I am struggling and need some guidance from you about how to help my daughter, who has ADHD, get her homework done. I know “Zoe” wants to do well in school, but sometimes intention does not readily translate into results. Zoe and I seem to have the same battles over and over again, especially on the weekends. Here is what happens on a typical Saturday. Zoe will set her homework start time for 11:00 a.m. and turns in her cell phone and laptop to me at this time. When I check in with her at 11:00 am to see if she needs help, she says, “I just need 10 more minutes.” and resets her start time to 12:00. I want to encourage her independence so I allow it, but when I check in with her at 12:00, she is occupied with something else and resets the start time until 1:00. As the day unfolds, the start time is pushed off until later and later. When she finally does get to her homework, it is late in the day and she’s too tired and unfocused to work on it. The day is wasted, and we’re both frustrated.
P. S. At 5:30 I came downstairs and found her watching TV. I unplugged the TV and told her that while I couldn’t make her do her homework, I am in charge of the screens at home. She protested some and said, “I told you I would start at 6:00 and I can always just go watch TV in another room.”
We have asked local ADHD coach, Loretta Spindel, J.D., PCC, BCC to weigh in on this common homework dilemma from the mom of one of our clients.
LS: I’m seeing a pattern here. Zoe is controlling your time by continually moving the start times. She has all the power. My suggestion is to teach her how to respect your time, which will also help her, but she’s not going to do it unless she knows you actually require it. By letting her change her work start time, you are reinforcing that behavior, so it’s no surprise that she repeatedly asks “just give me 10 more minutes”. So the next time you tell her you will help her at a certain time and she refuses to work at that time, my suggestion is that you make it very clear AT THAT MOMENT that you have come to realize that you have been wrong in the past to let her continually reset the work starting time over and over. (Telling her you have been wrong most likely will get her attention.) From that point on, when she agrees to a time to work, she needs to be ready to do it at said time, and you are not going to continue to let her change the time over and over. You may choose to give her one or 2 passes on the start time the first couple of days you try to implement this, but be very clear that you are serious. I know this means she may miss completing an assignment, so you have to decide if you are willing to let that happen. If you are not, that is your choice of course.
She says she wants to be more independent and part of being ready to be more independent includes being able to make a plan and stick to it, so this is part of what she’s asking for. As an ADHD coach, I work with kids on the concept that making “responsible choices” comes with being more independent. I explaine that being independent and just doing what you want “willy nilly” are not the same thing. I tell them that being independent involves making choices that support what they want for themselves. So if Zoe wants to feel good about school and her grades, then she will have to make choices that support that result.
Glad you stuck to your guns about the screens. I might suggest that if threatening to find another TV to watch is a pattern, then the next time this scene unfolds, let Zoe know that she certainly can, but if she follows through and goes to another TV she will lose a day of screens or her phone or whatever you think appropriate. The reason I suggest a consequence here –I usually only suggest rewarding wanted behavior– is because this looks like a power struggle over who is really in charge, since she boldly told you what she was going to do.
I hope this helps!
For more information about the ADHD coaching services Loretta provides, please visit her website at www.coachtime.net or reach out to her by phone for a free, 30 minute consultation at 703-281-1818.