Homework Strategies for Moody Kids

A few weeks back in school and all the old frustrations are in full swing.

The pencil-breaking. The paper-ripping. The weeping. The gnashing of teeth. You’d think schoolwork was, in fact, hell on earth. But really it’s just hell to a child with a learning disability. Especially one that’s at the mercy of bipolar mood swings.

My 4th grader, on an IEP for auditory processing and working memory difficulties, made great strides last year with her resource specialist’s help. That was after 3 years of working with her on homework, only to have her shred her assignment and stomp off, screaming, to her room. It took me 3 years to figure out how to help her succeed with homework. Here’s what I’ve found that works:

  • Read Ending the Homework Hassle, by John Rosemond. It’s written for mainstream students, but can easily be adapted for kids with attentional, mood or learning challenges. The gist? To get homework back on the child’s list of responsibilities… and off of mom and dad’s.
  • Don’t engage the tantrum. When it starts, respond with, “I’ll talk to you when you’re speaking with respect.” And truly wait through that until your child finds their respectful, calm voice.
  • Define and enforce a homework space for your child. Make it fun and stock it with their favorite paper, pencils or other supplies so their work space has a flavor all their own.
  • Talk with other parents about what works. Ask them what routines, locations, times of day, and other support structures¬† help their child succeed. That accomplishes two things: gives you some new ideas, and reminds you you’re not alone.
  • Open communications with her teacher. Invite them to coffee (or bring them a mug full) and have a meeting to give some of the back story. Establish expectations for everyone involved in your child’s school work – parents, teachers, resource specialists and counselors alike. Develop common expectations and language about homework, what’s due, when it’s due, etc.
  • Hold your ground with your child. My daughter comes up with every reason in the book why she doesn’t have to do X or Y problems, or study for spelling tests or read certain passages in her books. It’s up to me to smile, nod, note the comment, and get her moving on it anyway. It’s one of our kids’ jobs in our family. Everyone needs to do their job and tow the line in our life as a family.

And when they’re not in the heat of the homework moment… help her see that beyond learning, reading, and simply following the teacher’s directions, homework provides three independent living skills all kids need:

Discipline to hunker down and do what’s necessary, even in the tedious or challenging times in life.

Delayed gratification and the ability to wait patiently through situations.

An opportunity to self-assess and check progress. Self-awareness is crucial as adults, especially ones who already struggle to overcome social and mental obstacles.

What helps you and your child get through homework from their school?


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