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How can I help my child do well in school?

Dr. Heather Wittenberg, PhD
Psychology Specialist

You might consider asking the teacher to reinforce “on task” behavior, instead of simply worrying about “off-task” behavior. You and she can collaboratively set up a plan whereby your daughter is rewarded (with something simple, like stickers or checkmarks, to trade in for small prizes) on a chart for demonstrating a few minutes at a time of “on-task” behavior. You want to set it up so that the goals are achievable—not something diffuse like “having a good day.” You will get much farther with rewarding her for focusing than by making a federal case out of her being “off-task."

Whether or not your child is medicated, one thing your child can do is take more frequent breaks when doing his/her homework. Instead of going an hour straight (and applying the pressure along the way), consider going 15 minutes, then taking a break for a minute or so.

Dr. Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Practitioner

Parents can do a lot to help their child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) get through their homework. Make sure the child understands the assignments and has all the books and other materials they need. Help your child decide on a homework schedule. If the assignments seem overwhelming, help your child break them down into smaller pieces that are more manageable. 

Offer support and encouragement, help out if your child gets confused by the instructions, and go over the finished work to make sure it is correct.

Follow these steps to help your child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) do his homework:

Step 1: Determine a reasonable amount of time for your child to spend on homework each night (no more than 30 minutes). Schedule a daily time to perform the homework when a parent or adult is available to monitor the homework session. Avoid scheduling the session too late at night.
Step 2: Select a permanent place to do the homework. Select a quiet spot that is away from family traffic but not so remote to prevent monitoring of the homework.
Step 3: Break the homework into manageable amounts of time. For example, if your homework session is for 20 minutes, have your child do two 10-minute sessions with a short break in between sessions.
Step 4: Break the homework into manageable amounts of work. Divide assignments into smaller units. For example, if your child has to write 20 spelling words in a sentence, assign 5 to 10 words for each of the two 10-minute sessions.
Step 5: Make sure that your child is prepared to begin the homework. Provide the necessary materials, and discuss the assignment to ensure that your child understands the directions. Answer your child's questions, and do a few sample problems before beginning the session.
Step 6: Place a digital timer to indicate when each homework session begins and ends. For example, if your child is performing two 10-minute sessions, set the timer for 10 minutes. Make sure that your child knows how much work has to be completed within the time period.
Step 7: Begin the timer and leave the room. Return to the room on occasion (every 5 minutes or so) to monitor your child's progress, answer questions, and offer encouragement and praise. Make your stay brief!
Step 8: When time has expired, check your child's work for completion and accuracy. Have your child immediately correct any mistakes.
Step 9: Provide a token incentive if your child successfully completed the work expectations within the time limits. For example, your child may earn one point on a reward chart.
Step 10: If your child failed to complete the work within the time limit, consider the following options:

  • Do not provide the token incentive.
  • Remove a previously earned token.
  • Repeat the homework session using the same work expectations and time limits. (However, do not provide a token incentive on this repeat trial.)

Step 11: Repeat the procedure until all of the homework sessions are completed.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.