Reduce Homework Hassles with these Simple Tips

by Dr. Robert Myers, Child Psychologist
Reduce Homework Hassles with these Simple Tips

Homework can be difficult for most kids during the school year, but it can become a major challenge when you have a child with ADHD. But here’s some good news for exhausted parents: if you take the right steps now, at the beginning of the school year, homework hassles can be kept to a minimum. The key is to be organized and plan ahead to minimize the frustration your child is bound to experience around multiple homework assignments. Begin by tackling the two most important places: school and home.

At the beginning of the school year, meet with your child's teacher (or teachers) to find out what the expectations are regarding homework. Try to work out a system where they can let you know in advance what homework will be assigned either on a week-to-week basis or for the whole semester. Many teachers are even willing to keep you informed by e-mail. You should check with your child’s teachers periodically to make sure that things are going well. And definitely remember to ask them to inform you whether assignments are being turned in on time.

Related: Having nightly fights with your child over homework? How to manage your AD/HD child's behavior.

Another big problem for kids with ADHD is that they often forget to bring their books home. You may be able to work out with the school, particularly if your child has a 504 plan, to get an extra set of books. This way, your child will have a set of books at school and a set of books at home.

Children with attention disorders, particularly those with a 504 plan, are entitled to accommodations to make school demands appropriate to their abilities. So for example, in math or other subjects with long lists of questions or problems, the accommodation states that the school must allow the child to do every other question or problem, rather than the entire list that's been assigned. Talk to your child’s teachers about your child’s abilities and the accommodations that can be made. It can make the difference between enduring endless hours of frustration at homework time and having your child succeed.

Moving now to the home front, it's important, if possible, to have a quiet time in the home where there's no TV and no other media to distract your child. You might even stop phone calls during homework time. And if you have a project that you’ve brought home from work, consider doing it while your child is doing his schoolwork. (But be available for help if necessary.) This helps younger children with ADHD to understand that homework is a normal part of life—just another responsibility that needs to be met, and it also sets the right mood for focusing and concentration.

Related: Help your AD/HD child learn effective concentration tools.

It's best to have a scheduled time for homework and a quiet place to do it. For older kids, it may even be a good idea to set up their own “office”. This could be a space in their room, the living room or kitchen where they do their homework on a regular basis. You might even put up a bulletin board with all their long-term assignments and due dates. What this provides is a way to make it easy to have all the materials they need and to keep them on task.

If you know what your child’s assignments are, you should review them together. Make sure that they understand what they need to do. In particular, be certain they understand the directions completely. If they have homework for several different subjects, you can eliminate much of the hassle simply by helping them to organize their time.

It may be a good idea to break homework into sections. You can set aside time for each specific subject, with some relaxation breaks in between. High school age kids with ADHD certainly can do an hour of homework at a time without a break, while first graders may only be able to go for 10 to 15 minutes without a break. You need to determine what you feel is a reasonable amount of study time for your child, and then help him or her to manage their time appropriately. When they complete their homework successfully, use fun activities such as on TV or video games (or whatever your child enjoys) as a reward.

Related: Dealing with defiance and disrespect? How to take back parental authority.

Finally, a big problem for kids with ADHD is that even when they get the homework completed, they forget to turn it in to the teacher. It’s wise to have a notebook with a clipboard or a separate folder for homework for your child. Remind him or her to check the clipboard or folder at school for each class to be sure that they turned in all the work. Then, before they leave school, they should check it once again. If they find any assignments that were not turned in they should take it to the teacher or the office and hand it in before they leave the campus. Most teachers will accept an assignment later in the day from a child they know to be attempting to cope with ADHD.

The internet also has great resources to help you and your child gather information for homework projects. These include Kid Info, Fact Monster and Searching for Stuff-Kid’s search tools

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Dr Robert Myers is a child psychologist with over 25 years of experience working with children and adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and learning disabilities and is the creator of the Total Focus Program Dr Myers is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at UC Irvine School of Medicine. "Dr Bob" has provided practical information for parents as a radio talk show host and as editor of Child Development Institute's website, which reaches 3 million parents each year. Dr. Myers earned his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.


I had been thinking that if I just had some information from the teacher about future assignments it would make such a difference! And now you tell me that it is my Right to have the help and information that I need to get my 10 year old grand daughter through the hours of homework and I am thrilled. I am going to make appointments with every teacher to get everything I can-books, information, assignments ahead of time-all of it! Thank you for your help and encouragment.

Comment By : nonny2

I am so glad this article came out at this time. I have a 14 yro boy with severe ADHD. I am so glad to know I have been doing the right thing with his homework. Homework is a serious issue with my son. In the begining of the year, I talked to his homeroom teacher and told her I would be sending him to school with a homework journal. The teacher e-mailed each of his teachers to let them know. At the end of each class, they check the book to make sure each assignment has been written down correctly and they sign it.I've noticed with preparation and organization, he has been motivated and eager to finish his assignments ON TIME! Thank You so much for the re-enforcements.

Comment By : Layla.moore

I totally agree with this article and we do alot of this already but when you have teachers that won't meet with you or expect your child to be the responsible on to come see them it is hard!!

Comment By : Susan (frustrated mom)

Great article! My husband is a high school principal and my daughter is adhd. We know that in order for her to be successful, effort needs to be made both at home and at school. Everyone needs to be on the same page.

Comment By : Jaime

my daughter who is not actually dignosed with ADD, and will not be due to her father who does not live in our household, told her and her therapist there was nothing wrong and that she does not have to go anymore.( the testing of ADD was in the process. So now I struggle with her on a daily basis. Forgets her homework, assignments, doesnt know when tests are, failing math. Reading this article so validates what I have been trying to do, with her teachers, etc. I know she needs to be kept on a schedule and away from electronics as she just sits and stares. She is almost 15 and being her mother, and living with her ( not her dad) I see all of her strugles and it hurts me just knowing I could get her some medical help, but her father has turned her against any of my help or anyone elses. So I have to struggle as well.I so appreciate your articles!! thank you

Comment By : validated

Most of this is what we already do . OUr kid is addicted to tv and gets upset when we take him away from it so works hard to get back to it. dont know how to break the addiction.

Comment By : maril

Good article. The other piece I would add regarding distractions is that PARENTS (and you know who you are) turn off their smartphones, pagers, Blackberries, etc. to avoid texts, emails from the office and friends.

Comment By : ITguy

Very accurate about the forgetfulness and i was unaware of the fact that my son is entitled the extra set of books..that will definitely help out..another issue is my son lying about having homework to begin with though. I feel as though there is a scavenger hunt in my house every evening as im searching for assignments that he claims he doesn't have. He is in middle school so keeping up with teachers is difficult and they have too many students to remember to check my child's homework book daily to ensure he's writing them down. Any advice?

Comment By : momof4

My daughters were also ADD and may have been HD as well (their 4th grade teacher was sure of it!). We had homework till 11pm every night till I listened to James Dobson who said a child's work IS play. Then I made my girls play for two hours after school every day - outside - before I would LET them do homework. They would get home, have a snack, change and then had to go OUTSIDE. They were very distressed at this new rule and I had to promise to write a note to their teachers if they couldn't get their homework done. It was amazing. They were able to finish their homework in close to a half hour a night after that change. Soon, they came home with NO homework, having finished it between classes and at lunch during school so they would have more play time after dinner. Of course we still had the big projects problems - notifying me a term project was due the following day at 9 pm after the library closed, but mostly, it was much better all around. Both went to college on full scholarships, too.

Comment By : Farleyagain

I have been in contact like this with my daughters teachers for years, the only problem is 710 times the teachers either forget righ when the process is doing well or just get busy. Wich then puts us back at step 1. And for a mother of 4 who works full time this is hard. And the school just won't really work with me on it. Its very fustrating

Comment By : mrssmith2b

My 11 yr. old son has ADHD Inattentive type and OCD, along with a variety of Respiratory issues. He is in 5th Grade (Middle School). Straight A's through the 4th grade. 4 weeks into 5th, he is getting mostly F's and D's. Failing to turn in homework and seemingly lost in the classroom (re: policies/procedures). Past teachers were typically very willing to work with me to provide the assistance needed and fantastic with adhering to his 504 Plan. This school year, I'm having a tremendously difficult time getting the teachers to even familiarize themselves with the 504 directives and have been told by a couple that I am doing him a disservices by coddling him and I should step back and let him fall so he learns responsibility. I do not agree! Further, I don't have a clue where to turn as I can't even get the Principle to answer my calls. Main question, is why he suddenly is pulling F's & D's versus A's? He's always been an exceptional student.

Comment By : Colette

* To “momof4”: You ask a great question. Many of the parents we speak with on the parental support line face similar situations when dealing with homework. We coach parents to focus on what you can control, namely the structure you put in place around homework and how you will hold your son accountable if he chooses not to complete his work. One type of homework structure that might work in your situation is to have a specific time period set aside every day for homework. Regardless of whether he says he has homework or not, this is the time he is to spend working on school related activities. If he doesn’t have homework, he can spend the time going over notes, studying for an upcoming test or reading. It can be helpful if he doesn’t have access to his electronics until this homework time is complete. We would suggest setting up a plan with his teachers for them to let you know if he is missing any assignments for the week, maybe through an e-mail or phone call on Thursday or Friday. James Lehman suggests in his article Homework Hell? Part II: 7 Real Techniques That Work that if there are any missing assignments, your child’s weekend doesn’t begin until the missing assignments are completed; this means no hanging out with friends, playing video games or other activities happen until the work from the previous week is done. We hope this information is useful for your situation and wish you and your family the best. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

My son, a high school freshman, and I go through his backpack each weekend to reorganize his assignments and notes. We also review his weekly school work so that I can help him learn to take notes better. As he improves his note taking, we add another tool to the arsenal. It helps considerably that HE wants the help he needs to succeed. Perhaps that's the greatest battle of all.

Comment By : Karen

Dear validated, I relate completely to your struggle! My 14 yr old son was diagnosed with ADHD but his father (whom he does not live with or even see very much) has convinced him that he does not need to take meds. I constantly struggle with a teenager who has been alienated against me AND has adhd AND refuses to take any meds. I do the best I can to coordinate with teachers, help him stay organized and focused on upcoming assignments, etc, but its' all very difficult when his father purposely bashes and works against me - makes it 10 times harder. I have full legal custody but could not get full physical custody. It is amazing how much damage the father does in so little time with him. If my only issues were adhd and adolescent behavior...I could manage those, but my ex is beyond control and unfortunately our son is following his lead.

Comment By : alienatedinstl

My 9yo ADHD boy won't do his homework even in order to GET the TV time. What then?

Comment By : amommv

* To “Colette”: I am sorry to hear your son is having a difficult time transitioning into the 5th grade. It may be helpful to have a problem-solving conversation with your son about what could be going on that’s affecting his grades. It’s going to be most effective to use “what” questions, as James Lehman suggests in his article Sinking Fast at School: How to Help Your Child Stay Afloat. You could also work with your son to come up with a plan for completing his work and handing it in on time. Sometimes it can be helpful to have a folder that is specifically for completed work. Since he has multiple teachers and classes, an accordion folder might be a practical option. It sounds like you have been trying to develop a working relationship with your son’s 5th grade teachers but aren’t getting the response or support you would like. I can hear your frustration. It can be very upsetting to feel like the school doesn’t have your son’s best interest at heart. If you don’t believe the school is following your son’s 504 plan, you might consider contacting the school district superintendent and letting him or her know about your concerns. We hope this information has been helpful for your situation. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

* To “amommy”: Thank you for submitting a comment. You ask a great question. It can be frustrating when your child continues to refuse to do homework even after linking it to a privilege. It could be possible TV isn’t the privilege that is going to most motivate your son. You might consider linking homework completion to a different privilege to see if that is more motivating for him. It should be something he can earn everyday if he completes his homework. Remember, it’s your son who is ultimately responsible for doing the homework. It probably isn’t going to be effective to get into a power struggle in an attempt to “make” him do the work. Focus on what you can control, namely the structure you set up around homework and how you hold him accountable for doing it or not doing it. Something to keep in mind is there are also natural consequences for your son if he chooses not to do his homework, namely, he will have to go to school without the work done and deal with whatever consequence his teacher may have for that. Here a couple other articles you may find helpful for your particular situation: The Homework Battle: How to Get Children to Do Homework, End the Nightly Homework Struggle 5 Homework Strategies that Work for Kids & Homework Hell? Part I: How to Turn It Around. I hope this information is beneficial for your situation. We wish you and your family the best. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

I have a Jr in High school. Without him wanting to do well there is not much you can do. We have gone to public schools and done private schools. We have a 504. I have met with his teachers I have followed every assignment. Unless he wants the help all we can do is keep presenting the tools. At this age we truely have no control. We have taken away all the gadgets, used the gadgets as insentives Without his desire which does come in waves, he may just have to do it on his own. The sad part is he has an extremely high iq and has outsmarted himself. We are at this point trying to keep our family afloat and save the other kids in the house. Weve spent thousands of hours attention and money trying to help him. Some people don't want the help.

Comment By : Sad Mom

@Collette...5th/6th grade is about the time that my son realized that he was "different" then the other kids. ADHD kids KNOW that their thoughts are scrambled and all over the place... and they witness their peers sitting still, paying attention, not getting yelled out for squirming in their chairs. In 5th grade, my son refused to take his meds because it was a stigma for him that he was "different" and needed meds. Out of respect for his feelings, I did not send meds to school to be given to him on days we forgot to give them to him at home. Those were tough days for everyone. Because of the constant trouble he was in for being distracted, his grades dropped to Ds and Fs, as well. His pride keeps him from asking for help and appearing "weak" to others. He struggled throughout middle school, and now, 1 month into 9th grade... we're back to Ds and Fs. The sad part is that because of his early school experiences, he figures "why bother, I'm going to get in trouble anyway." What DID help a LOT with getting him past the stigma of his ADHD was to introduce him to a grown adult (male) that didn't ask him questions about how HE felt; but instead relayed to our son how his thoughts were all over the place and how it was that the docs figured he was ADHD. He kept the entire conversation focused on himself, and what he does to help himself thru his challenges. My son, of course kicked and screamed about NOT wanting to go to dinner to meet some man "who cares if he has ADHD"... etc etc; however, he left that dinner engagement with a whole new perspective on his condition, and more accepting of himself with it. Halfway thru the one-sided conversation, his eyes lit up with total understanding of what the man was saying happens to his thoughts. It was the first time he truly understood that he wasn't the only person in the world with this dreaded condition. The man actually gave our son "the words he couldn't find for himself" for him to explain to us what was going on and how his thoughts were being affected with and without the meds (especially helpful during med adjustments). After that mtg, he takes his meds w/out issue... but the bad school habits and goofing off in class and blowing off homework is still a work in progress. Maybe your son needs to know that while he feels different than the other kids... there are so many more with the same kind of scattered thinking that he has. Once he knows that he is not so different after all, and that its okay to ask for help because school is getting harder and more demanding, maybe he'll be able to pull it together again. These "Different Thinkers" are the hope of our future... because they think outside the box. I hate that the school system always wants to put them back into that box.

Comment By : Lynanne

My son has very mild adhd, he is now 11 and I am having constant battles with him, it got so bad last night I walked out the house I just couldnt take it anymore. He will do his homework but not properly, grades are suffering. When he starts shouting and being rude and telling me my rules are pathetic I say you dont have to like them but they are the rules if you dont follow them there is consequences. I asked him to go upstairs he said no, so I said I would walk out the room and he had till the time I came back in to go upstairs or he would not go to the football match we have season tickets for, he left the room but sat on the stairs so that he didnt fully do what i had asked. i am at my wits end, I have no emotion left anymore. He thought I had walked out for good last night and my hhusband said he became quite upset. I just couldnt take the barrage of abuse from him and then at the same time the other two started. I dont know what to do, he shouts and shouts at me to try and get a rise out of me (which used to happen) but since reading your articles I have kept my shouting in check but he pushes to try and get a reaction its awful

Comment By : desperate

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