Homework & Studying

“I’ll Do It Later, I Swear”

Is your child a procrastinator? Help any student with ADHD conquer homework and chores by creating a game plan, using visual cues, and following these other rules.

Help for Students Who Procrastinate
Help for Students Who Procrastinate

How can you help students who struggle with procrastination? Initiating a task involves the ability to begin projects without undue procrastination, in an efficient or timely fashion. For instance, a young child with strong executive function can start an assignment immediately after instructions are given. Self-starting high school students won’t put off their least favorite homework assignment until the end of the evening.

Starting a task is hard for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) because their brains are usually stuck in the present, on the right now. They prefer to focus on the most interesting thing in their immediate environment. That’s usually not classwork, homework, or chores.

Prevent Procrastination in Students in the Classroom

  • After instructions are given for a work task, tell the class, “I’m going to count to 60 in my head. When the minute is up, I’m going to write a number on the board — the number of students I see working on the task I assigned.”
  • Demonstrate the steps involved in open-ended tasks. Some children hate getting started on tasks requiring them to think creatively. They may end up sitting in their seat watching other kids get started. Walking them through the first step or two of the task will often help.
  • Send students to their seat with a written task card. A task sheet (or “things to do” list) is also helpful. Have students cross out each task when completed.
  • Ask children to make homework plans. As they are writing down their homework assignments, have them write next to each one when they plan on starting it (at 5:30, before soccer practice). Walk around the room, spot-checking what they’ve written. The next day, ask students, at random, if they started their homework at the time they said they would.
  • Provide examples of completed work and tape them to each child’s desk. It will give students the reference points for doing the work on their own.
  • Have kids offer their own tips. Hold a group discussion on why it’s hard to get started on homework or certain classwork assignments. Then ask the class to share their best strategies for defeating procrastination. Write the best suggestions on the chalkboard.
  • Break down long-term projects. Students with task-initiation problems leave long-term projects until the last minute. As the year progresses, teach the class how to make timelines and set interim deadlines for themselves before expecting students to do this on their own. Do this as part of a class discussion, so that everybody learns it as a group.

Prevent Procrastination in Students at Home

  • Establish a set time to do tasks that your child puts off. If your child knows that homework begins after an hour of play, there’s less need to nag as the schedule becomes a habit.
  • Make a preferred activity a reward for the on-time completion of a non-preferred activity. Say, “If you are ready for school by 7, you can watch cartoons for the half-hour before the bus comes.”
  • Have all materials and supplies readily available and accessible. Your child should be able to start his work without having to get up to look for something.
  • Ask your child to commit to a start time. When the time comes, your child may not remember to start the task on her own, but when you remind her that she chose the time, she’s likely to start without a fight.
  • Use visual cues. Leave a note on the kitchen table or pinned up on the fridge or cabinet, so he sees it when he gets home from school.
  • Let your child choose how he wants to be cued. Say, “OK, you’ve said you’ll start doing homework at 4 o’clock — how do you want to be reminded? Should we set an alarm, do you want me to remind you, or will you know to start the job when your favorite TV program ends at 4?”
  • Reward your child for starting right away: five points for starting immediately, three points for starting within three minutes. Create a rewards menu of privileges that your child can trade in his points for.
  • Create structure during summer vacation. Have your child begin each day by making a plan. She should list what she has to do and when she’s going to do it. Ask her how she can reward herself for starting each task on time.