Help! ADHD Son. Homework's a Nightmare

Updated on March 08, 2010
P.B. asks from Montpelier, VT
32 answers

My son is 10 and in 4th grade. He has ADHD and homework time is just a nightmare. He's very bright, but doesn't seem to understand many concepts and gets easily overwhelmed and frustrated. He wants to give up before he even begins. I try my best to help him, but it always turns into a huge whining session on his part and me getting mad at him. I'm feeling completely inadequate. I don't know how to help him; how much to help him; if I should back off and leave him to do it. Nothing I do seems to help the situation. It's just a miserable struggle every time. Any advise would be appreciated. Thanks.

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much to everyone who responded. I will be experimenting and looking into your advise!

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J.H.

answers from Boston on

Hi P.
Lots of stress with ADHD!
My son decided at 20 years old that he has ADHD. He went to a study at Mass General and was diagnosed with ADHD. They proceeded to give him a drug that has suicidal tendencies as a possible side effect. 18 months later I was introduced to a food supplement called Reliv. I had great results with allergies and asthma and heard moms tell of their kids results with ADHD. I told my son and he agreed to get on the "kids" product which helps with ADHD. I am happy to say he has been off his medication and getting straight A's for 2 years and will graduate college with honors.
Love to share my info with you.
J. H

1 mom found this helpful
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S.F.

answers from Boston on

Have you tried doing homework in the morning before school?

This may not work with ADHD, but all three of my children are sharpest early in the morning - especially my boy - and actually seem to enjoy doing homework then. Later in the day, they are just too tired.

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D.S.

answers from Springfield on

There is a book Called 10 Days to a Less Distractable Child by Jeffrey Bernstein and it has a chapter on how to deal in a more productive way with homework. The book might help you in oher ways as well. It is effective for all kinds of attention problems including ADHD. I am in the process of reading it as I have a distracted child.

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T.M.

answers from Atlanta on

Hi, I am also a mother of a 10 year old boy with ADHD. Homework is sometimes a struggle but I found these few tips helpful. First it is a proven fact that homework does not help a child's development in the early years of school. So the first thing that we did was go and talk to our teacher and focus on the amount of homework that came home. Children with ADHD also benefit from clear simplified directions. So I break down the homework into smaller tasks and then he can focus much easier and work on each one at a time. Then he also sees faster results. Homework should also be done once he gets home from school so he keeps his focus and it should be done in a quiet room. I hope these tips help.
Thanks

1 mom found this helpful
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K.F.

answers from New London on

As a teacher who also struggled with ADD, I would advise that he DOES understand the concepts fine, but your guess about his overwhelm is accurate. He wants to give up before he begins because the task seems too cumbersome--NOT that he can't do it. The whole idea of even starting to do it is going to be a struggle. The best thing you can do is NOT require he just start in on his homework. Have him write (for example) ONLY the first paragraph of his report, then let him go play something. Then have him come back and do the next task. Small tasks are do-able and not overwhelming. And allow him to choose the reward that he gets when he has accomplished the small task. Pretty soon he'll be in the groove.

Not only will this help him get his stuff done now, this will allow him to start having a strategy he can use for life. You won't always be there. But when he has to do something, he will remember that he can just do one small part. Unlike others we try to get to see the big picture, or see the forest and not the trees, it is the opposite with ADD. Seeing one branch of the tree is sometimes all we need to get unstuck from being overwhelmed by the huge forest.

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E.D.

answers from Boston on

My husband is a private study coach specializing in kids with these types of learning challenges. You should definitely find him an outside tutor, someone who can motivate him and wth whom he can relate to well also. It is much easier for an outsider to get through to our kids when we can not. Not sure what part of the country you are in, we are in the Boston area and my huband's info is [email protected]____.com if you want to ask him for any more insight. good luck. E.

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J.M.

answers from Boston on

I am not in your position as a mother, but I am a teacher. I don't know if this is a perspective you would find helpful, but here goes -
1. Try talking with his teacher. Is he like this all day, or just doing homework with you? What strategies does she use or find helpful?
2. What time of day are you trying to do the homework? Different kids do better at different times of day. Play around with that. If he is medicated for the ADHD he might be trying to do homework just as his meds are wearing off, making him doubly frustrated.
3. Give him some ownership over the process (when or where he wants to do the homework, if he wants you to help him the whole time or just check his work after) and absolutely have some kind of reward system in place. Remember, the reward has to be more important to him than not doing the homework.
4. Try really hard not to internalize this. It's not about you as his mother, its about how hard school is for him. And his difficulty in school is not a reflection on you as a parent. You really don't want it to carry over to other parts of your life together, if you can help it.
5. Consider getting him a tutor, if his teacher thinks that he could use it and your son is receptive to the idea. Even a high school student could work with him so that it isn't always you and he butting heads.

Hope this was helpful and you get more advice from those who have been on the other side.

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S.L.

answers from Boston on

I have a 10 year old daughter with ADD. After struggling since 1st grade with schoolwork at school, as well as homework at home, I tried everything I could to avoid medicating her. We did find some very potent liquid vitamins that helped, - but not enough. We choose to try a transdermal patch at the lowest dose they offer, and what a diiference. In school as well as home. She will ask if she needs assistance now but generally she's like I can do this on my own. We went through exactly what you described your going through. The medicate or not to medicate came down to a meeting we had with her guidance counciler at school and she let us know, with our daughter present, that she had told her she felt like mom and dad are always mad at her. She was right - we were mad alot, at least Mon - Thurs. We couldn't have sank any further down into our seats, we felt awful. Our constant frustration was too much to hide from her. Constantly hearing I forgot it!, I can't remember how she said to do it!, I don't get that, etc etc..... We were like, we are not in the class to know what she's told you, we are not in the class to remind you to bring home your paper, book, your lunchbox, jacket etc... We moved and started a new school this fall and we were called in about 6 weeks into school to discuss these issues. It was a huge weight off of her shoulders as well as ours to know she can't control this, it's not her fault. Now we had to decide what to do about it. She was so far behind this new 4th grade class, and she felt so inadequate, it was really starting to take a toll or her self esteem. I was so afraid of medication and erasing my little girl, I tried EVERYTHING non medicinal, before trying this patch. The patch is worn on the skin (completely non visible) rather than ingested so there is less chance of stomach irritation. There are a few side affects they list, and of course every child is different. But - my daughter has never displayed a single side affect. No difference in her personality, her sleeping pattern, her appetite. Never got a headache never got a stomache ache - nothing!. The CHANGES we have seen in her are: ability to focus and yes - finish a task, you can't even imagine the satisfaction she has when she comes and hands me the homework to check - she's beaming IM DONE MOM!!. I'm not going to say we went from D's & F's to A's & B's because I haven't seen that, but she did have B's & C's and only one D. An unbelievable turn around in just 6 weeks. I have been struggling with ADD my whole life and didn't know it. I finally gave up with school as soon as I turned 16 and could quit. ADD is controversial, and wasn't really even recognized when I was growing up, my mom and teachers said I was lazy, and wasn't working to my full potential - end of story - she doesn't want to learn.
I litterally had no self confidence until I was about 24 and fell in love with someone that told me I was worth loving and I started to realize myself that I do have something to offer this world. I would'nt want anyone to feel the daily defeatism of never amounting to anything, never finishing anything, that I felt and hid, from everyone.
I feel like I have an advantage in understanding exactly what my daughter was starting to experience, and I refuse to give up on her. These kids have to today, finish school, and even further their education from there. Unless you are gifted in some way (music, sports etc..)education is NOT an option, it's a requirement.
So please think long and hard about how he's feeling, and ask him about his feelings. I know it sucks for you, cause it's so tough as the parent to continuously struggle to keep his attention, and get him to try to focus it's soooo frustrating - the yelling - the tears, and the time - oh the time we spent on homework. Teacher say's no more than 20 minutes, and seriously 1.5 - 2hrs after all the BS that came with it. No longer in my house, I still can't believe it. Consider every option and don't give up until you find what will help him to be a better student and build the self esteem and inner confidence he's deserves.

Mom with ADD - 2 great kids 10 & 7 A best friend for a husband A full time job and a smile on my face every day!

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S.F.

answers from Boston on

I have a son with adhd and i know how hard it can be trying to get him to do his homework. Try to get him to do his school work as soon as he gets home from school, sit him down at the kitchen table with no distractions, and have him eat a banna first, the potasium in the banna will actually calm him down and that i know from experience, give it a try and see what happens... Good luck... S. ps tell him theres no tv, video games, or computer unless he does what you ask, first!!! Remember school is very important and he has nothing in life with out an educatuion

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N.C.

answers from Boston on

Please check out "celebratecalm.com". It's an amazing program. Good luck!

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D.C.

answers from Boston on

P., reading your statement sounded like my life. My son, 10, 5th Grade has ADHD. I am an older mother who works full-time and has a husband with multiple sclerosis.

One thing you didn't mention is does your son have an IEP? Does he receive extra services at school? Have they modified his homework? Have you sat down with his teacher to discuss how hard it is to keep him engaged to complete homework?

What I have done with my son is taking baby steps. If he has math homework, which is the hardest for him to grasp this year, I time him for each problem he has to do and give him reminders of how much time he has left. You have to filter in some sort of reward if he finishes his homework when you ask him to.

This method doesn't work all the time, but I modify it when I need to. What does he like to do when he comes home? Play video games, watch TV? Use those favorite activites as his reward.

Lastly, sometimes I just write the teacher a note and let her know that he did the best that he could and leave it at that.

More importantly, don't beat yourself up. We are only human and even if we lose it once in a while, our kids know that we love them.

Do you have any sort of support in your family? If you need someone to talk to, you can contact me via my personal email at [email protected]____.com in there, you are not alone.

D.

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S.G.

answers from Boston on

I had the same problem. My son has graduated. It will always be a struggle. My advise to you is to be very open with the his teachers and his guidance counselor. They need to make adjustments in the school for him. You will be able to do little for his homework issue. Shortening the homework should be one of the things on his Individual Education Plan from the guidance office. Breaking down work into smaller segments is key too. Making lists for him to check off when each small part is complete is rewarding to him. Post lists for him at home too. They work. Let him check them off himself when they are finished. Encourage and "LOVE" him no matter how he is doing in school. Put your "all" into keeping a good watch on him as he grows. Sit with him each night before he goes to bed and ask him how his day was. Don't stop as he gets older. This will do more for him than anything else. He needs to feel needed and wanted, despite his lack of progress in school.
Good Luck!
S.

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L.P.

answers from Boston on

Hi P.,
Have you heard of the discipline technique called Magic-1-2-3? We heard about it from a school counselor! It works for us! Ask your school about it or go to the library! There is even a video on it. It only takes 1-2 hrs to read. Good luck and save your sanity! L. p.

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N.M.

answers from Hartford on

hi P.,
thanks for posting this, wow! there's a lot of help posted here. My 10yo son is ADD -- he's in 4th grade, we finally opted for medication for him this year & has helped his focus alot, we also decided that homework is HIS work NOT mom & dad's, so, he's responsible for doing it first when he comes home & turn it in as he does it, we dont correct it anymore, this has really helped because, he's become more responsible for what he's doing & doesnt want to be corrected of any simple errors at school. the teacher is sooo impressed with his improvement, he's HONOR student for 3 marking periods this year! what a relief!
Also, with the help of this Pedi, we have adjusted his diet & vitamin supplements, his brain needs Omega 3 --- sometimes the med will make him loose his appetite & loose weight. so we monitor him very closely.
Good Luck & God Bless.

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N.C.

answers from Portland on

Hi P.. I see you have gotten some great advise and so I'll offer mine as a long time pediatric OTA...along with setting up 'routine' around times when you (and he)should tackle HW assignments together, and revisiting diet and supplements ( I liked what I read about the Reliv ;))...think about the physical SPACE you choose for him to concentrate in. As a Pedi therapist I am made aware of the child with ADHD special need to feel 'grounded', if you will, on a physical sense, as well as a need to have as little visual and auditory distractions as possible when learning novel or unfamiliar information....(OR...your son may NEED auditory distraction to learn...my daughter did i.e...she liked music in the background whenever she read...) So, you may want to make a fun project of creating a special HW space within your home that can address some of these needs....some ideas would be a fort (a pup-tent perhaps?)or a cave-like structure with heavy beanbag chairs he can lay UNDER while working on his stomach to read or write. Perhaps a special battery operated lamp, i.e.. You say "He's very bright, but doesn't seem to understand many concepts and gets easily overwhelmed and frustrated." Calming his sensory-motor system in this way may help him with focus and allow him enough feedback to concentrate more on your 'instruction' around helping him better grasp the concepts he is having difficulty with...I bet he has difficulty with tangeant/abstract concepts like 'on, over, under, behind, etc...all concepts we learn through touch and through feedback from our bodies, and all 'concepts' used throughout elementary school to teach reading and writing. ...perhaps this is the place where you can offer him CONCRETE ways to learn 'on, behind, over, whatever through using fun manipulatives he may have about his room....be CREATIVE! ...) if you're interested for ideas around the 'cave' or 'cacoon' idea, let me know...Good luck, Be Peace....and BTW....my daughter also had sensory issues as a child, and now has two degrees! Meet your son where he is, and you'll both be fine!!! N.

PS...loved Kate F's response too!

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R.B.

answers from Boston on

You have indicated that your son has ADHD. Is he currently on an IEP at school? Is he currently on medication for the ADHD? There is an appropriate amount of homework for each grade level. Homework is supposed to reinforce what they learned in school. It should not contain new information that he has never seen before. If he is on an IEP, I would address the team regarding the appropriate amount of homework (i.e., forty minutes, twenty minutes, etc. to complete) that he should have in one night. In other words, if his class has 50 math problems to do for homework that night, given his disability, it might be appropriate to modify the homework for him to 20 problems. He would still be practicing the skill, but it might not be so overwhelming to him and YOU.

If he is not on an IEP, I would still speak with his teacher and discuss the issues that you are having at home with him regarding his homework. You might suggest modifying the homework to a level that he can tolerate. You might also request information regarding how they encourage him to focus at school.

IEP or not, cities and towns are supposed to have special needs parent groups. I live in Peabody, and we have an excellent group. Our monthly meetings consist of guest speakers regarding pertinent issues facing parents (such as basic rights, etc.) The officers of the parent group, particularly the president, work closely with the school system and the special ed director to try to implement programs, etc.

You might also address the timing of when he is doing homework. Right after school might help him to maintain the focus from school. You also can modivate him that if he finishes his homework promptly and correctly, then he will still have time to play with his friend before it gets dark. Winter is tough as it gets dark so early.

If he is on medication, you may find in talking to the teacher that the medication may need to be adjusted as she is seeing him decline in the afternoon.

I hope this has been helpful to you. Best of luck.

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C.L.

answers from Hartford on

P. - First I want you to know you aren't alone! My son is 8 (2nd grade) with ADHD too. Homework is a nightmare for us too. He sits for a 1/2 hr every night and does what he can (I was told that was how long each night's homework should take). If there are pages not complete, that is how it gets turned in. I put a note each week that he sat and worked for a 1/2 each night and this is what he was able to accomplish.

If that is not an option (and it may not be), it might be something to address in his IEP or 504 Plan (if he has one).

One thing I highly recommend is to join a group on yahoo - ADHD/ODD - there are some excellent resources (moms and professionals) who might be able to help you with your situation. If you want more info - send me a private e-mail and I'd be happy to help in anyway I can.
Best wishes!
C.

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G.D.

answers from New London on

I totally feel your pain...and PAIN it is. I used to end up in a screaming match.
Finally my son realized being outside the "school" envirenment turned that part of his brain off-in his words. So we put him on an afterschool program He stayed with one of the teachers 3 nights a week for 1 hour. Whatever he got done was what he got done. I did not do it at home except Thursdays because no teacher was after that night. I also suggest getting a 504 done with the school. Talk together, figure out what works, what doens't and create a plan.
Now sense that stopped working for my son, I wont help him and they don't want us to either, he has so much time to do it and then that's it. If he sits and stares at the wall, then he fails. If he bickles down and does it, then he'll move on with his friends. We actually found a trick, my sons in 6th grade now and has his first crush. Not the nicest to hold over his head but when your in our position...you do what works!
I'm also going to try one more thing to see what difference it makes if any. If it does, I'll PM you and let you know.

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S.T.

answers from Boston on

Hi P.,

My son was not diagnosed ADHD, however, at 7 years old he was on the hyper side, and I did think he might get diagnosed one day. We found out about the Feingold Diet, and we eliminated food coloring and MSG from our kids diets. This did seem to reduce how hyper he was.

I can't say this solved the HW issue completely, as he's now 10 and it's not always easy to get him to do his HW (might need to try some of the suggestions on the board!), however, it did seem to help overall.

Hope this helps.

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C.M.

answers from Lewiston on

I’ve certainty been in your same boat. My daughter also has ADHD. We went through those same battles. I tried letting her pick her own time to get her HW done. Things just got worse. Last year she was in 5th grade and I decided that this situation had to change. So I told her that when she gets home from school she can grab a snack and then right to the HW. Oh yes she put up a fight for the first three weeks, but then she got into the routine. And now that she’s in 6th grade and I don’t even have to say a thing. When she gets stuck on something she’ll ask for my help, and I will help her. Occasionally she still has a bad day, and will whine and complain that her teacher is mean for giving her this much HW. But it’s certainly not everyday anymore. I’m no Dr. but I am a Mom of an ADHD child and I believe that they need a structured schedule.
Good luck, and remember take deep breaths
C.

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A.G.

answers from Boston on

Hi there! My son ADHD and bipolar, so I know of the struggles that you are going through with homework time. The way that I deal with it is I stay with him to keep him on task and if he seems like he is getting overwhelmed we try to go to another part of the homework or take a short break. I found that breaking it into smaller chunks seems less overwhelming for him and may work for your child. I see how much he can do on his own before stepping in also. I hope that this helps!

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J.G.

answers from New London on

Be his mom first and foremost.

I feel so much for you! I was there with my 24 year old and looks like I'll be there with my 4 year old too.

You have a lot of good advice here - and I'd say the suggestions in "Raising a Sensory Smart Child" may also help.

Here's my advice (culled from major mistakes with my older son) - first and foremost, be his MOM, not his tutor. Yes, parents are important teachers and should be on board with the school, and so on. Not at the cost of your relationship or family sanity. I got to the point where I'd go to PPTs and insist that the IEP include time at school to work on homework. I was strict insisted he be held accountable for laziness, but not for being overwhelmed. Let him know he's a great kid - let him know you love him and homework is just one small part of education (although it can become a MAJOR part of the nightmare). Step back from the homework - have a spouse, older sibling, family friend, relative step in for a few weeks. Regain perspective - and think about the memories you want your son to have about his home life. I'm not saying being a push over - I'm saying keep it in perspective. I sure wish I had - it took my son and I quite some time to heal the wounds that occurred during homework time.
Be his Mom first.

D.B.

answers from Boston on

This is such a tough situation, frustrating for him as well as you. A lot of people will tell you to medicate him, but that can cause other problems as well as expense. I have a lot of friends who have addressed this with.a wonderful nutritional supplement for kids - safe and easy and delicious. They would be happy to share with you.

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B.P.

answers from Boston on

I have a nine year old daughter that has been diagnosed through the years as traits for ADHD and High level Asperger's. But also has auditory processing due to hearing difficulties early on. She has come a long way and has been in a main stream class for two years and so far is holding her own due to her being very bright.

I have found through countless battles of when is a good time to do homework that coming home off the bus, washing hands and grabbing a snack and directly doing homework is best for her. Her mind is still in the "school mode" and I get better results than letting her wind down as the teacher suggested. Getting her back to focus after winding down is a nightmare. She is so off school mentally at that point that I need a tranquilizer just to deal with her.

So directly to homework right after school is my saving grace. Hope it helps.

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M.H.

answers from Boston on

dear P.

i have read your story. my questions is. your son may have a lot on his mind worried about things he shouldn't. my advice to you schedule him to speak to a professional. he need confident to talk to someone and don't give up help him before its get worst. good luck
best regards
M.

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N.D.

answers from Hartford on

P., you don't say whether your son is on any medication. My son was diagnosed with ADHD early and I refused to put him on medication. Life was tough, homework and school was really awful for him, he could not concentrate. All the PPT's were discouraging, he was a disruptive compulsive young man. I thought that he just needed the right teacher and everything would be OK. I didn't realize he could not focus long enough to do his work. His report card would be c's and d's. Every year his pediatrician would try to talk us into medicating him, I refused. Until one year in 4th or 5th grade his doctor said to me "you are not letting your son be the best he can be", meaning the medication could help him focus. I gave in and wow, the following year in school was a complete turn around. At his first PPT his teachers told us he was a leader and other students looked to him for guidance. His report card was all b's and a's. I was shocked and a little angry with myself for holding out so long regarding the medication. I was wrong. He is now in 10th grade and still on the medication, doing wonderful. Medication is not for everyone, I understand, I just wanted to share my success story with you.

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N.D.

answers from Springfield on

Hi, I know there are already some of my suggestions posted but--
1. talk to his teacher--homework should be more practice of something he already knows--it should not be your job to teach it to him so something is not as it should be.

2. He should be on an IEP for OHI (other health impairment) ask his teacher if he has these difficulties at school.

3. This may not work with all kids but ADD and ADHD kids are focused on too many things at once so let him wear headphones and listen to music (auditory), give him gun or hard candy, and let him have a toy of some sort--car/silly putty etc (both tactile). Let him have control of his sensory intake so that he is not distracted by the things that are more interesting/fun than homework (everything)

and good luck to you! N. (special ed teacher to HS students)

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M.C.

answers from Boston on

I'm not sure where you are located, but something like this could help your son a lot -

www.executivefunctiontherapy.com (or maybe .org - try both!) - it's in Lexington and I know a ton of people that rave about how great it is!!

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C.G.

answers from Portland on

Hi P.,

My son is the same age and has the same issues. We are not medicating him for his adhd. I do have some ways that may help to get through the homework that have worked with my son. If he is doing reading, give him something that he can play with in one hand- ie a stretchy toy or elastic type band, or a squeeze ball. I found that with my son, if he is squeezing his ball- it settles him down long enough to read and concentrate on what is being read. Another trick is to break up the homework into segments. We try have him do homework for a block of time no longer than 30 minutes, then he gets to 'play' for a few minutes. Then bring him back to do more. We used to spend 4-6 hours every night doing homework. Now, it is about an hour, sometimes only the thirty minutes or so depending on what was assigned. The trick is to give him time to fidget and get those tendencies out. If you restrict him to much, it will make him worse and will take a lot longer. Also, if he is really fidgety- there is an old wives tale trick that works well for my son- a small (half of what a grown up would drink) cup of caffeinated coffee or a soda. Believe it or not, the extra caffeine calms them right down! It only works if you use it sparingly though- other wise they build up a tolerance just like a grown up. You may want to talk to the title 20 services at your school. They have workshops for parents that help with getting them to do homework and for focusing on every day skills, too. Good luck to you on this- I know how frustrating it can be! C.

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T.B.

answers from Denver on

my son stays after school and does his homework with his teacher becouse he refuse to do it at home i would talk with your son teacher it helps my son alot to get one on one time with him

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A.W.

answers from Boston on

HI P., My Son is 10 an he also has ADHD. I fight with her very to try an keep him focused. He doctor put him on a afternoon dose of Ritalin that lasted him through homework time. This helped me alot. Feel free ask me questions. I know hoe frustrating it is, believe me!

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M.M.

answers from Lewiston on

Have you tried talking to his teacher? I am a 4th grade teacher, and I like hearing how children cope with homework at home. Homework is not meant to make kids hate school or cause family problems! For kids who have particular needs, I often cut assignments in half, or come up with a system of rewards/consequences for healthy homework routines. I often tell parents that after 20 minutes of honest effort on one assignment, they should move on to the next, perhaps with a break in between. I try to never give more than an hour of HW a night. Our school has HW policies per grade. Most teachers are willing to come up with a plan that works for individual kids.

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