6 Tips for Creating Effective Homework Habits for your Child with ADHD

teen boy writing in notebook at clean and organized deskSometimes it’s hard for all of us to do things that we find challenging or boring. I certainly like to warm up with something easier before taking on a bigger task. Creating effective homework habits is invaluable for children and teens with ADHD, who tend to struggle with persistent inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. These obstacles get in the way of starting, focusing on, and completing homework.

That’s why it’s important that parents of kids with ADHD help instill effective homework habits and provide support structures which guide kids to better outcomes. Kids are ultimately responsible for the heavy lifting of getting their school work done. But parents can set up their ADHD child for school success by getting them organized, holding them accountable, and providing plenty of encouragement along the way. It’s never too early to create effective study habits for your child. Let’s take a look at what this entails.


The value of instilling good study habits and routines

smiling teacher checking in on tweens working on a project in the classroomThe surest way to counter your ADHD child’s forgetfulness, inconsistency and difficulty in focusing on homework is by setting up a routine of study habits followed by an incentive of an activity they enjoy. Predictability is key to getting the job done. When your child has a daily routine for doing homework, they will have fewer opportunities for procrastination. They will also be more motivated and less anxious with a consistent homework routine. They know that they need to do the “have-to” stuff before the “want-to” stuff. Good study habits go beyond just doing homework at a specific time. It’s about setting up meaningful incentives, removing distractions, and enabling focus to achieve the best results. Although you know your child best, it’s a collaborative approach that works best. So, together, talk about your level of involvement based on the reality of what’s really getting finished and turned in. Then brainstorm a collaborative plan. Then there will be more buy-in and a better shot at school success. 

6 Tips for Creating Effective Study Habits

Kids’ homework is their own to manage. As the parent, you shouldn’t feel responsible for the homework itself. When you correct their homework, you deprive their teachers of seeing the true quality of their work and you make yourself the corrector rather than their ally. Instead, the parents’ responsibility is to promote good study habits and equip the child with the time and space in which they can practice these habits. Here are 6 valuable tips for creating effective homework habits.

1. Make a structured plan together

A structured homework plan includes start times, locations, and materials needed to complete work. Determine the ideal order of doing work and the length of time they can focus before needing a break. An ADHD homework plan should include timed, pre-planned breaks. This will ensure that your child won’t get bogged down or overwhelmed. A break should be short to avoid distraction and difficulty transitioning back into homework mode. Appropriate break activities include a snack, stretches, a walk around the block, or whatever works best for your child. Use cues to signal when the break is over, and it’s time to get back to their homework. 

teen boy and father writing and talking at kitchen table

Collaborate with your child on creating this plan. Homework is their responsibility, so they need to be invested in good outcomes. This applies to kids of all ages, from kindergarten through college. Ask for their input to understand your child’s individual preferences and study patterns. If your child prefers doing homework at 5 AM, has no difficulty getting up in the morning, and gets everything done before heading out the door, consider it a win and cheer them on. Remember, effective habits are about finding what works, no matter how unorthodox it may be.

2. Incorporate incentives that matter

Kids with ADHD need just the right motivators to get work done. Things have to be engaging in order for alternative learners to accomplish them. Use incentives that matter to them to improve motivation for unappealing tasks. You’ll need to chat with them about what these could be, brainstorm a list of do-able options and include time with you as a way to deepen connections. Incentives may be additional screen time or earning more time with friends on the weekends. They can also include time with you doing a shared activity such as baking cookies, shooting some hoops, going shopping, getting extra time out with friends on the weekend. Of course, time with you can also be an incentive, especially if it’s doing an activity they enjoy. This fosters family connections and closeness. Give them choices and change up the incentives so they don’t become bored. This will give your child a deeper sense of control.

3. Reduce being overwhelmed by breaking things down

to do list broken down into 7 post-itsYour child might be having a hard time starting on their homework because it all seems too big, too much, and too long. When your child is overwhelmed, they don’t know how and where to start. Teach your child to take something that feels big and unwieldy and break it down into smaller components. Writing things done, keeping to-do lists short and making sure they check things off as they complete the work reduces avoidance and develops a sense of competence. With smaller bits, your child starts to feel a greater sense of accomplishment as they complete one chunk at a time. See if you can share a relatable example of a big problem you tackled by breaking it down into smaller pieces from your schooling or work.

4. Adjust your expectations

Developing productive homework habits takes time. As with any process, there is no quick fix, so adjust your expectations accordingly. It may take some trial and error until you and your child identify a routine that works. Keep things simple, especially at the beginning. Instead of seeking out quick results, focus on promoting a growth mindset in your child. Apply realistic expectations based on your child’s actual capability. If your child can only do 20 minutes of independent reading before needing a break, make that your baseline and set a goal of 25 minutes for the following month. Slow and steady wins the race here. Asking too much, pressuring them to apply themselves more or punishing them for pushback or incompletions work harder will only lead to frustration for you both. Meet your child where they’re at, and build up from there at a manageable pace.

5. Stay consistent

Before a behavior can become a habit, it must be repeated over and over and over again until it becomes second nature. Routines require consistency, so stick to the plan as much as possible. If you and your child agreed to starting homework at 4PM, then follow through on that commitment. There will undoubtedly be exceptions that break the routine. Roll with it, and get back to the routine to which you and your child agreed. You’re not looking for perfection, but you do need to stay steady as much as possible in order for new habits to take hold.

6. Celebrate Successes

father with his arm around daughter in helmets at a bike race

It’s important to remember that your child really does want to do well. They may just have a hard time getting there. That’s why it’s crucial to offer encouragement and celebrate successes–both big and small. By acknowledging your child’s effort, they will feel both validated and accomplished because their efforting is noticed. Then, they will be more likely to stick with the plan. Since things rarely will go smoothly initially, plan to rework your routines and discuss the tweaks in a short family meeting. Expect some frustration and impatience from your child as well as yourself. When this happens, reframe defeats as learning opportunities and keep moving forward.

Remember creating effective homework habits is invaluable for children and teens with ADHD. Mastering these critical practices will make life easier for everyone in the family.