Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Homework "To Do" List

By the time you read this school will have started.  The honeymoon period of a new school year may have ended too soon for your liking and stress may be mounting in your home.  Some of the problems reported most frequently in my practice are those having to do with homework.  School is a very hard place to be for a child with any type of impairment or disability, whether it be physical, emotional or cognitive.  (ADHD is included in this grouping.)  Every child’s brain is still in the process of development and therefore they have not yet developed the skills to manage their emotions and sensory input.  At the end of the day, your child is probably spent and their brain is literally overloaded. 

I frequently experience the feeling that I can’t possibly do one more thing, listen to one more problem, or creatively or politely engage in another endeavor when I arrive home at the end of a long stressful day.  If I feel this way, I can’t even imagine how our children must feel who have expended great efforts at school to comply with rules, navigate complex social interactions, and engage their brain in problem solving and learning.  That being said, it is understandable why so many of our children fight, resist and shut down when it comes to doing homework. So, I hope the following Homework “To Do” List will assist you in having less stressful evenings.


  • Allow your child down time before insisting they do homework.  This is particularly important for the young child.  Encourage them to PLAY and literally de-stress themselves with physical activity.
  • Feed the brain with healthy foods. Many children are starving when they come home.  Provide them with a healthy snack or meal which combines a carbohydrate with a protein or a carbohydrate with a healthy snack such as fruit and nuts, crackers and peanut butter, or a tortilla with cheese.  For more information and resources contact me at dcantrell@satx.rr.com
  • Agree upon a scheduled homework time and stick to it as much as possible. Routines are critical. Have a start and end time for young children.  If the child is not completing their work because they are resisting are dawdling, you may offer them one gentle reminder halfway through the designated homework time and five minutes before the end of the agreed upon completion time.   When time is up calmly say, “Homework time is now over.”  If the child protests and then agrees to do their work you may say something like, “I am sure you will be able to stay on task tomorrow.”
  • Establish an agreed upon place for a child to do their homework with as few distractions as possible.
  • Empathize with your child when they protest against homework.  This is a hard one for parents because you are probably not at your best at the end of the day either. When I say empathize, simply state, “I know you must be tired and you really don’t want to do your homework. It’s a bummer but I know you can pull through it.”  This must be said with compassion and respect. It also needs to be the last thing you say. No rationalizing, explaining, threats, or bribes, just empathy.
  • Support your child when they ask for help. Parents are not always the best people to assist their children with homework.  If you find that you are engaging in power struggles with your child or that you are becoming increasingly frustrated, you might consider hiring a tutor.  I realize that for many of you funds don’t permit such a luxury so consider bartering with a neighbor, friend, or older school child to come over 1-3 times a week to provide assistance.  If you choose to use an outside source, remember to stay out of the mix and to embrace this time as yours.
  • Give ownership of homework to your child.  You must allow your child to take ownership of their school work, their successes, and their failures.  I find that when it comes to homework, parents often become drill sergeant or hover so much that they do their homework for their child.  Neither approach is effective or teaches a child time management, internal control, and responsibility.  I know that it will be hard to allow your child to go to school with incompleted work, but in the long run valuable lessons will be learned.
  • Seek outside support.  If you feel that you have truly followed the above guidelines, then it might be time to request and ARD to express concerns.  Your child may be receiving more homework then they can handle.  You may also need to consider medication management or a change in medication that is already in place. Last, but certainly not least, you may find that you need assistance/coaching in how you are responding to your child or in meeting your emotional needs.

I wish everyone a happy and successful school year!

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