially at first. You might use alarms, an app like Joon, or something else, to remind a child of the schedule.

Talk with your child's teacher

If your child struggles in class or with homework, it's important to communicate with their teacher regularly. Together, you can create solutions and gain an understanding of what's going on, as well as any next steps you might want to try to support your child's education. Take note of the resources for kids with ADHD that your child may benefit from, such as 504 plans and IEPs, that allow for accommodations. Tutoring for a subject that your child struggles with may be advantageous in relevant circumstances.

Seek treatment

Treatment options for ADHD, such as medication and behavior therapy, can help students with ADHD listen more attentively, begin and complete tasks, self-regulate, and curb potentially disruptive behavior or symptoms in class. If your child isn't currently receiving treatment and you feel that it's something they may benefit from, have a conversation with their pediatrician or another member of their care team.

Common Reasons To Not Do Homework

We talked about the direct impact that ADHD symptoms can have on homework and schoolwork, but there are other possible factors, too. Shame and trouble with executive functioning are common reasons why a kid with ADHD may refuse to do homework. Behavioral problems might make homework time challenging for parents. Similarly, comorbid diagnoses like learning disabilities, which are more prevalent among kids, teens, and adults with ADHD, can undoubtedly lead to struggles with homework. With the proper treatment and support, people with ADHD can thrive, and it is possible for kids with ADHD to improve their experience at school. Don't give up, and if problems persist, make sure to speak with a professional for guidance. 

Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

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ADHD And Refusal To Complete Assignments

Refusal to Complete Assignments

Instead Of Punishing, We Should Be Asking “Why”

A few days ago, I saw a post on a different group than the one I moderate for ADHD parent support. The post was from a parent asking for advice about how to punish a child for refusal to complete assignments in virtual school. The mom said she didn’t want to take recess away, as their pediatrician said that exercise is important for children with ADHD. (I can agree with that!) What followed were a lot of comments about other punishments that she could enact, like having the child walk or run the school yard instead of recess, or have them do extra work, or lose privileges for electronics.

It was at this point that I had to jump in.

Look at lists of symptoms for ADHD , and you will find all of the executive functions listed as possibly affected. At it’s core, ADHD is weakness in executive functioning. The child’s refusal to complete assignments is coming from a lagging skill in one or more areas. It is not just a behavioral problem.

No type or amount of punishment is going to change underlying executive functioning. It’s like punishing a child for not being able to ride a bike when they haven’t learned yet. So instead of asking how to punish, what we should be asking is “why did my child not do their work?” There is most definitely a reason. Making them run the school field won’t address that reason. Taking away a toy or privilege won’t address that reason. A punishment might gain short term compliance, but it is not going to solve this problem in the future. Most important in the asking of this question: it reframes the issue from one of blame to one of compassion.

Common Reasons For “Refusal” To Complete Assignments

The most common reasons that I am finding for kids and teens not completing their schoolwork are listed below. A new set of issues has cropped up with virtual and hybrid learning, but these refusals existed even before, when all school was conducted in-person. Don’t be fooled into thinking the “new way of learning” is causing these refusals!

How To Find The “Why”

In order to provide the right amount of support your child needs so that they can succeed, you may need to engage in a little detective work. We want to ask specific questions to get to the answer. Instead of “why didn’t you do it?” (blaming), you can ask “what was difficult about it?” or “how can I help you understand this?” (showing compassion).

I’ll give you a real example. I have a client who has fallen behind in a few of his classes. He is staying current with the classes that are more concrete and that he is better at – math, science, and Spanish. He is weeks behind in English.

I sat down with him and assessed his learning style, executive functioning skills, and future goals. We looked at strengths, weaknesses, and what barriers he was encountering. I found that he has difficulty writing, researching, and organizing his thoughts. He struggles with decision making as well. He would land on a research topic, then change his mind repeatedly. He perceives the stakes as high in any decision involving school, as he truly does care and is quite a perfectionist. The assignments were multi-step, high school English that, in his mind, looked like they were going to take forever. He couldn’t even get started, so he didn’t.

Taking the time to address the underlying issues allowed me, and his parents, to come up with a plan to get back on track. He needed to see how to to break big assignments down into more manageable pieces, to schedule time for reading and research, and to figure out the best way to organize. It took some time, but he was eventually able to get caught up in all classes.

What would have happened if his mom had taken away his video games as punishment for the refusal to complete assignments? The assignments most likely wouldn’t have been done independently, as he truly did not know how to get started with organization, prioritizing, and time demands.

I have another, younger, client who is in elementary school full time in-person class instruction. He is not able to do his homework without me or one of his parents sitting next to him. He rushes ahead to complete his work as quickly as possible, and thus he struggles with making his writing legible, and reading for comprehension. Without the accountability of someone right next to him, he gets off task, he daydreams and fidgets, his writing is illegible, and he ends up having to re-do the work, which leads to frustration and further avoidance. When I sat next to him and reminded him of the three keys for neater writing, and tapped the table to help him re-focus, and asked him to take a breath, slow down, and think before writing any answer, I was teaching him how to become more disciplined and what strategies he needed in order to make homework time smoother. He is a smart boy, so pointing out that while this process seemed like it was taking longer, he was actually going to save time in the end by not having to re-write and re-read things he missed.

What would happen if mom had taken away his playtime on the trampoline in the backyard, or his nightly bike ride with the family around the neighborhood? Would that have helped him slow down, write neatly, use active reading techniques, and stay focused? Not even close!

I don’t have a checklist of questions to ask, as I let the conversation unfold naturally, but here are a few questions that come to mind:

Less Obvious Reasons For Refusal To Complete Assignments

As an occupational therapist, I treat my clients holistically. This means that I look at the whole person. My clients are not a diagnosis or a deficit – they are complex human beings who have past influences and future goals. This is why I reject the “ABC” model of behavior therapy (antecedent- behavior – consequence) as the antecedent could have occurred hours (or even days) before the behavior. If we only look at what happened immediately prior to a behavior (the refusal to complete assignments, in this case) we are often missing the bigger picture!

A recent example is another high school student. She is in honors classes and has been staying current with all class and homework – until a creative writing paper was assigned that was to be graded by a peer. She did most of the work, but when she found out that it was going to be peer-graded, she completely shut down. She admitted to me that she did not want anything to do with it, because she was afraid of what this peer might think of her, reading her personal stories. In this case, there was not an executive functioning deficit, but there still was a clear reason behind the refusal.

What If There Is No Reason?

You can go through the entire process, and you still may not get a real answer. Alternatively, the answer may be “I don’t want to” or “I hate school” or something similar, which you may perceive as defiant. At this point of continued refusal to complete assignments, you have a few choices. You can use immediate rewards, you can develop a contingency plan, or you can enact a behavioral contract.

Obviously, we parents would love for our children to have the self-motivation to want to succeed. That is not always the case. I am speaking from personal experience when I say that no amount of logic, or punishment, will make this child or teen motivated. You, as the parent, can use a contingency or behavioral plan to get back on track. Once you begin to see results, you can back off and allow more autonomy. Build this into the written plan, so your child or teen knows exactly what outcomes will get him or her more freedom.

Finding they “why” and addressing any other underlying issues, will ultimately solve the problem of refusal to complete assignments. By doing this as soon as possible, you are setting your child or teen up for future success – and with that, everyone wins!

For much more on executive functioning skill building, motivation, and parenting help, check out my self-paced online courses for parents of elementary aged kids with ADHD and parents of teens with ADHD . For more 1:1 help, fill out my ADHD Questionnaire   to see if we are a good fit to work together.

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Instead, Lily had just scribbled all over her homework worksheet, thrown her pencil on the floor and was now yelling at the top of her voice: “ I hate Math! I suck at it!”

With my younger daughter to put to bed, Lily in a melt down and me exhausted after a day at work, the tension was rapidly rising.

But even if I could calm ourselves down , there was no end in sight. Even if I could persuade her to finish her math homework, Lily still had the whole book reading to do.

So I was facing two choices –

Should I stand over her and insist that not doing homework was NOT an option?

Or should I tell her to put the books away, write a note to her teacher and just let her unwind and play in the lead up to bedtime?

Have you been there? What choice would you make?

The choice I would make now is very different to what my choice would have been a few years back.

Back then, I’d try to push through with a mixture of cajoling and prompting and assurances that she did know how to do her Math  really .

If that didn’t work then maybe in despair and frustration that she didn’t seem to want to try, I would have gotten angry and tried to explain how serious I was about this.

A Game of One-Upmanship

Child Not Doing Homework? Pushy Parenting May Not Be The Right Choice

After all, what choice did I have? From the very early days in the private nursery she attended, I found myself surrounded by lots of other mothers locked into the same race to make their children the brightest and the best.

As Lily got older, I came to learn how insidiously contagious  pushy parenting is.

If one of the mothers spotted another parent with a Kumon Math folder, we all rushed to sign up too – for fear our children would get left behind.

Neurosis underpinned every conversation at the school gates – particularly as all of us were aiming to get our children into a small handful of selective private schools in the area.

Bit by bit, the parenting journey which had started off being so exciting and rewarding, was turning into a stressful game of one-upmanship .

But children are not products to be developed and put on show to reflect well on us.

adhd not doing homework

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Depending on what happens on the night, every child is conceived with a unique combination of genes which also maps out their strengths, weaknesses and personality traits before they are even born.

Lily may have been bred into a competitive hotbed. But as an innately modest and sensitive child, she decided she did not want to play.

The alarm bells started ringing in Grade Three when, after I personally made sure she turned in the best Space project, she won the prize. While I applauded uproariously from the sidelines, Lily, then seven, fled the room in tears and refused to accept the book token from the Head.

When she calmed down, she explained she hated us making a fuss. But what is just as likely is that she disliked the fact that her successes had become as much ours as hers. Even at that young age, no doubt she also realized that the more she succeeded, the more pressure she would be under to keep it up.

Over the next few years, the issues only deepened.

The Problem of Not Doing Homework

Child Not Doing Homework? Don't Let it Turn into a Daily Battle

The increasing amounts of homework sent home by the school gradually turned our house into a war zone – with me as the drill sergeant.

Homework is one of the most common flash points between kids and parents – the crossroads at which academic endeavors meet parental expectations at close quarters – and behind closed doors.

Surveys have found that homework is the single biggest source of friction between children and parents. One survey found that forty percent of kids say they have cried during rows over it. Even that figure seems like a dramatic underestimate.

Yet more and more, it is recognized that homework undermines family time and eats into hours that should be spent on play or leisure.

A straightforward piece of work that would take a child twenty minutes at school can easily take four times as long at home with all the distractions and delaying tactics that go with it.

As a result, children get less sleep , go to bed later and feel more stressed .

Homework has even started to take over summer vacations.

Once, the long break was seen as a chance for children to have adventures, discover themselves and explore nature. Now the summer months are viewed as an extension of the academic year – a chance for kids to catch up or get ahead with workbooks and tutoring.

But ultimately homework abides by the law of diminishing returns.

Researchers at Duke University found that after a maximum of two hours of homework, any learning benefits rapidly start to drop off for high school students.

While some children will do everything to avoid doing it, at the extreme others will become perfectionists who have to be persuaded to go to bed. Some moms I spoke to had to bribe their children to do less!

Given the cloud of anxiety hovering over them, no wonder some of these children perceive education as stressful .

Pushed to the Brink


While all of us would say we love our children no matter what, unfortunately that’s not the message our kids hear. Instead, children become angry when they feel we are turning them into passive projects. Rather than feel like they are disappointing us, they disconnect. Early signs may be they become uncommunicative after school, stop looking parents in the eye, become secretive or avoidant.

But we need to remember that unhappy, stressed kids don’t learn.

Over the next few years, Lily’s insistence on not doing homework kept getting worse. To try and get to the bottom of it, my husband Anthony and I took her to see educational psychologist who found strong cognitive scores and no signs of learning difficulties.

But what the report did identify was how profoundly Lily’s self-worth had been affected .  Even though I had never once told her she should be top of the class, she still felt she had to be good at everything. If she couldn’t be, she didn’t think there was any point trying at all.

It was clear despite our best efforts to support her, Lily constantly felt criticized . She was becoming defensive and resentful.

Most serious of all, by claiming she couldn’t do her homework – when she could – she was testing if my love for her was conditional on her success.

I had to face up to the painful truth that unless I took immediate action – and killed off my inner Tiger Mom – my child and I were growing apart.

So for the sake of my daughter, I realized I had to change direction and take my foot off the gas .

When her tutor rang to tell me Lily needed a break, I was delighted to agree. Since then, I have let her focus on the subjects that really matter to her – art and music – and have let her decide what direction to take them in.

I also made a deliberate effort to spend time with Lily – just the two of us – so we can simply “be” together. Now instead of trips to the museums and classical concerts, we go for walks in the park and hot chocolates.

The Difficult Journey Back

girl school tired book

To help her recognize and dismiss the voice that was bringing her down, I took her to see a Neuro-Linguistic Programming coach who teaches children strategies to untangle the persistent negative thoughts that undermine their self-belief – and replace them with positive ones.

Before we began, Jenny explained that Lily’s issues are not uncommon. As a teacher with 30 years’ experience, Jenny believes the growing pressure on children to perform from an early age is contributing to a general rise in learning anxiety. The youngest child she has helped was six .

It’s children like Lily, who don’t relish a contest, who are among the biggest casualties.

At home, some have been made to feel they are not good enough by parents or are intimidated by more academic sisters and brothers. Some may develop an inferiority complex simply because they are born into high-achieving families.

Once established, failure can also become self-reinforcing. Even when they get good marks, children like Lily still dwell on the pupil who got the higher one to support their negative views of their abilities, making it a self-perpetuating downward spiral.

It’s when children start to see this self-criticism as fact that the negative self-talk can start.

As she sat on the sofa, Jenny asked Lily if she had ever heard a nagging voice in her head that put her down. Lily looked surprised but answered that yes, she had. Asked who it was, my daughter replied: “It’s me, but the mean me.”

Asked to draw this character, Lily depicted an angry, disapproving female figure with her hands on her hips, with a mouth spouting the words “blah, blah, blah.” When asked to name her, Lily thought for a moment before coming up with the name Miss Trunch-Lily, so-called because the figure is half herself – and half the hectoring teacher from Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

Now that Miss Trunch-Lily had been nailed, Jenny and Lily agreed an easy way to deal with her would be to talk back and tell her “Stop it, you meanie” one hundred times.

But that would take a long time, so Lily and Jenny came up with a quicker solution; imagining a canon which would instantly send a shower of 60 candies into her mouth so she couldn’t say another word.

Next time Lily heard her nagging voice, all she had to do was press an imaginary button and her nemesis would be silenced.

In the months that followed, Lily seemed to relax. Gradually the procrastination about homework started to vanish – and Lily was much more likely to open her books after school and quietly get on with her homework.

A Fresh New Start

Child Not Doing Homework? Don't Try to Catch Up During Vacations

Instead my husband, my daughters and I went on long walks with our dog. We examined different types of seaweed and examined crabs in rock pools.

Back in the cottage, we sat around and read books that interested us. I let the children play upstairs for hours, not on their phones, but in long elaborate role-plays, without feeling the need to interrupt once.

I would wager that Lily and Clio learnt more about themselves – and what they are capable of – in a single week than in a whole semester at their schools where they hardly get a moment to stop and think.

Taming the Tiger Parent - Tanith Carey

Of course, for the child born with a go-getting personality, teaming up with turbo-charged parents can be a winning combination – to start with at least.

But as adults, we have to start asking – how high we can raise the bar before it’s too high for our children to jump?

After all, a bigger picture is also emerging : a rise in anxiety disorders, depression and self-harm among children who have grown up with this continual pressure – and the emergence of a generation who believe they are losers if they fail, they’ve never done enough if they win.

Even among children who succeed in this environment, educationalists are finding pushy parenting creates a drive towards perfectionism which can turn into self-criticism when these young people can’t live up to such high standards.

I’m happy that in the midst of this arms race to push our kids more and more, there are changes afoot. Around the world, parents and educators are drawing up a blue-print for an alternative.

Whether it’s slow parenting , minimalist parenting , free-range parenting – or the more bluntly named Calm the F*** Down parenting , there is recognition that we need to resist the impulse to constantly push and micro-manage.

As a mother to Lily, as well as my younger daughter, Clio, I’ve decided I don’t want to be a part of all those crushing burdens of expectations. I want to provide a relief from it.

Apart from the fact it makes children happier, it’s also so much more fun.

Now I love the fact that when Lily messes around in the kitchen making cupcakes, I no longer have to fight the urge to tell her to hurry up – and badger her to finish her homework.

Of course, not doing homework is not an option – but these days in our house the aim is to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. If a concept is not understood, I don’t pull my hair out trying to be the teacher and trying to play ‘catch-up’. If Lily, now 12, genuinely does not understand it, I write a note to the member of the staff to explain that it may need further explanation. It’s a simple system and is working perfectly fine for us.

I like it that when she comes home from school, and I ask her, ‘How are you?’ I really mean it.  It’s no longer code for: ‘What marks did you get today, darling?’ and I’m not thinking ‘Hurry up with your answer, so we can get on with your homework.’

Most of all I love the fact that I can finally appreciate Lily for the person she is now: a 12-year-old girl with an acerbic sense of humor who likes Snoopy, play-dates and kittens – and not for the person I once wanted her to be.

The 2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents

For our quick contemplation questions today –

The Ongoing Action Plan for Fine Parents

Spend some time sorting through any conflicts related to your kids not doing homework.

To start with, train your children in good habits and place time limits on how long homework should take from the start.

Ask the school how long a child should spend on each subject at night. Then you can help keep those limits in place by telling kids they can’t spend a minute more – or a minute less – than the allotted time.

Find the time of the day after school that works best for your child – either straight after arriving home or after a short break. Agree a start time every day so that the rule turns into a routine and there is less room for resistance and negotiation.

Don’t finish their homework for kids because you are desperate to get it off the evening’s to-do list. That will just mask the problem and get you dragged into a nightly conflict. Help them instead to take responsibility for their homework, while you provide guidance from the sidelines on an on-need basis.

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About Tanith Carey

Award-winning parenting writer Tanith Carey is a mother-of-two who writes books which aim to address the most pressing issues for modern families – and how to build strong, resilient kids in today’s challenging world. Her latest book Taming the Tiger Parent: How to put your child's well-being first in a competitive world has been called a big picture book to ‘re-orientate our parenting’, ‘highly readable’ ‘well-researched’ and ‘ beautifully written’ by teachers, parents and professionals. The book has received global coverage from outlets ranging from the NBC Today Show to the New York Post to yahooparenting, the Guardian and Her seventh book 'Girls Uninterrupted - A manual for raising courageous daughters' - will be published in February 2015.

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December 22, 2014 at 9:14 am

This is interesting to me because it doesn’t match our experience at all. We are struggling with my daughter doing homework, but it’s more of an adolescent rebellion/lethargy thing.

My kids attend a Montessori school which generally does not assign homework. What homework they tend to get in the elementary levels is a packet of assorted reading and math that they have an entire week to do at whatever pace works for them. My son’s homework is optional and he always opts out. (He’s very busy at home drawing and playing piano and he’s already reading at a high school level in second grade, so we never worry about academics with him anyway.) But my oldest is in seventh grade and they are trying to transition the kids into what will happen in high school, and my daughter has balked at all the homework.

But we have never approached our kids’ homework as our responsibility. We are always available to help and answer questions, but I explain that I passed whatever grade they are in already, and this is their turn to learn and show what they know. It’s been much harder clamping down on my oldest and making sure she knows what the homework is and has it ready. I explained to her recently that I remember those rebellious feelings, but the only person she’s hurting is herself. She’s limiting her choices later by not doing homework. Her teachers care, but in the end it doesn’t impact them, either. It’s all on her. I also told her the worst case scenario is she ends up at the local high school by default instead of following her friends to better places, but that the local high school is good too, so it’s not the end of the world.

I actually worry when I read about other parents monitoring elements of their kids’ lives so much more closely than I do that I’m not doing enough, but my kids are smart and happy and kind and I think they will do fine in the world, so I suppose we will stick with what we are doing. Because all of us are getting some part of it wrong, regardless.

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December 22, 2014 at 11:07 am

Thanks so much for sharing that perspective, Korinthia. I love your calm and collected approach to everything parenting, so I’m not entirely surprised with the way you approach home work 🙂 That said, in the circles I hang out, very few parents (if any) would be as calm about this as you are! I don’t know if it has anything to do with the fact that most of us are first generation immigrants and are quite fanatic about education…

Even among our friends, we are a bit of an extreme case. Our daughter goes to a private school. She’s had to do daily homework on weekdays (Mon – Thu) since Kinder. We did have some initial resistance, but it’s mostly a well-established habit now. When she comes home, we take a short break, and then she sits down for homework while I get dinner ready.

Most of the days, it happens without any issues. Some days, she tries to change the rules by wanting to play before homework. I understand her want to do that, but having come from a middle class family in a developing country, my perspective on this is very different. We are where we are, quite literally, due to the discipline we had in regards to education. That discipline is a very powerful thing and like many things the earlier you get it instilled the easier it is. I see it as my job to instill that discipline in my daughter. What she wants to do with it when she grows up is up to her. (In my own case, I’ve shelved a Ph.D to be a stay-at-home mom now and pursue what I really want to do. But that’s been possible only because my degree allowed me to get a high-paying job where I was able to save enough that I don’t have to worry about money for a few years. In those years, if I can find a way to earn a modest income from this site without selling my soul, great. If not, I’ll go back to my old job and repeat the cycle. It’s an amazing freedom to have!)

Anyway, so to me, it boils down to this: this is another case of the intricate balance we parents have to strike — we need to nudge our kids to reach their full potential, but without making it stressful and hopefully in a way that they actually enjoy the process. It’s not easy, and like you I wonder sometimes if I’m making the right choice. And here, I’ll defer to your wise words, because I can’t say it any better — my [daughter is] smart and happy and kind and I think will do fine in the world, so I suppose we will stick with what we are doing. Because all of us are getting some part of it wrong, regardless. 🙂

December 22, 2014 at 3:36 pm

I’m endlessly fascinated with how many ways there are to do things as a family. And it’s always interesting to know what others think of as normal.

I guess for us it comes down to the idea that learning is important, but grades are not. I had a horribly unfair incident in college concerning a grade, and I remember my grandmother smiling and saying, “No one ever asks me what my GPA was.” And it’s true. MIT was threatening to withhold my brother’s Master’s Degree over a deadline on a signature he had nothing to do with, and he just shrugged it off and said, “They can’t take back what I learned.” (They did finally give him his degree, but he really didn’t care.) Grades don’t really mean much. A “B” for one student may be a mark of a lot of effort, and evidence of slacking off for another. I’m more interested in what my kids actually know.

I think that’s why Montessori has been such a good fit for us. They teach to the individual, they don’t give letter grades, and there is no sense of competition, only striving to learn more about the world. We know by comparison to other schools around the city that ours is one of the highest performing, so we feel confident that they are getting a good education, but it’s their education, not mine.

Maybe because I grew up in a family of artists? We were always busy, always making things and learning something new. That’s what I want for my kids. I like that they are never bored, and that they LOVE school. They love it. They pretend not to be sick when they have a cold just so they can go. I guess in my mind that’s what school should be. Someplace to be excited about.

December 22, 2014 at 4:54 pm

It is fascinating, isn’t it? I think the way we grow up, and what we have experienced, colors the lens through which we see the world.

I agree with you that at the end of the day, learning, and the love of learning, are more important than everything else.

I think differently about grades though. Grades to me, are a reflection of how well you can apply that learning. Knowledge by itself isn’t enough. You need to be able to apply it in some way – either to earn a living, or help make the world a better place, or whatever. For kids, getting good grades are a way to practice applying/expressing their knowledge… it’s a very narrow and imperfect way to do it, but it’s what we have, nevertheless.

And, I look at absolute grades… not relative ones. In other words, I don’t care how many other kids did better or worse than her in any given test… I’m interested mainly in what she did or didn’t do well.

Just like us, she will sometimes be successful in applying that knowledge. Sometimes, not as much. The question then is, what can I do to help her better retain what she has learnt and apply it more effectively?

Now, if her grades aren’t good because of something outside her control, she is off the hook. If not, we hold her accountable, and work on it together to try and figure out what she can change/improve to do better next time.

So far, this seems to have worked and I haven’t beat the joy of learning out of her, yet 🙂 But, we’re still at the beginning of her learning journey… we’ll have to see what happens as we go along and things get more demanding and more complex…

PS: This is one of the more interesting discussions I’ve had on this blog in a while — Thank you! 🙂

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December 23, 2014 at 4:10 am

Thanks for the very considered and calm discussion of this issue that is happening here. This piece is not about Lily so much as it is about how great it can be when we parents discard our baggage and come to our children afresh. My book Taming the Tiger Parent has been called ‘a book to re-orientate’ parenting – and really it is about one thing: Finding empathy and connection with our children without letting the world (which does not always want the best for our kids) to get in the way. Please share so that we get other parents have the confidence to do the same – and enjoy their parenting more..(and that’s just the adults!)

December 23, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Sumitha, I’m probably biased about grades because my own history with them has been so unrepresentative, and I think people place too much stock in them. In my kids’ school they work on preparing a portfolio of all kinds of work rather than relying on letter grades, and that works better for us. But as far as using grades simply as a barometer of whether a child is taking care of responsibilities that seems completely reasonable.

That’s one of the discussions I’m continually having with my daughter at the moment, that she needs to provide evidence for her teachers that she’s done the work. She feels the magic of a book, for instance, is marred by her picking it apart for an analysis. She’ll read the book, and she’s a good writer, but she resents the type of work assigned about it and sometimes won’t do it. (I used to do the same thing, so I get it.) I tell her she just has to pick her consequence. She can either suck it up and do the work, challenge the work by coming up with a different assignment that maybe meets the same criteria the teachers are interested in, or not do it. The first two improve her report card, and the third hurts it. The report card is a means to more choices about her future. (As her mom, I’m actually just happy she read and loved the book.)

In the end, I’m not worried. For her, bad grades at a good school are probably worth more than good grades at a bad school, and she will still have more choices than the average child. Wherever she ends up she will make it work, but that’s up to her.

I acknowledge we are in a privileged position, because she’s got enough talent and charm and resources and family that she will not starve, she will not be homeless, regardless of grades. I think the real key to success is figuring out your passion if you can, so you know what you’re working toward. As soon as she figures that out I’m convinced she has the skills and discipline to build a good life for herself. I did. (And my report cards would have given you a panic attack!)

December 23, 2014 at 9:24 pm

I have to agree with you and your daughter about the book reports — we did our first one a few weeks back, and it was decidedly much more unpleasant compared to just reading and enjoying the book!

Good luck convincing your daughter to pick one of the first two consequences. But it is clear that even if she picks the third you’ll take it in your stride — which is what I find so admirable about you 🙂

December 25, 2014 at 8:11 am

Such an interesting discussion, thank you!

One more piece to toss in there if you have time for it:

I know it’s an article about practicing music, but it’s the same idea about grades as a reward, and how that backfires.

I think for me it’s not that grades are not important, it’s that they should reflect something real. If my kids are learning and working hard, the grades will follow. But their focus should always be on their education, not their grades.

December 25, 2014 at 5:04 pm

That is particularly true in music where racing from one music grade to the next, as kids do here, can destroy enjoyment of music for its own sake – and that is a very sad. It just becomes about teaching to the test. In my view children should have music as another language – and another outlet for emotion, not just as a way to build CVs

December 25, 2014 at 11:04 pm

Well said. Couldn’t agree more.

December 26, 2014 at 8:37 am

@Korinthia, sorry for the late reply — busy with the holidays.

Love that article you pointed to. Some time back, I came across several articles by Alfie Kohn and got very confused about this whole rewards thingie. At that point I was just starting to move away from threats, punishment and screaming, and thought I was doing good by using rewards and positive reinforcement instead, and Kohn’s articles turned that notion on it’s head.

Things eventually started to fall in place when I read the “Power of Habits” by Charles Duhigg.

My very unsubstantiated, unproven, non-scientific conclusion (which I wrote about here ) is based on this observation mentioned in that article — Kohn and his colleagues would admit that rewards, bribes and praise do indeed work in the short term — and Chales Duhigg’s observations that once a habit is formed, you can remove the reward completely from the habit loop and the habit will continue.

So in my opinion, if you use rewards as a way to establish a habit and not as the end result, they still have a place.

In the case of grades for instance, grades are a way to get into a consistent study habit which is — pay attention in class, learn what the teacher is teaching, review at home if necessary, let’s talk about it as much as you want or you can look things up in books/Net, apply in a test. At 1st grade it’s very hard to make learning *all* subjects fun, but a habit like this will apply to all subjects universally. Grades are a great way to get that habit started initially — they are tangible and there is recognition. As we go on, we focus the message on the learning — for instance, like me, grammar was not my daughters favorite subject. By looking at the test results and saying “Hey, you did well in your grammar test. You’re learning a lot for a first grader! What is this you’ve done here? Diagramming? We never did that in India. Will you teach me how to diagram a sentence?” implicitly acknowledges the grade on that test, but the grade isn’t the focus. When she draws on her white board and teaches me how to diagram a sentence, there is pride and joy in her and now she is a lot more interested in grammar.

I am not a music person (I know, sorry :)) but I would think that using a reward to get a child to practice until the child’s first performance isn’t a bad idea. Once the child performs in front of an audience, and enjoys that sense of accomplishment, the practice habit will likely carry through, even if you remove whatever temporary reward you used. If the child has an inclination towards music, they will learn to enjoy the practicing part of it too as they go along — it’s just a matter of getting them to do it for long enough to recognize that.

December 26, 2014 at 8:54 am

@Korinthia, I’m still thinking about it 🙂

The latest discussion reminded me about the marble jar experiment you shared on your blog some time back ( here ). At first your kids may have done the chores to earn those marbles to get the screen time or other things (rewards). But once the system (habit) was established, the marbles (or the things they could buy) is not necessarily a motivator to do the chores… it is “just how things are done” — a simple habit/system that removes the need for verbal negotiation, arguing, reminders, cajoling, power struggles etc from the picture and hence makes what needs to be done tolerable/fun for everyone involved.

December 27, 2014 at 3:48 am

To be honest on music, I think you also know your child is playing the right instrument when they do want to practice. I know that sounds idealistic but they will be much drawn towards that instrument if it’s the one that lights their ‘spark.’ Lily and Clio both do play the violin to a very high level – but as I explain in my book, that doesn’t mean I have had been to be an Amy Chau tiger parent to get to them point. Also music has become a way of life in our house, and they play music together, which helps.

January 2, 2015 at 9:19 am

(Sorry to keep this discussion dragging on forever, but it’s the kind of thing I really enjoy!)

Sumitha, I agree about using some rewards for forming habits. When my kids first started violin we got into a routine of combining practice with dessert. We don’t often have dessert, but to get them in a habit of practicing after dinner they would get marshmallows for each little thing they played. Then just at the end of the practicing. Then not at all and they didn’t notice. They were four and six at the time and that helped because it was easier to catch their attention with marshmallows than with some abstract sense of musical improvement, which on violin is painfully slow.

The hardest part about teaching beginning violin is to keep students essentially distracted from the fact that they don’t sound like anything for a long, long time, while they put in the necessary work that will improve how they sound. I used to use small stickers with my students to mark when songs were done, but it wasn’t much of a reward. My kids’ violin teacher uses toys and candy as incentives week to week, and I can see how it backfires. It takes the focus off the work and onto the treat, and not getting the treat feels like punishment. My son’s piano teacher doesn’t even use stickers–just checks things off so he knows not to keep working on them, and that’s working much better, but there is a lot more instant gratification to piano than there is to violin.

In terms of grades, we just view them differently. They tell such an incomplete story that they don’t interest me much. You know a little something if a kid gets all good grades vs. all bad grades, but beyond that, nothing useful. When I was in 7th grade I had a notoriously sexist shop teacher who would NOT give a girl an A in mechanical drawing. I know my first drawing in that class was better than the boy’s sitting next to me, but he got all A’s. I complained to my mom who told me when she was in college absolutely no woman could get an A in her advertising class, and she was far and away the best artist there. (Also, some agencies flat out did not hire women, which still blows my mind.) I got alternating A’s and failing grades in reading in 6th grade based purely on whether I handed in the assignments. The quality of the writing didn’t matter to the teacher. Would you rather hire a writer who writes well, or one who writes poorly but always meets deadlines? Depends on the need.

When I think about grades I always think about the valedictorian from my brothers’ high school class. One of my brothers spent his senior year at USC. He was second in his class because he got a B in one of those college courses. Number one? A girl who spent all of her high school experience striving for perfect grades. Her brother was the valedictorian of my class, and she felt she had to match that. It was expected. So she took courses purely based on what she could get an A in. She did not risk taking physics, or calculus. She avoided English and History classes taught by the more challenging teachers. She wasted her chance at an interesting education so she could say she was valedictorian. For myself as a parent, that would not make me proud at all. If as a family we were disadvantaged and that status would provide important opportunities my child wouldn’t otherwise get, then sure, that would be a worthy (if distorted) goal. It’s all relative, and again, every family is different.

Tanith, I agree that kids have to play an instrument that speaks to them. I wish more parents knew that. I had a sample lesson once with a really hostile boy who had a ton of talent and ability, and his mom was making him play. I asked him what he would rather do, and he wanted to play guitar. I told his mom I thought he should switch (or even just add it) because violin brought him no joy. At it’s core, music should be about joy. His mom had a sense of “violin is better” and it was a status thing for her. She was shocked I suggest he be allowed to play guitar and said, “You think guitar is okay?” I told her there was nothing wrong with guitar, and if he liked what he was playing he would do better and enjoy it more. Glad your children like playing violin! One of my projects for the new year is to start building a full size one for my oldest and have her help. (Not many kids get to play a violin they literally had a hand in making, so that should be fun!)

January 2, 2015 at 11:02 am

I love this discussion, too Korinthia! Thank you so much for it. Both writing about it, and reading your’s and Tanith’s points of view has been great for me for sorting through what I want/stand for, in terms of grades, homework etc. for my daughter. With our choice to send her to a private school, these are a part of our everyday life and being more clear about it sure helps!

Your words “If as a family we were disadvantaged and that status would provide important opportunities my child wouldn’t otherwise get, then sure, that would be a worthy (if distorted) goal.” — this describes my life quite literally. While I can see your perspective on grades and it makes a ton of sense, it is hard for me to actually be that cool about it, simply because I am where I am because of the grades, degrees etc (I had written a guest post a while ago that may provide some background here – on money and happiness ). Even though grades/degrees haven’t brought anything of real substance to my life, they nevertheless are the tickets that opened a lot of doors for us and so I simply can’t bring myself to totally break free from them — but I am happy that through these discussions, I am broadening my perspective a bit and hopefully my daughter will benefit from it!

About music, most Asian kids end up in piano classes by default, but my daughter didn’t quite show any interest in a play keyboard she had as a kid which I took as an indication that it’s not her “thing”. I’ve talked to her a couple of times about guitar classes — while she shows interest in it for the novelty of it, she didn’t pounce on it like when I mentioned art class. A lot of my friends argue that kids can doodle and paint at home and there’s no need to spend on classes, and that money is better spent on music so we can introduce something ‘new’ to our kids. I see that point, but I am a believer of the 10,000 hour rule and if she loves art, and doodling, I’d rather pay for her to just take classes in that and hone that craft. Again, no idea if that is a good choice or if it will come back to bite me in the future… we’ll see 🙂

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December 23, 2014 at 6:54 am

I really like what you have to say. It converges well with what I have said in my book, The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers.

December 23, 2014 at 8:41 am

Thanks for sharing that, Dr. Goldberg. Sounds like an interesting book. I will try to grab a copy of it.

December 24, 2014 at 3:51 am

Thanks Dr Goldberg. I will be definitely checking out your book and sharing it. I think it’s so important that writers in this area band together so others can see there there’s a strong movement forming, questioning where the current educational ethos is leading us.

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November 20, 2019 at 7:28 pm

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January 2, 2018 at 10:44 am

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October 17, 2018 at 1:18 pm

So what was the title of this BOOK I didn’t read !?!? Guess I overlooked it !!! Just look for a few good pointers not a book to read !!!

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May 15, 2020 at 9:36 pm

Thank you SO much for these words….

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December 22, 2014 at 10:12 am

Ooh Tanith, excellent article, thank you for sharing this with Sumitha and the rest of us. It was more than I expected. At first I thought, “Well, my kid doesn’t really have issues too much with homework . . . but I’ll look it over.” Very glad I did, it’s much more than homework!

Yes, the delays and distractions, that’s what I have here with my 9 year old. Despite our questions to the school, we never got a complete answer as to how kids were “sorted” each year into what class. Turns out they did it by testing scores and not the “mix-up” of kids to juggle things up from year to year as I was originally told years ago. Of course this created a bit of hurt pride and friction about the subject with my husband and I towards the school as we of course thought our child should be in with the other kids. Even now, with a friend’s child being in the other class, there is a pressure for our own child to do better, push harder, get into that class. Luckily my husband is more level-headed about it than me and this article gave me a good wake-up call. The amount of work they had was more than her class and gave me some concern as to whether she was learning enough. Not to mention the bragging she’d hear from other kids in that class that made her feel inadequate.

Not every child is going to be the next Einstein and we know our daughter is a smart girl but has a stronger pull, like your Lily, toward art and other subjects. We have to enhance their skills and passions and not just push, push, push for the grades and I feel I was like you as well, nervous with the report card. I was proud of her but wanted her to do better but my husband would say, she’s done well, you can’t compare her to so and so and I couldn’t and shouldn’t have. It hit home quickly last year when at the end of the school year, she had two awards and was so happy and I saw a few grades and felt a bit disappointed. I could see it took the wind out of her little sails and I told myself to get my act together and stop it. There was the summer project already spread out on the last day of school, which is a bit discouraging as not all schools do it and it’s a yearly thing for us but we took it in stride.

It also made me wonder about kids that are pushed, some take it out in frustrations and others, it seems to us, do the opposite and just push themselves to the point that they even feel that’s what matters most and I feel sorry for them. I wonder if that bragging isn’t covering up insecurities or worries.

I was worried about her starting to read as a preschooler when I found out one of the teacher’s kids was particularly gifted and rolling along at a very fast rate. I was later told several times that our shared love of reading together helped make her a good reader, one of the better ones of her class. When I took the pressure off of making her read, when often she didn’t feel like it, other than sitting with me while I read, it was more enjoyable and her reading progressed along just fine. Last year it was math that was the issue and now she’s doing very well in math but her language/vocabulary aren’t what they were. A cycle of some kind, who knows but we work on what needs tending to and I try not to push her to where she feels there is nothing else. She still needs that down time, that play time, enough sleep for certain and a chance to be a kid still, she is one, after all.

We have an allotted time for homework and I contact her teacher if something is a problem. I don’t help her like I used to but guide her and she takes pride in her work and getting her corrections done in school with the teacher.

Parenting is an everyday learning course. Obviously this article hit home, thank you. I look forward to more of your work Tanith and thank you as always Sumitha. A blessed holiday season to you both and a break that’s filled with fun and not work!

December 22, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Thank you so much for sharing that, Bernadette. There’s nothing like listening to stories from other parents and finding that common thread to feel normal again 🙂

We have the opposite combination in our house – my husband’s really fanatic about how my daughter does in school, while I am a little more level-headed.

I think the biggest eye opener for me were these words from Tanith – “for the child born with a go-getting personality, teaming up with turbo-charged parents can be a winning combination – to start with at least. But as adults, we have to start asking – how high we can raise the bar before it’s too high for our children to jump?” Our daughter has a very competitive streak, and at first it did look like my husband pushing her to be the best was really a good combination. But then she messed up one test and the fall out was beyond ridiculous. I couldn’t believe my husband’s (over) reaction or that overnight, my daughter was turning into a liar right before our very eyes. Where she thrived on competition before, she started to make excuses and make up stories. I had to put my foot down and set some explicit house rules about what is acceptable and what is not, on both their parts. It took a while but we have a working system now. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that we can nourish her strong natural tendency to try to be the best and the joy she gets from accomplishing things, without letting it take over or be the only thing! Like Korinthia said above, it is almost guaranteed that we won’t get it all right all the time… the key is to do the best we can, and like you said, keep on learning!

December 23, 2014 at 4:17 am

Dear Bernadette. I think you hit on a very interesting point here. “It also made me wonder about kids that are pushed, some take it out in frustrations and others.” I have been exploring this point because I believe that one of the unacknowledged knock-on effects of competitive parenting is sibling rows and tension. The children don’t just compete to win in the outside world – they do it at home too, leading to many more squabbles and less happy home. My girls Lily and Clio, for example, have never got on better – they collaborate and help each other with music, homework etc Yet I hear other parents proudly trumpet how they have children dead set on beating each other as if they was making them excel further. Instead is sets up a template that I believe can ruin sibling relationships into adulthood Another reason to take the foot of the gas….

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December 22, 2014 at 11:24 pm

Really liked the article. Parenting is like walking on a razor’s edge and very rightly said, ‘all of us are getting parts of it wrong’…. Regardless :)..

Stay happy, keep the kid happy and let them be!

December 23, 2014 at 4:18 am

Thanks Anshu. Please share if you can to give other parents the confidence to take their foot off the gas!

December 23, 2014 at 8:42 am

Thanks Dr. Anshu. Stay happy, keep the kid happy and let them be! — that’s a great mantra to live by 🙂

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February 8, 2016 at 7:38 pm

This could not polbsisy have been more helpful!

February 21, 2016 at 6:54 pm

Great. I am so pleased you found it constructive.

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February 21, 2016 at 6:47 pm

Encourage him to express his opinion, talk about his feelings, and make choices. Show enthusiasm for your child’s interests and encourage her to explore subjects that fascinate her. Provide him with play opportunities that support different kinds of learning styles — from listening and visual learning to sorting and sequencing. Ask about what he’s learning in school, not about his grades or test scores. Thanks!

February 21, 2016 at 6:53 pm

‘Ask about what he’s learning in school, not about his grades or test scores.’ Exactly

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February 23, 2016 at 3:51 pm

Hi Tanith Carey,

I agree with you because it can be hurt child mind. Rest other motivation way very good from Evelyn W. Minnick. Also, I have written a blog for helping kids and it’s related to this article. “Best Ways to Get Your Kids to Do Homework Without All the Drama” To read this article visit at

I hope my answer will help more readers of this article.

Thanks Nancie L Beckett

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February 25, 2016 at 5:05 pm

This is a great article with lots of quality information about handling homework with kids. I’m a Tutor, you don’t believe “My kid Refuses to Do Homework Assignment.” After lots of research I got a solution, but it takes time. So I’m sharing with you.

Here’s How to Stop the Struggle:-

1. Try to stay calm 2. Set clear expectation around homework time and responsibilities. 3. Play the parental role most useful to your child. 4. Keep activities similar with all your kids. 5. Start early and Offer empathy and support. 6. Use positive reinforcement and incentives.

I used those. Meanwhile, I have written a blog about “How to Make Studying Less Stressful and More Fun?” visit at

Let me know if you have questions

Thanks Arlene B. Morgan

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April 14, 2016 at 9:52 am

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April 14, 2016 at 10:08 am

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April 14, 2016 at 10:11 am

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August 2, 2016 at 3:46 am

The reality is that every kid is different and what works for one child may not work for another, even with kids in the same family. When our children were small, our goal was to make the actual work process and homework help as pleasant as possible. This was most commonly accomplished by placing a fuzzy, lazy cat on the lap of the student. Very few children (or adults for that matter) will rise from their chairs when there’s a cat sleeping on their lap. The cat also provides company without interfering with the actual thinking process.

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September 21, 2016 at 2:47 pm

Very helpful information, my son who is 7 is not the biggest fan of homework. It does depend on the evening and last night was a doozy! He usually has Math every second day which is a review sheet from what they did in class. He acts out, lack of focus, complains that he is tired etc.

Last school year after Spring Break I had finally had enough, and decided homework would get done on my terms, I wanted my happy go lucky son back, so some nights we did not do homework, knowing that on nights that we did there would be more. That seemed to work.

This year my husband and I are working harder with our son, as he struggles with reading and writing. He is in Grade 2, but not at a Grade 2 level, we have support from his teacher, but last night when he was kicking up a fuss about Math, which he does well with I wondered if the subject he struggles with is the cause of the fuss. He even refused to read last night.

We know he feels like we are always working on learning, and we feel the same, but at the same time want to do what we can to support his learning development. I feel helpless at times, as I know he is aware that he struggles, especially when he says things like “I can’t read Mommy”. I try and keep it positive and that there are things that everyone struggles with, and we have to practice to get better.

I am always searching different ways to aid with his learning that will keep him engaged.

I know I rambled….

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March 31, 2017 at 10:41 am

>>Of course, not doing homework is not an option – but these days in our house the aim is to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. Well, I have to disagree with you, kids in Finland do not do homework and their schools simply gave up giving their students homeworks and nothing happened, Finland is still on first levels of education ladders. So it’s optional for everyone , however if it is not optional for you child you can always ask other people for math homework help or chemistry homework help.

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April 6, 2017 at 12:09 pm

This article was helpful. While I don’t push my kid to be perfect or ask how other kids did compared to her I constantly get push back from my child with anything she doesn’t want to do. It can be very frustrating. She doesn’t like my input on solving problems at all so I have to just back off or deal with her covering her ears and tuning me out.

She fortunately listens to her teacher, but if she gets tired of something, she loves to tune people out. She is 7 now and has been this way since she was about 4. Example, she got tired of listening to her swim instructor at age 4 and would submerge herself under water so she didn’t have to listen. She is a CHALLENGE and if you give her the option to slack off with work she will do it. Not quite sure how to even go about it. She could care less if she got no credit for missing work. To her, it’s no consequence so it’s been difficult to figure out a workaround with her. She isn’t a spoiled child and if you took the few things she does have away from her, she is fine with that. I don’t like threatening to take things away though. I feel it solves nothing. Challenging!

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November 4, 2017 at 9:59 am

Any advice for people who aren’t wealthy? The amount of time and money required for your solutions are absolutely not available to the vast majority of Americans. Neuro linguistic training and private schools? Impossible for all but a few. Most of us are *not* in some insane competition with other parents to push our kids into Harvard by starting waiting lists for preschool. Most of us just want our kids to be able to take care of themselves someday and be successful enough to be happy. Not doing homework is a problem for most kids, rich or poor, competitive or not, regardless of personality, regardless of parenting. This advice is about your child at all. It’s about what you did to your child and then had to undo. Not all kids have been conditioned to internalize the overbearing voice of their type A parents. Some just don’t want to do homework.

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November 6, 2017 at 2:42 am

Thank you for this article. Wow, I relate so much to this article. I struggle with my 11 yr old to do homework. She’s exactly like Lily, a soon as she starts doing homework she calls for my help that she doesn’t understand. She’s very bright and learns right away, but I do see she’s stressing. She feels that she’s too slow and takes to long to finish her homework. I know is me without realizing I am pressuring her too much. I must change.

I’m going to change our schedule. I just realized that I didn’t make enough quality time. I need to change that and not pressure my princess about homework.

Thank you so much.

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December 23, 2017 at 11:14 pm

Hi folks! My son is older, in 10th grade, and thus it is a very delicate time. That said, up until recently, he was working hard but generally doing well in Honors classes, AP Biology, and AP US History. He is also in band and very intererested in Congressional Debate in Forensics Club. He’s developed a forceful personality, and pursues his goals fearlessly.

Then, it seems a single English research paper broke the camel’s back. It was a walk-thru project: Do basic step A, use A to do 3 days of research in the library, identify a list of relevant quotes, analyze the quotes, develop a rough draft, etc. During the first stages, he always had a reason why it wasn’t done. The grading structure required every step to be completed before the next step started. So, he sat. Supposedly, he had a paper step written in Google Docs…but now he doesn’t remember the “dashed off” name (“stuff2958749.doc”, for example) so he considers that..and the previous steps useless. Why do I need to do this stuff, when I can just write the paper? Why?

My wife is an experienced special educator, and the teacher is engaged and working with us to give our son more options. Still, he pushes back. We’ve done so far as to negotiate him just working on the rough draft, and accepting the zeros on the skipped stages. Somehow, that devolved into him retreating into his room, slamming his door. He has proposed that the teacher “simply” nullify the assignment without a set of grades. If we accept this multiple zero, it will possibly wreck his entire class, possibly causing him to fail 10th grade English. In NJ, that means you don’t move forward to 11th grade.

I’ve had a couple of long discussions with him, away from his mother. He mentions a desire for a more intense structure. He references his stay at an advanced debate camp, where he engaged with other students…who were attending very expensive private schools. “One you see the outside world, you can never be satisfied with being trapped indoors”…he has restated this concept in multiple ways. These schools are beyond our reach financially, and in any case, they aren’t an option in the middle of a school year. And it is unlikely that he’d be accepted, if he wrecks his class grades.

Part of this scenario seems to be a desire to force us to engage with him, in an attempt to work around the school structure. He does have an IEP and 504, which in middle school once allowed him to work independently. Somehow, he thinks that is an option in 10th grade honors English.

Engaging is a real challenge. He’s confident in his ability to argue, and is fully willing to ignore our facts and predictions of fallout. He even discredits his mother’s deep educational knowledge and experience, and then criticizes my perceived lack of business success as ad hominem attacks. (I’m doing fine, but it forces me to defend, and thus is successful distraction.) So far, laying out consequences has been entirely ineffectual. He requires an answer to his “Why?”, but disregards the answers as inadequate. He demands an academic answer to why the teaching technique (the walk-thru research paper) is required or effectual, then derides it as “not a real answer”.

It ends up with a closed door.

The teacher is running out of patience, and we’re running out of ideas. I don’t think the teacher is even allowed to give more that she’s allowing, and might be bending the rules as-is. Our son spent 2 hours with counselors….not guidance counselors…counselors…giving them the same run-around. I think they (2 of them at the same time) gave their best, but they fell back to asking what he wanted: more time maybe?

I’ve read other sources. I see that a full-on psych eval was recommended. At this point, I’m fine with that if it helps. I suspect we’d need to get our son to buy into it. But would that still result in his English grade cratering? Are we risking a cascade failure into other classes?

It’s a very delicate time, and this scenario is not an easy one. I’d like to have simple, pat answer: he’s looking for attention; he’s stressed out over the sheer amount of work; he’s frustrated at the forced slowness of the curriculum; the class is group and can’t move at an accelerated speed (ans: it’s Honors.). But I’m guessing it’s more complex that 1 root-cause.

Given this, I’d not mind some considered advice. Thanks!

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May 28, 2018 at 9:19 pm

O my, I do get this. My son pushes back a lot these days, partly the teen and hormones? Right now we are working with setting boundaries, coping with meltdowns and spending time each day bonding over something other than work. It’s horrible to have to walk on eggshells and think you cannot just talk to your kid and resolve something…so simple. My heart goes out to you. A lot of listening is required, and prayers. And in the end, we let him slow things down by an entire year. Take care!

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March 17, 2018 at 3:48 pm

Oh my land, thank you for this. I found it today when my kid dissolved into tears after she dragged her homework on for 4 hours on a Saturday, while I nagged her and then snapped at her.

I left the room, googled “child won’t do homework”, found this and read it, went back into the room, hugged her and asked her if trying to make her homework perfect was slowing her down. She said yes, then we talked about that, and her inner critic, and what she could do about that awful little critical voice in her head.

Amazing – thank you.

May 28, 2018 at 5:06 pm

Just found your comment. So pleased it helped.

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July 13, 2018 at 8:57 am

I think that if the child does not want to do homework, then everything is fine. I still do not know a single child who would like to do homework. I read the article that homework kills creativity, and I quite agree with that. After all, the child instead of spending time for something really interesting, should do boring homework. When I have a son, I will allow him not to do homework, but in exchange I will tell him that he must be interested in something that really will benefit him in development. Thank you for this article!

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October 31, 2018 at 1:07 am

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November 12, 2018 at 3:23 am

I am brother of a 12 year old boy studying in seventh grade.I find him not getting interested in studying or doing homework after coming home from school.He is worried more about video games and TV.He get to do his home works only after continuous pressure from parents.He is very attentive,obedient and performs well in school.But at home , he says he need to rest from studies. I hope this tips will help him to get more involved in studies!

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December 7, 2018 at 3:16 pm

The issue is process vs. results. By letting your daughter skimp on her homework, she’s going to pick up bad habits … such as doing what she wants to do instead of taking care of her responsibilities. We teach “Work hard, then play hard” in our home. Our goals are process-oriented, like show up for class and turn in your homework, rather than results-oriented, like why don’t you have an A in this class. By teaching our children to work, even when they don’t feel like it sometimes, they can build a foundation of responsibility that will “result” in a more successful, well-rounded experience. Some kids may be different … they may be given all the freedom you are preaching turn that into tremendous happiness. But I’ll build my foundation on discipline, and my children will earn their self-worth by taking care of their responsibilities … not throwing a fit until an authority finally gives in.

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April 18, 2019 at 6:22 am

This is good

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April 25, 2019 at 3:11 am

Thank you for sharing this article, you are very interesting to write, your blog is really interesting to read!

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June 24, 2019 at 6:44 pm

This is really good and helpful. Thanks for sharing this article. 🙏

August 10, 2019 at 1:57 am

I think that the real reasons why the child does not do their homework can be very many of them all of their parents will never know. The main thing is to be able to find a common language in your child!

October 16, 2019 at 6:37 am

I have to agree with you and your daughter about the book reports — we did our first one a few weeks back, and it was decidedly much more unpleasant compared to just reading and enjoying the book!

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October 20, 2019 at 1:04 pm

Children do not do their homework because they watch a lot of TV shows and play on the phone.

October 23, 2019 at 3:35 am

All parents want their children to be successful, successful and happy. Schooling is one of the important components of a child’s life. The school will be the main part of its reality for 8-10 years. Therefore, the baby needs to help adapt, feel comfortable and learn how to succeed

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February 22, 2020 at 1:00 pm

nice tips, I hope it will help

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February 22, 2020 at 11:50 pm

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April 8, 2020 at 3:15 am

Anaerobic exercise, on the other hand, is where that max effort comes into play. It’s another form of cardio in which you should only be able to sustain activity for about 30 seconds before you need a break. It should feel pretty difficult for you to catch your breath while you’re doing this type of training (anaerobic meaning “the absence of oxygen”). Explosive exercises like plyometrics, sprinting, and even heavy weightlifting are all examples of anaerobic exercise. “The body uses phosphocreatine and carbohydrates as fuel [for anaerobic exercise] because they can be broken down rapidly,” Olson explains. “Fats take too long to break down as an energy source.”

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May 5, 2020 at 2:53 am

Hi, great article. Very interesting to read. Generally I love your website. By the way, I know a great website on which you can find a huge number of useful articles! See for yourself

May 6, 2020 at 1:47 am

Hi, there! Great article! I heard that web design is now one of the most sought-after professions and if your children do not know who they would like to work, then go to the site and they will see how great this profession is!

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October 24, 2020 at 6:16 am

Nice post! I’ve been looking for a site like , with a lot of useful information about children! thank you for your work, I’m going to read your articles

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November 7, 2020 at 12:07 pm

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January 29, 2021 at 6:04 am

wow, cool good meterial

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February 25, 2021 at 6:06 am

Thank you for the article. This is a really powerful method. I don’t know what I would do without him. Homework and children are created in different universes, I think. Thank you for the blog, I will follow you.

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adhd not doing homework

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adhd not doing homework

ADHD and Homework

adhd not doing homework

Our eleven-year-old daughter, who has been diagnosed with inattentive-type ADHD, has been doing better since she began treatment with stimulant medication. However, we still have trouble getting her organized around homework. We have tried setting up an office in her room, taking away all the distractions, keeping the area quiet, and not allowing the television to go on until all her homework is done. We don’t seem to be making much progress and, in fact, we are all getting even more frustrated because nothing seems to work. Her teachers still complain that work is not getting turned in, and her grades are still suffering in spite of her teacher always telling us how bright she is.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the ideal homework setting. Some children with ADHD work inefficiently in an isolated, quiet setting like their room, and do better in the midst of some action, like at the kitchen table with a radio playing. You might need to try a few different settings until you find the most efficient one.

In addition, you might need to figure out if any other factors are making homework difficult. Think about all the steps involved. Does your child know what all the assignments are? Does she bring the materials home that are necessary for doing the work? Does she have a nightly work plan that fits with her learning style? (She might need to schedule breaks between math and English, or between outlining the report and writing the first 3 paragraphs.) Does she have a system to check on whether all the nightly work is done? Is there a system for checking that her completed work gets turned in on the due date? How does she or you know that work is late? Have you or her teacher set up rewards for progress or consequences for late work? Is there a system for her teacher to communicate with you about late work?

Once you have gone through this type of systematic list of questions, you can begin to solve the problem in an organized way—and you might discover some simple and obvious solutions. If she is taking stimulant medication and she does her homework primarily at a time after it has worn off, you could consider a short-acting extended dose of medication for the early evening.

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Inside the ADHD mind

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Top 5 Homework Frustrations — and Fixes for Each

Kids with adhd often struggle with homework, but each one struggles in a unique way. is your child a disorganized danny procrastinating penny distractible david whatever his specific homework challenges, here are equally specific solutions that really work for kids with adhd..

Ann Dolin, M.Ed.

Tired of the Homework Wars?

If your child with ADHD hates doing homework, you’re not alone. Executive function deficits, inattention, and learning challenges can make after-school assignments torture for our kids — and us parents, too! Here, Ann Dolin, M.Ed, offers specific strategies that address the most common homework-related frustrations, like disorganization or procrastination. Does your child fit any of these common profiles?

A disorganized child experiencing frustration while surrounded by homework papers

Disorganized Danny

Many children with ADHD have difficulty with paper flow, meaning they have trouble keeping track of the assignments coming in and out. Let’s call this child “Disorganized Danny.” Dealing with a messy binder can be frustrating for parent and child alike — particularly when the homework is completed and then lost before being turned in!

Multicolored pens to help a child overcome frustration during homework time

Solutions for Disorganized Danny

The key is to treat organization like a subject . Instead of kicking off homework time with a math assignment or a vocabulary list, start by dedicating a few minutes to organization. Go through your child’s binder with him, sorting through papers and working together on some organizational strategies. If your child struggles to file papers in a 3-ring binder, for example, ask her if she’d like to try an accordion folder instead — and teach her how to use it properly.

[ Get This Free Download: IEPs vs. 504s ]

Shoes, backpack, and other homework items lined up to help overcome morning frustration

The Launching Pad

Use a launching pad to help Danny handle chaotic mornings. Each night, you have your child place everything for school — backpack, library books, sports equipment, etc. — in a box placed by the front door. The next morning, he has everything he needs — and can “launch” into the day in an organized fashion.

Smiling girl and mother overcoming homework frustration

The "Clean Sweep"

Organization won’t work unless it’s practiced consistently. That means Danny should conduct a clean sweep once a week. Every Sunday evening for 20 minutes, your child sits and organizes her binder — while you sort through your purse or the junk drawer. Everybody does something to maintain organization, and your kid gets in the habit of keeping her school things tidy.

Frustrated young girl with ADHD tries to complete her homework.

Procrastinating Penny

We often see a child’s tendency to put off homework assignments as a character flaw; we assume she “just doesn’t want to.” But in many cases the child wants to start — she just feels overwhelmed or underprepared. This child is Procrastinating Penny.

Father and son working on homework but experiencing frustration

Solutions for Procrastinating Penny

To help children who procrastinate, first  lower the barrier to entry . Make starting homework so easy anyone can do it. Here are two main strategies:

1. By task : Pick one small task that your child can do to get started. If he’s been assigned an essay, have him start by writing the title page. If she’s been assigned a math worksheet with 20 problems, get her to complete the first two — then follow up with a short break.

2. By time : Some children need a timer. I find it’s best to use 10 minutes — I call it the “Tolerable 10.” Just tell your child, “Okay just focus as hard as you can, as best as you can, for just 10 minutes.” Once time is up, allow him to walk a lap around the living room or do a quick stretch.

Whether motivated by task or by time , your child will see that once the barrier to entry has been lowered, the job isn’t really that hard.

[ Get This Free Handout: Easy Accommodations for Kids with ADHD ]

ADHD child writing on paper

Longer Projects

Procrastinating Penny often doesn’t know how much time to dedicate to a long-term assignment — and ends up doing the whole thing in a mad rush the night before it's due. As a parent, you need to help Penny understand time in a more concrete way. Try using a simple reward system to motivate your child to complete small parts of the project. For example, take a large Tootsie Roll and break it into four parts, and say to your child, “What are four things you need to do to get this project done?” Once she’s identified four reasonable steps, explain that you’ll reward her with one piece of the Tootsie Roll each time a step is completed. Remember, we’re not trying to bribe our kids. We just want to help them think in steps, which is super valuable for long-term projects.

A child using her phone during homework time to convey her frustration to her friends

Distractible David

Distractibility comes in two forms: We have our fidgeters, and we have our daydreamers. Fidgety kids are always moving — rocking back and forth in their chair, or repeatedly clicking their pen, or twisting their hair while doing homework. For parents or tutors helping them, this constant movement can become annoying and distracting. On the other end of the spectrum are the daydreamers , who tend to take a 15-minute assignment and drag it out to an hour or longer — simply because they’re unable to stay focused. They may start looking out the window, or doodling on the corner of the paper, instead of paying attention to the task at hand.

A young girl experiencing frustration during homework time

Helping a Fidgeter

Research shows that distractible kids need to fidget in order to focus; in other words, telling them to “sit still” is actually counterproductive. Instead, give them a fidget toy , which is a small handheld object that can be fidgeted with in a non-disruptive way. I like the Tangle Junior , but you can also use a stress ball, unfilled balloons, or a small strip of Velcro taped to the bottom of the desk — your child can rub his fingers on it while he works, without anyone else being any the wiser!

A girl overcoming homework frustration and smiling while completing her assignment

Helping a Daydreamer

Use a reminder system . Ask your child how many reminders he thinks he’ll need to finish an assignment — if he’s unsure, start with three. Then, it’s your job to stick to that number — no matter what. The first time, gently call his attention to his distraction and say, “You’re working on number 5 of your math worksheet right now.” David will start again, and the next time you see him drifting, try again: “This is your second reminder; I’m only going to give you one more.” If you see him drifting off again, “You just have two more problems! This is the last reminder I’m going to give you, so finish up as best you can.” This strategy takes the “nagging” element out of the equation, and makes your child aware of his own distractibility.

A clock with pencils on it, representing the frustration many children feel during homework time

Setting a Stop Time

You can also help daydreamers by setting a stop time . This allows the child to see an end in sight, and structure her own time accordingly. Tell your child, “It’s 4:15. This assignment needs to be done by 4:45. I’ll give you three reminders like we discussed.” Then — and this is the key part — at 4:45, you need to make sure your child puts away the assignment — completed or not. Most kids really, really hate to go to school without their work done, and this strategy helps them manage their time and see that, even if the assignment is difficult, it’s not endless.

A checklist to help child overcome frustration at too much homework

Rushing Ryan

Then there are the kids who speed wildly through their homework, just to get it done as fast as they can. Rushing Ryan does his homework very quickly, without regard for whether it’s right or if he's showcasing his best work. He just wants it done as quickly as possible.

Two siblings working on homework, brother experiencing frustration while sister works silently

Solutions for Rushing Ryan

With Ryan, use a designated homework time , which is based on the premise that children of each grade level should spend a certain amount of time on homework. A good rule of thumb is that children should be spending 10 minutes per grade level each night. So a 3rd grader should have about 30 minutes of homework, while a 6th grader can have up to 60. If your 3rd grader is miraculously completing all her homework in 3 minutes, she may be a whiz — or she may be rushing through it. Parents can say, “No matter how much homework you say you have, you have to sit and do homework for 30 minutes every night. If you really run out of things to do, you can read a book or practice your math facts.” In most cases, this set period of time really reduces rushing, because your child will know that no matter what, they won’t be able to get up and play Xbox after 3 minutes.

A girl crying in frustration while trying to complete her homework

Frustrated Frank

Sometimes, homework upsets our children. Executive function deficits, learning disabilities, or difficult subjects can make children cry or lash out during homework time. When Frustrated Frank gets upset, his amygdala (the emotion center of the brain) is on fire, and it overrides his prefrontal cortex — making him less able to focus on homework or reason his way through problems.

Girl crying in frustration while thinking about her homework

Helping Frustrated Frank

When Frank gets frustrated, the best strategy is to disengage . Trying to reason with a child during a meltdown often doesn’t work; they’re too upset to listen to logic, and being told to “calm down” can be invalidating. If your child gets upset, say something like, “I can tell this is difficult for you. Come and get me when you’re ready to start again.” In many cases, your child will calm down on his own terms, and start again when he’s ready.

A mother comforting her daughter through her homework-related frustration

Practicing Empathy

If disengaging doesn’t work for your child, another strategy is to name the feeling . This is a way of practicing empathy that helps kids feel like they’re being heard. Say something like, “I can tell you’re frustrated. You know what? I completely understand why you’re angry.” Or, “You’re right, Ms. Smith gave you a lot of homework tonight. I can see why you feel that this is unfair.” Naming the feeling is really powerful for kids — it helps them understand their often-overwhelming emotions, and lets them know that their feelings and frustrations matter to you.

Father helping daughter with homework and talking her through her frustration

Moving Past Meltdowns

When it comes to helping Frank move forward after a setback, parents have three options to help : do the difficult problem for him (not good!), refuse to help entirely (also not good!), or ask him to show you how to do the problem (best choice!). Ask your child to search for similar examples in her textbook or notes, or talk through how she can proceed. By asking your child to work through the problem on her own — but in your presence — it gives her the independent skills to solve her own problems, without cutting her off completely.

Grandma pouring tea while her grandson works on homework without frustration

Asking for Accommodations

If your child is still struggling to complete her homework even after trying these strategies for a month, consider asking for an accommodation for less homework.

P.S. A great tool for homework is the Time Timer , which helps kids that don’t quite understand clock time see how much time has elapsed and how much time they have left.

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Parenting Kids with ADHD: 12 Tips to Tackle Common Challenges

adhd not doing homework

Parenting a child with ADHD includes finding the right combination of treatments and strategies for your kid’s specific needs. But first, it’s vital to get a proper diagnosis.

Father and kid reading together

Parenting a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be challenging.

It may seem to you like they always lose something, fidget or talk constantly, don’t listen to (or want to do) what you say, and can’t stay focused. Plus, they may take risks that may not be safe for them or others. As a parent, it’s not always easy to keep up with, much less stay one step ahead of, a kid like this.

Still, as hard as it may be at times to raise kids who have ADHD, you can take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. ADHD is the third-most-common mental health disorder in children worldwide. In the United States alone, over 6 million kids have ADHD.

Whether your kid has recently been diagnosed or has been living with the condition for a while now, there are many ADHD management strategies for parents that can make your life, and your child’s life, easier and happier.

1. Get a professional evaluation and diagnosis

Whether you were the one to notice your child’s ADHD or not, seeking a professional evaluation is key to understanding exactly what’s going on.

Sometimes, what looks like ADHD could be another condition. Only a professional — such as a neurologist, neuropsychologist, or mental health professional — can determine if your child’s symptoms are due to ADHD, another condition, or more than one condition.

In fact, when evaluating your child for ADHD, doctors must rule out 16 conditions or groups of conditions that have symptoms similar to ADHD. So, it’s important to find a professional who is familiar with the latest research and theories about ADHD.

If you don’t know where to begin your search, consider:

2. Spend time learning about your child’s unique challenges

Getting a diagnosis is only the beginning. ADHD doesn’t look the same in everyone, even if they have the same type of ADHD .

Before you can really help your kid with their ADHD, educate yourself about your child’s specific diagnosis, what their symptoms look like , and how ADHD can impact their life at home and school.

To help you get started, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide with ADHD resources , including book recommendations, ADHD organizations, podcasts, and more.

3.  Understand co-occurring conditions

Children with ADHD are more likely to have other conditions as well.

These co-occurring conditions can make it harder to treat ADHD. They can also make it harder for parents and teachers to understand exactly why their child is acting a certain way.

If your child is diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder, you’ll also need to learn what that looks like with ADHD and how it may affect your child.

Some of the most common co-occurring disorders are:

4. Find the right treatment for your child

For most children, the best ADHD treatment involves some combination of several things:

5. Secure an IEP or 504 for your child through their school

It’s very likely that your child will qualify for certain school services and accommodations because of their ADHD. These may include:

To receive these services, the school will do an assessment of your child. If they believe your child qualifies for services, they will invite you to a meeting to discuss possible accommodations.

Depending on your child’s needs, they’ll receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan.

An IEP plan is only given to children with ADHD if their condition, or additional conditions, impact their ability to learn. That means that the child requires special education services. It’s a detailed document that outlines your child’s diagnosis, needs, accommodations, recommended services, and anything else relevant.

On the other hand, a 504 Plan is intended for children who can learn within a general education environment but with some extra help or modifications.

If your child’s school hasn’t reached out to you about an assessment, don’t hesitate to ask them to perform one. In some cases, it may be best to put your request in writing to ensure the school district takes the request more seriously.

6. Consider your (or your partner’s) own ADHD

ADHD parenting can be even harder when you may have difficulties with managing your own ADHD. If your child has ADHD, there’s a 41% and 51% chance they inherited it from their biological mother or father, respectively.

In his book “ Taking Charge of ADHD ,” Russell Barkley explains that parenting a child with ADHD when your own ADHD is undiagnosed or untreated may cause significant additional challenges.

You may fight with your child more, feel more stressed, and even increase your child’s risk for injury due to inattentiveness caused by your own ADHD.

Here’s what Barkley suggests you can try:

7. Praise your child when they do something well

Praising your child for a job well done is always a great way to encourage them to do that good thing again. But researchers have found that praise may be even more meaningful for children with ADHD.

In fact, when you praise a child with ADHD, they’ll improve even more than their neurotypical peers because they’re more motivated by the possibility of receiving a reward.

This is called positive reinforcement. If you’re unsure exactly what that should look like, there are plenty of examples of positive reinforcement to get you started.

8. Create a rewards system at home

Is your child struggling to get dressed and out the door on time? Do they forget to brush their teeth or put their laundry in the hamper?

Positive reinforcement can also come in the form of a rewards system to improve these behaviors.

One way to create this system is to select a few daily tasks that you’d like your child to do and put them on a chart. Next, figure out their “currency.” What motivates them the most? This could be toys, a special dessert, or even money.

Each time your child performs their task, they earn points toward a reward or receive a small part of the reward.

9. Prepare your child for transitions

While stopping an activity your child enjoys, like playing a video game or watching a show, and switching to a task they should be doing instead may lead to resistance from any kid, it can be even harder for children with ADHD. These transitions can lead to negotiations, refusal, or outright tantrums .

To make it easier on everyone, try preparing your child for the transition in advance by doing one of the following:

10. Use technology to your advantage

Contrary to popular belief, technology can make parenting — including ADHD parenting — easier.

Smartphones, tablets, apps, or digital virtual assistants (like Alexa or Google Home) aren’t just for entertainment. With a little preparation, they can become excellent tools to help manage some of the symptoms of ADHD.

Managing time blindness

If your child is unable to track the passing of time, set timers, alarms, or reminders. This can help with everything from taking their medication to when they need to get ready to leave the house.

Making lists

If your child tends to forget what they need for soccer practice, even though it’s always the same five things, making a list can be helpful. But, because they’re more likely to lose a paper list, storing it on their phone or with a digital virtual assistant may be a better choice.

Managing anxiety or depression

There’s an app for just about everything these days, especially when it comes to ways to manage anxiety or depression , common co-occurring conditions with ADHD. You may have to go through a few to find one that clicks with your child, but once they find their app, they can access it whenever they need it.

Practicing mindfulness

Researchers have found that mindfulness interventions may help reduce core symptoms of ADHD. Apps and websites for meditation are an excellent way to begin a mindfulness practice.

While there are over 100 apps designed for ADHD , don’t feel constrained to just those options. Use the technology that works best for your child and their symptoms or difficulties.

11. Consider an ADHD coach

The daily discussions to get your child to do their homework or study may put a dent in your relationship.

Most likely, your kid isn’t trying to be defiant. Instead, they may lack the executive functioning skills needed to get started, focus, follow directions, complete assignments, and more.

One of the best ADHD management strategies for parents of tweens and teens is an ADHD coach (also called an executive function coach). They can help build your kid’s motivation and self-esteem, which may improve your parent-child relationship as well.

The coach takes over the task of getting your child to complete their work and teaches them the skills necessary to do it on their own. They’ll also work with you to create systems and schedules so that you can support your child in a positive way.

You can search for ADHD coaches online or ask your child’s pediatrician or school counselor, or members of local support groups for suggestions.

12. Take a behavioral parent training (BPT) class

Dealing with kids with ADHD requires a specific set of skills that don’t come naturally to most parents. This doesn’t make you a bad parent, it just means that you’ll be an even better parent if you learn how to parent a child with ADHD.

In a 2019 study , parents who received behavioral parent training (BPT) felt less stress and experienced fewer problems with their child refusing to do chores, homework, and more.

BPT will help you create age-appropriate rules and positive reinforcement strategies that will work. It will also help you learn how to:

If an internet search for “behavioral parent training near me” doesn’t give you the results you need, consider asking your child’s pediatrician, therapist, school counselor, or members of local ADHD support groups for possible referrals.

Learning how to parent a child with ADHD all begins with a proper diagnosis and taking the time to understand your child’s specific needs.

Finding the right ADHD management strategies may take some trial and error. But once you learn how to deal with your kid’s ADHD and help your child manage their condition, life will get easier.

Last medically reviewed on July 21, 2021

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Homework Help for Students With ADHD

Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP, is a board-certified pediatric psychologist, parent coach, author, speaker, and owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology, PLLC.

adhd not doing homework

Homework, homework...does anyone really like homework? For a child with ADHD , just getting the assignment written down and the correct books in the book bag to go home can be a monumental task. Papers inevitably get lost, either en route home, at home, or en route back to school.

Oftentimes, assignments simply don’t get done. If they make it home, the energy that must be used to recall the instructions , understand the assignment, and focus on the tedious task of getting it completed with all the other distractions around may prove too much.

Homework really does involve numerous steps. One missed step can create loads of problems. For the child, it can become so overwhelming that it is easier to just not do it. Homework can be frustrating for parents, children, and teachers!

The middle and high school years can be an especially hard time. Students receive less supervision. They have multiple teachers with multiple teaching styles. Expectations and responsibilities are much greater. Self-esteem is more fragile and feelings of self-consciousness skyrocket.

How can adolescents with ADHD develop subtle strategies for getting homework done without drawing attention to themselves? How can parents help?

Be an Advocate

Be an advocate for your child. Meet with the teachers and discuss homework concerns. Sometimes it isn’t possible to meet with all your child’s teachers. If this is the case, send emails or contact them by phone.

If appropriate, the teachers can lessen the amount of homework assigned to your child. This can be done in a way that is not noticeable to your their peers. If the regular math assignment is problems 1 to 30, it may be that your child only has to do 1 to 15. This can be set up with teachers in advance. It is also possible for your child to be given extended time to complete assignments.

Provide Tools and Support

Go shopping with your child to pick out a notebook where they can write down homework assignments. Ask the teachers if they will help with verbal reminders to the entire class, “Your assignment tonight is... ​I will give you all a few minutes. Please write your assignment down now.”

Ask teachers if they will begin writing assignments on the board in addition to giving verbal instructions. This approach can be beneficial to the whole class, not just your child.

Your child's teachers can be on the lookout to make sure your child is focused and writing the assignment down as instructed. If they aren't, a simple tap on the desk or pat on the back may be enough to refocus them without drawing attention.

Teachers can even check the assignment notebook at the end of class to make sure it is accurate. If possible, try to get a schedule of the week’s assignments so you can have them at home as a backup.

Keep a Second Set of Textbooks at Home

Talk with the school principal about getting a second set of school books to keep at home over the school year. For children with ADHD, just getting the correct books home at the end of the school day can be difficult. A backup set at home can be a lifesaver on those more disorganized days.

Organize the Backpack

Help your child organize their backpack. Use part of homework time to help teach her how to clean out old, unnecessary items in the book bag. That way you won’t be surprised with a half-eaten, moldy apple left over from school snack two weeks ago.

Your child can also get their materials together and won’t be distracted by unnecessary items in the bag. At first, you may feel that these tasks are too simplistic, but for a child with ADHD , your extra support and guidance is vital.

Color Coding

Color coding is always helpful. When you buy the homework assignment notebook, purchase various colored folders, notebooks, book covers, even colored pens. Match each color to a particular subject.

Buy a separate closable folder to use for homework papers. This folder will provide your child with a consistent place to store homework papers, hopefully keeping them from getting lost in the backpack or elsewhere.

Structure Homework Time

It is a good habit to get to homework soon after your child is home from school or after-school activities. A snack to re-energize and a drink to refresh is nice, then it's homework time.

Some kids benefit from a little exercise and outside play first. If you find your child needs this time to release extra energy and refocus, simply structure it in right before homework time begins.

Have a designated area for homework like the kitchen table or a desk in a nearby quiet room, but preferably not your child's bedroom. Distractions may be too great there. Plus, the bedroom may be more isolated. It is important for you to be available to your child to respond to questions and provide prompts when needed.

Some children do best in quiet. Some do better with a little background noise or music. Some kids work best with periodic short breaks. You and your child can work out which environment is most productive for them.

Make the homework routine predictable and stress-free. After homework is done, check it over. Then help your child put the completed assignment in their homework folder and return all appropriate items to their book bag, zipping it up securely when done.

If a child is on medication , it is possible that the effects of the medicine have worn off by late afternoon homework time. Talk with your child’s doctor about trying to schedule one of the dosages of medication later to help during the homework hours. Be careful that your child doesn’t take medicine too late, or it may interfere with sleep.

Try to remain relaxed and upbeat during homework time. Use this time to provide positive feedback to your child for their hard work. At dinner, compliment their efforts in front of the rest of the family.

Sometimes it is so easy to focus on the negative. Remember to point out the things your child is doing well. At the end of the week, if all goes well, take your child out for special time together.

A Word From Verywell

Completing homework is a daunting task for students with ADHD. Extend grace and patience and provide extra support for your child. In many cases, establishing official school-based accommodations can provide the extra assistance your child needs.

By Keath Low  Keath Low, MA, is a therapist and clinical scientist with the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina. She specializes in treatment of ADD/ADHD.

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Setting up your child for school success

Tips for working with teachers, tips for managing adhd symptoms at school, tips for making learning fun, tips for mastering homework, adhd and school.

School can be a challenge for students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder—but here’s how you can help your child or teen succeed in the classroom.

adhd not doing homework

The classroom environment can pose challenges for a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD). The very tasks these students find the most difficult—sitting still, listening quietly, concentrating—are the ones they are required to do all day long. Perhaps most frustrating of all is that most of these children want to be able to learn and behave like their unaffected peers. Neurological deficits, not unwillingness, keep kids with attention deficit disorder from learning in traditional ways.

As a parent, you can help your child cope with these deficits and overcome the challenges school creates. You can work with your child to implement practical strategies for learning both inside and out of the classroom and communicate with teachers about how your child learns best. With consistent support, the following strategies can help your child enjoy learning, meet educational challenges—and experience success at school and beyond.

Remember that your child's teacher has a full plate: in addition to managing a group of children with distinct personalities and learning styles, they can also expect to have at least one student with ADHD. Teachers may try their best to help your child with attention deficit disorder learn effectively, but parental involvement can dramatically improve your child's education. You have the power to optimize your child's chances for success by supporting the steps taken in the classroom. If you can work with and support your child's teacher, you can directly affect the experience of your child with ADHD at school.

There are a number of ways you can work with teachers to keep your child on track at school. Together you can help your child learn to find their feet in the classroom and work effectively through the challenges of the school day. As a parent, you are your child's advocate. For your child to succeed in the classroom, it is vital that you communicate their needs to the adults at school. It is equally important for you to listen to what the teachers and other school officials have to say.

You can ensure that communication with your child's school is constructive and productive. Try to keep in mind that your mutual purpose is finding out how to best help your child succeed in school. Whether you talk over the phone, email, or meet in person, make an effort to be calm, specific, and above all positive—a good attitude can go a long way when communicating with the school.

Plan ahead. You can arrange to speak with school officials or teachers before the school year even begins. If the year has started, plan to speak with a teacher or counselor on at least a monthly basis.

Make meetings happen. Agree on a time that works for both you and your child's teacher and stick to it. If it's convenient, meet in your child's classroom so you can get a sense of their physical learning environment.

Create goals together. Discuss your hopes for your child's school success. Together, write down specific and realistic goals and talk about how to help your child reach them.

Listen carefully. Like you, your child's teacher wants to see them succeed at school. Listen to what they have to say—even if it is sometimes hard to hear. Understanding your child's challenges in school is the key to finding solutions that work.

Share information. You know your child's history, and your child's teacher sees them every day: together you have a lot of information that can lead to better understanding of your child's hardships. Share your observations freely, and encourage your child's teachers to do the same.

Ask the hard questions and give a complete picture. Be sure to list any medications your child takes and explain any other treatments. Share with the teacher which tactics work well—and which don't—for your child at home. Ask if your child is having any problems in school, including on the playground. Find out if they are eligible for any special services to help with learning.

Speak to a Licensed Therapist

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Developing and using a behavior plan

Children with ADD/ADHD are capable of appropriate classroom behavior, but they need structure and clear expectations in order to keep their symptoms in check. As a parent, you can help by developing a behavior plan for your child—and sticking to it. Whatever type of behavior plan you decide to implement, create it in close collaboration with your child and their teacher.

Kids with attention deficit disorder respond best to specific goals and daily positive reinforcement—as well as worthwhile rewards. Yes, you may have to hang a carrot on a stick to motivate your child to behave better in class. Create a plan that incorporates small rewards for small victories and larger rewards for bigger accomplishments.

Find a behavior plan that works

Click here to download a highly regarded behavior plan called The Daily Report Card, which can be adjusted for elementary, middle, and even high school students with ADHD.

Source:  Center for Children and Families

ADHD impacts each child's brain differently, so each case can look quite different in the classroom. Children with ADHD exhibit a range of symptoms: some seem to bounce off the walls, some daydream constantly, and others just can't seem to follow the rules.

As a parent, you can help your child reduce any or all of these types of behaviors. It is important to understand how attention deficit disorder affects different children's behavior so that you can choose the appropriate strategies for tackling the problem. There are a variety of fairly straightforward approaches you and your child's teacher can take to best manage the symptoms of ADHD—and put your child on the road to school success.

Managing distractibility

Students with ADHD may become so easily distracted by noises, passersby, or their own thoughts that they often miss vital classroom information. These children have trouble staying focused on tasks that require sustained mental effort. They may seem as if they're listening to you, but something gets in the way of their ability to retain the information.

Helping kids who distract easily involves physical placement, increased movement, and breaking long stretches of work into shorter chunks.

Reducing interrupting

Kids with attention deficit disorder may struggle with controlling their impulses, so they often speak out of turn. In the classroom or at home, they call out or comment while others are speaking. Their outbursts may come across as aggressive or even rude, creating social problems as well. The self-esteem of children with ADHD is often quite fragile, so pointing this issue out in class or in front of family members doesn't help the problem—and may even make matters worse.

Correcting the interruptions of children with ADHD should be done carefully so that the child's self-esteem is maintained, especially in front of others. Develop a “secret language” with the child with ADHD. You can use discreet gestures or words you have previously agreed upon to let the child know they are interrupting. Praise the child for interruption-free conversations.

Managing impulsivity

Children with ADHD may act before thinking, creating difficult social situations in addition to problems in the classroom. Kids who have trouble with impulse control may come off as aggressive or unruly. This is perhaps the most disruptive symptom of ADHD, particularly at school.

Methods for managing impulsivity include behavior plans, immediate discipline for infractions, and a plan for giving children with ADHD a sense of control over their day.

Make sure a written behavior plan is near the student. You can even tape it to the wall or the child's desk.

Give consequences immediately following misbehavior. Be specific in your explanation, making sure the child knows how they misbehaved.

Recognize good behavior out loud. Be specific in your praise, making sure the child knows what they did right.

Write the schedule for the day on the board or on a piece of paper and cross off each item as it is completed. Children with impulse problems may gain a sense of control and feel calmer when they know what to expect.

Managing fidgeting and hyperactivity

Students with ADHD are often in constant physical motion. It may seem like a struggle for these children to stay in their seats. Kids with ADD/ADHD may jump, kick, twist, fidget and otherwise move in ways that make them difficult to teach.

Strategies for combating hyperactivity consist of creative ways to allow the child with ADHD to move in appropriate ways at appropriate times. Releasing energy this way may make it easier for the child to keep their body calmer during work time.

Ask children with ADHD to run an errand or complete a task for you, even if it just means walking across the room to sharpen pencils or put dishes away.

Encourage a child with ADHD to play a sport —or at least run around before and after school—and make sure the child never misses recess or P.E.

Provide a stress ball , small toy, or another object for the child to squeeze or play with discreetly at their seat.

Limit screen time in favor of time for movement.

Dealing with trouble following directions

Difficulty following directions is a hallmark problem for many children with ADHD. These kids may look like they understand and might even write down directions, but then aren't able to follow them as asked. Sometimes these students miss steps and turn in incomplete work, or misunderstand an assignment altogether and wind up doing something else entirely.

Helping children with ADHD follow directions means taking measures to break down and reinforce the steps involved in your instructions, and redirecting when necessary. Try keeping your instructions extremely brief, allowing the child to complete one step and then come back to find out what they should do next. If the child gets off track, give a calm reminder, redirecting in a calm but firm voice. Whenever possible, write directions down in a bold marker or in colored chalk on a blackboard.

One positive way to keep a child's attention focused on learning is to make the process fun. Using physical motion in a lesson, connecting dry facts to interesting trivia, or inventing silly songs that make details easier to remember can help your child enjoy learning and even reduce the symptoms of ADHD.

Helping children with ADHD enjoy math

Children who have attention deficit disorder tend to think in a “concrete” manner. They often like to hold, touch, or take part in an experience to learn something new. By using games and objects to demonstrate mathematical concepts, you can show your child that math can be meaningful—and fun.

Play games. Use memory cards, dice, or dominoes to make numbers fun. Or simply use your fingers and toes, tucking them in or wiggling them when you add or subtract.

Draw pictures. Especially for word problems, illustrations can help kids better understand mathematical concepts. If the word problem says there are twelve cars, help your child draw them from steering wheel to trunk.

Invent silly acronyms . In order to remember order of operations, for example, make up a song or phrase that uses the first letter of each operation in the correct order.

Helping children with ADHD enjoy reading

There are many ways to make reading exciting, even if the skill itself tends to pose a struggle for children with ADHD. Keep in mind that reading at its most basic level involves stories and interesting information—which all children enjoy.

Read to children. Make reading cozy, quality time with you.

Make predictions or “bets.” Constantly ask the child what they think might happen next. Model prediction: “The girl in the story seems pretty brave—I bet she's going to try to save her family.”

Act out the story. Let the child choose their character and assign you one, too. Use funny voices and costumes to bring it to life.

How does your kid like to learn?

When children are given information in a way that makes it easy for them to absorb, learning is a lot more fun. If you understand how your child with ADHD learns best, you can create enjoyable lessons that pack an informational punch.

Sure, kids may universally dread it—but for a parent of a child with ADHD, homework is a golden opportunity. Academic work done outside the classroom provides you as the parent with a chance to directly support your child. It's a time you can help your child succeed at school where you both feel most comfortable: your own living room.

With your support, kids with ADHD can use homework time not only for math problems or writing essays, but also for practicing the organizational and study skills they need to thrive in the classroom.

Helping a child with ADHD get organized

When it comes to organization, it can help to get a fresh start. Even if it's not the start of the academic year, go shopping with your child and pick out school supplies that include folders, a three-ring binder, and color-coded dividers. Help the child file their papers into this new system.

Helping a child with ADHD get homework done on time

Understanding concepts and getting organized are two steps in the right direction, but homework also has to be completed in a single evening—and turned in on time. Help a child with ADHD to the finish line with strategies that provide consistent structure.

Other ways to help your child with homework

Encourage exercise and sleep. Physical activity improves concentration and promotes brain growth. Importantly for children with ADHD, it also leads to better sleep , which in turn can reduce the ADHD symptoms.

Help your child eat right. Scheduling regular nutritious meals and snacks while cutting back on junk and sugary foods can help manage symptoms of ADHD.

Take care of yourself so you're better able to care for your child. Don't neglect your own needs. Try to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, manage stress , and seek face-to-face support from family and friends.

More Information

More in ADHD

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Learn what you can do to help your child thrive

Signs and symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder

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ADHD in Adults

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Dealing with symptoms together and developing a solid partnership

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What is ADHD?

Signs and symptoms.

ADHD in Adults

More information.

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active.

Mother hugging daughter

Get information and support from the National Resource Center on ADHD

There are three different ways ADHD presents itself, depending on which types of symptoms are strongest in the individual:

Because symptoms can change over time, the presentation may change over time as well.

 Learn about symptoms of ADHD, how ADHD is diagnosed, and treatment recommendations including behavior therapy, medication, and school support.

Causes of ADHD

Scientists are studying cause(s) and risk factors in an effort to find better ways to manage and reduce the chances of a person having ADHD. The cause(s) and risk factors for ADHD are unknown, but current research shows that genetics plays an important role. Recent studies link genetic factors with ADHD. 1

In addition to genetics, scientists are studying other possible causes and risk factors including:

Research does not support the popularly held views that ADHD is caused by eating too much sugar, watching too much television, parenting, or social and environmental factors such as poverty or family chaos. Of course, many things, including these, might make symptoms worse, especially in certain people. But the evidence is not strong enough to conclude that they are the main causes of ADHD.

ADHD Fact Sheet


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