Ask the Experts

Dear ADHD Family Coach: How Can I Get My Child to Start His Homework?

Every night, parents everywhere ask, “Have you started your homework yet?” Kids answer, “In a minute!” Or, after they post that Instagram photo. Or, after they beat that video game. Prevent the inevitable procrastination with these steps.

Q: My son wastes time when he gets home from school, then drags his homework out all evening long – often until the wee hours. How can I give him homework support to help him get started as soon as walks through the door, then finish assignments quickly, so he can make it to bed by 10pm? AustMom

Hi AustMom: 

Trust me when I say you are not alone on this one!  I hear this complaint from parents on a regular basis.

But before we dive in, I need to ask: do you know why it is taking your son a long time to get his work done?

  • Is your son distracted, so his work takes longer to do?
  • Does he understand what is being asked of him?
  • Does he have a time sense?
  • Or is he overwhelmed with the amount of work?

[Free ADHD Resource: Solve Your Child’s Homework Problems]

I don’t know how old your son is, so it is hard for me to gauge what might be getting in the way.

I would first advise you to get a good “read” on what is happening so that any systems or homework support you put in place are specific to your son’s needs. What looks like a time management issue could easily be something else.

That said, there are strategies I’ve honed over the years of working with students facing similar challenges.

Try body doubling.  A “body-double” functions as an anchor. The presence of another individual focuses a person and makes it possible to ignore distractions and hone in on important tasks. Perhaps your son can sit in the kitchen while you make dinner when it’s time to start homework. This close proximity can help him stay grounded, focused, and complete his work.

[The Homework System We Swear By]

Use movement.  Movement helps kids stay on task and lays down learning.  Play “Beat the Clock” by setting up homework stations around your kitchen or dining table. Place a timer in the middle, and when it goes off, your son moves to the next station. Or get him outside. I have students doing math homework with sidewalk chalk or memorizing vocabulary while jumping on a trampoline. Have a dog that needs walking? You grab the flashcards, your son grabs the dog – and by the time you’re back, he’s studied for his exam. By adding energy and fun into his daily homework routine, you will keep him motivated and on-task.

Create a “personal homework profile.”  You mention that you want your son to start his work right when he gets home from school. For some, starting homework right after school is ineffective and counterproductive.  Creating a “Profile” takes your whole student into account and allows him to identify his needs so that he can maximize his time management muscle. I create one for every student I work with. Remember, everyone has individual homework preferences and personalities, and your son needs to learn how to tap into his best practices to create a customized approach for getting his work done. Feel free to go to our website – – to download a guide.

And, if you want more of these types of out-of-the-box “homework helpers”, check out my book, What’s the Deal with Teens and Time Management for entire chapters devoted to this subject.


The opinions and suggestions presented above are intended for your general knowledge only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your own or your child’s condition.

[15 Tips for Reducing Homework Stress]