Children and teens with ADHD encounter more than their share of academic challenges. Consequently, parents tend to become heavily involved in their children’s academic lives. Let’s look at three common scenarios.
> Johnny leaves his vocabulary list at school nearly every week. His dad gets frustrated, but drives him hurriedly back to school before the doors close—because he doesn’t want his son to fail his weekly spelling test.
> Mary can’t stay focused on the increased amounts of homework she is assigned now in fifth grade, so her mother agrees to spend the entire evening sitting near her, reading a magazine.
> Eric has lots of tests and projects now that he is in high school, and he has to juggle these with basketball practice. To make sure he keeps track of everything he needs to do, his mom lays out a weekly schedule every Sunday night and posts it on the refrigerator.
How should parents lend support?
As well-intentioned as we may be in helping our kids grapple with complex school-related problems, these efforts help only in the short run. Children need to develop their own thinking skills; as long as we agree to do the thinking for them, they won’t. And so they may never learn critical academic skills, like how to plan, problem-solve, and stay focused.
If we let go and allow our children to handle difficult situations on their own, there’s no guarantee that they will learn from their mistakes. Typically, things get worse. It’s not uncommon for parents to end up either arguing with or begging their children to do the work—or just doing the work for them.
At what point should you step in to help your child? And to what extent? It’s not always easy to tell. But if we emulate the techniques used by athletic coaches—and stay out of the game—we can teach our kids to manage their academic responsibilities on their own.
Making the transition from involved parent to academic coach can be challenging. It will require fighting the temptation to “fix” your child’s struggles and learning to manage the conflict that could arise between you.
Let’s see how a coaching approach might help Johnny, Mary, and Eric overcome their academic problems.
This article comes from the December 2006/January 2007 issue of ADDitude.