Homework Coach or Enforcer?

student-at-deskIs homework a battle in your home? If you find that it has become a nightly battle or that your child or teen has lost interest in school; then it may be time to try a different approach. I will admit I sympathize with teens trying to become independent when often the adults around them are inadvertently taking away their sense of control. If you find that you are constantly asking them if their homework is done or suggesting ways for them to get it done then here are five tips to take you from homework enforcer to homework coach. Remember the role of a good coach is to encourage problem solving skills, develop independence and provide support when needed.

  1. The first and most important step is to realize whether or not you are enabling your child/teen to feel helpless. If you are constantly reminding them to do their homework, get ready for school, pack their backpack, or go to bed why would they need to remember? The same thing applies if you are solving their problems for them or designing their notebook your way. All of these things take the pressure off of your teen and puts it on you. You’ll need to work together to figure out how much your teen can do independently and what he or she might need a little support for. I know it is often easier to keep track of it yourself, but teaching your teen to problem solve, keep track of assignments and get their work done independently are all skills they need to develop for a successful life.
  2. Ask questions that begin with the word, “what” rather than “did” or “is”. Questions that require a simple yes or no answer will only get you the one word answer. Ask a question that requires them to answer in a sentence that gives you some real information. For example, “What homework do you have left to do?” This sounds less judgmental and requires more than a one word answer to reply. Good coaches ask higher level questions that need explanations, rather than simple one word replies.
  3. Start with the end in mind, is a term that Stephen Covey used but is helpful for those having trouble with completing homework. Help your child visualize what that assignment or project looks like when it is completed. Then you can guide them to work backwards to include all the steps necessary to get it to that point. You can also help “backwards plan” long term projects with specific dates to work on the pieces of the project. If necessary, create the plan together and then have certain check ins rather than always asking if it is done.
  4. Discuss with your child/teen what kind of an environment is best for them to work in. Do they like it quiet and away from the rest of the family or do they like to be where the action is? Many younger students don’t like to be alone in their rooms, for them it is easier to work in the kitchen or close by. Use a trifold foam board to create a distraction free zone and keep the TV and radio off and let them use their own music with ear buds. I have read that music can “satisfy” the hungry ADHD brain by providing enough stimulation to help it relax. This is done by listening to the same playlist every day during homework time. It is not picking each song but pressing play once and letting the same music play lightly in the background for about 30-45 minutes. That is long enough to get some work done. Have them take a short break and then get back to their homework and play that list of songs again.
  5. Make sure your children have some “down” time. Everyone is entitled to relax after a long day. In fact, research says that having some down time after working, helps the brain to process what was just learned. Many students are not getting the 8-9 hours of sleep they need to do their best. Those with ADHD will benefit from designing a “routine” for sleep. Start with shutting down electronics at least 30 minutes before bed (the blue light stimulates serotonin the wake up hormone), dim the lights (good for increasing melatonin the sleep hormone) and relax. Add in the other bedtime get ready tasks and aim to have them in bed around the same time each night. Aim for at least 8 hours but 9 is ideal.

Parents, you are your child/teen’s life line.They may continue to need your support throughout school but as they enter middle and high school, it is time for them to develop their problem solving skills. That means they don’t need you to solve their problems or challenges for them but to work with them to come up with solutions together. Stay calm. When stressed, cortisol, the stress hormone, is released into the body and it can literally shut down the brain making it nearly impossible to think. Students cannot force their stressed brain to think at that point and it is best to take a break and go do something active. Exercise increases the level of dopamine and other neurotransmitters (good chemicals) in the brain that can help get them back on track. If the situation gets too stressful, it is best to just walk away. Homework is homework….let the teacher deal with it.

This article is from our February newsletter. If you’d like to sign up or pass this along to your friends and family so they can sign up directly just click on the link that goes to my website.

Thanks for reading,


Backpack Do's and Don'ts

Homework stress

The first term is coming to an end in the next week. How is your child/teen doing so far this year? Did they start off strong and then start to slip? Do you find yourself reminding them to do their homework and still find they have “surprise” last minute projects or tests? It can be frustrating, I know. What I have noticed in my work with students is that sometimes parents are “too close” and your voice becomes like Charlie Brown’s mother’s (wahhh wahhh wahhh). Sometimes having your child/teen be accountable to someone else is helpful. I have designed a program that sends daily emails to your child to keep them on track and to help them develop the skills they need in school. Here is a sample from Day 9 of the End Homework Hassle ELearning Course. Check it out at: www.endhomeworkhassle.com

Day 9:

Let’s take a look at your backpack today. First, go get it and take it to the bathroom and weigh it. If it won’t balance on the scale you can weigh yourself without holding it and then with it….and then do the math.

1. Weight of backpack = __B__

2. Your weight x .10 = ___A___

3.  Is B A?

If the backpack weighs more than 10% of your weight, then try to take out what you don’t need. Some students bring home all their books because they don’t want to check their agendas for the homework they have and bring it all home, just in case.

For example if you weigh 100 pounds, your backpack should weigh 10 pounds or less or you could be hurting your back, neck or shoulders.

Use both straps so the weight is distributed on both shoulders. Allow the backpack to sit just below the back of your waist. Too high and you put a strain on your back, too low and you strain your shoulders. Leave what you don’t need in your locker. Consider having a backup set of books at home. Lighten the load by using one notebook instead of four if possible.

If your bag still weighs more than 10% of your weight, try to remember to stretch out those muscles after carrying it and if they continue to ache, mention it to your parent.

That’s it for today. Now which subject will you do first today?

To your success,


To find out more about this program or to sign up, please go to: www.endhomeworkhassle.com

Top 5 Things To Do This Week to Organize for School

Good grades start at home
Good grades start at home

1. Clean out your child’s closet with them and make room for the clothes they will be wearing to school this year. Pass along things that they won’t wear or that do not fit. No need to take up valuable “real estate space” with things they won’t wear. Do the same with the dresser. Hooks are great for hanging sweatshirts, jackets, pj’s and tomorrow’s clothes.

2. Together with your child, buy any school supplies they may need. Make sure the binder opens easily with one hand and will last till December (at least). Work with them to put them together in an organized way.

3. Be a reading role model. Set aside some evening time when the whole family reads either together or separately. Kids can work on their summer reading and you can catch up on those magazines.

4. Talk with your kids about what they want for lunches and/or snacks and work together to come up with a week’s worth of healthy ideas. Next week you can shop for them.

5. Start working towards the bedtime you want your child to have during the school year. Kids require 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep so calculate when their bedtime should be in order to wake up easily by the necessary time for school.

If you’re dreading the start of school and are hoping that this year will be different, then check out www.endhomeworkhassle.com. I’ll send daily reminders to your child or teen with tips and strategies so they can have an organized year.