8 tips to help middle-schoolers slow down on homework

By Kate Kelly

Expert reviewed by Rayma Griffin, MA, MEd

A lot of kids rush through homework. But kids with learning and thinking differences — especially ADHD and executive function challenges — may be more likely to zip through assignments. This can cause problems in middle school, when their assignments get more demanding. Here are ways to help your child slow down.

1. Designate a set amount of time for homework.

Middle-schoolers typically spend about 60 to 90 minutes on homework each weeknight. It’ll depend on your child’s courses, teachers, and study hall schedule. Work with your child to set aside the right amount of time for homework. Be sure to include time to check over the work. A homework contract can make it easier to set a schedule and stick to it.

2. Time it right.

Kids can be tense, stressed out, or exhausted after a day at school. So make sure your child has enough energy to work on assignments before diving into homework time. Let your child have a break, a snack, or a nap if they need it.

If your child takes ADHD medication and tends to crash right after school, talk to the health care provider who prescribed it. Your child’s medication may need fine-tuning.

3. Help your middle-schooler prioritize.

Learning to juggle the demands of different classes can be challenging. Kids may feel they have to rush through a difficult assignment because they didn’t leave enough time to do it properly.

Help your child come up with strategies for managing the workload. For instance, would it help if your child set aside more time for subjects that are harder? Is it better for your child to tackle hard assignments first or warm up with something simple to build confidence? Answering questions like these can help your child prioritize.

4. Break down the steps.

Some kids finish homework too quickly because they leave things out. They may not remember all the steps involved in solving a math problem. Or they may unintentionally skip sections of a writing assignment.

Help your child come up with a list of steps to cross off as they’re completed. For some kinds of homework, like math, you may need to ask the teacher for an example of a solved problem, showing each step. Breaking down assignments can also help kids work on long-term assignments at a steady pace.

5. Put away the phone.

Texting and checking social media while doing homework can be a major distraction. This is especially true for kids who have a hard time focusing on tasks. It doesn’t just take away time they could be spending on homework. It also means they have to re-familiarize themself with the assignment every time they come back to it. This may cause kids to skip steps and speed up to finish it.

Make it a policy that your child charges their phone — in another room — during homework time. And set a good example by putting your phone away when completing tasks of your own.

6. Encourage your child to check their work.

In the rush to get homework over with, kids may skip over the important final check for careless errors, misspelled words, and illegible handwriting. If your child does this, look over the work when your child says it’s finished. If you notice typos or other mistakes, remind your middle-schooler that the homework isn’t done until these issues are fixed.

Work together to set up a checklist your child can review. Can I read what I wrote? Did I use capitals and end punctuation? Did I spellcheck my work? Did I complete all the examples? This can help your child get into the habit of checking work.

7. Get your child the help they need.

If your child rushes through homework or just leaves answers blank, it could be a sign of a bigger issue. Talk to your child’s teacher about what you’re seeing. You may decide that your child needs an evaluation. This could lead to formalized supports at school.

If your child already has an or a , talk with the teacher about the current supports. You may need to review existing to see if your child needs new or different ones.

8. Focus on your child’s strengths.

When kids struggle with school and homework, they may not be confident that they can do homework well. So, they may rush through it thinking, “What’s the point?” Explore ways you can boost your child’s self-esteem. Remind your middle-schooler of strengths and accomplishments in areas outside of school. A reminder that hard work pays off could motivate your child to slow down and check over work — and then reap the benefits of a job well done.

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