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A Therapist Answers Parents' Questions about Problem Behavior

Parents raise issues ranging from homework hassles, to school avoidance, to oppositional behavior in their kids with learning and attention problems.

By GreatSchools Staff

John W. Maag, Ph.D. is a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, specializing in the education and treatment of children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral disorders. He is a licensed psychotherapist and has published more than 80 articles and book chapters. Among four books he's authored, Parenting without Punishment won a Parent's Choice award.

This conversation between Dr. Maag and parents of children with learning difficulties about how to deal with kids' problem behavior related to homework, perfectionism, television viewing, and other topics, originally took place in 2006 on the parent message board hosted by Schwab Learning, a former program of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation. We feel readers will find much that is useful and important for their own efforts to support their children.

Homework hassles

From: 2KIDS

My daughter is 10 and has dyslexia. All she wants to do is play with friends when she gets home. For us what works best is she comes home does HW and then goes out. I know she struggles every day she goes to school more so than the avg kid because of her LD and I do realize she needs to play for her well being. I find myself getting frustrated at times since all we do is study. How should we be balancing the home and school to be fair to all?

Dr. Maag responds:

It is very difficult to "balance" homework and leisure - we don't want either one to take up a child's entire day. I think your plan of saying homework comes before play is great. I also like the "breaking it up" into smaller more manageable chunks. In terms of your daughter rushing though, you can give a little extra incentive for taking her time. For example, you could tell her that after finishing her homework she can go out and play for an hour…

A child who won't keep up with his schedule

From: Beth64

My 14YO son who is deaf & has ADD with ODD tendencies continues to move on his own schedule. Each morning I wake him up and he takes forever to get ready for school, many times causing the bus to wait for him for 5 min. I have been tempted to allow him to "miss" the bus but it is very important that he go to school. What do I do to get him to respect the time schedule we must keep in order to not miss the bus? He also does the same sort of delaying tactics when we have appointments and other time schedules…

Dr. Maag responds:

Getting children ready for school can be a daunting task. Child experts provide two main solutions to that problem. First, place your child on the bus regardless of where he's at in the "getting ready" process. That means he may go to school in his pajamas. Of course, using this technique requires parents to inform the school and for them to give the "okay" to this type of plan. The other approach is one that I favor which is to use a "star chart" and kitchen timer to motivate your son to get ready in timely fashion… 

Comments from readers

"We have a 12 yr old, Very bright (almost gifted high IQ when last tested but with ADHD. We rarely have behavior issues when on Meds except for school related issues. Get up get ready Go. trouble in school every kind. stall about home when time to take shower, brush teeth or hair work no time for simple chores like (pick up clothes after shower) put things in bed room out of living area. These are easy tasks compared to what most seem to do. No dishes empty trash, lawn work, help with garage cleaning as we all did as kids.There isn't even time to consider these. When out of school does or helps at any or all. If --has the day off school -- can do some of both studies and 'chores'. Has been asked to leave his public school. Spent more time in office than in any class and was always playing catch-up while getting little cooperation about assignments from teachers..We have spent too many stressfull nights trying to get delayed assignments that should have been done in school c! aught up plus home work that is or is not current. do you think a home school where child works at own pace is a good consideration or should we try another public chool. this is the third one in the same city Kindergarten, elementary, and now middle where we have spent every year struggling through."
"how to help a 7 year old boy who has adhd and has these spells where no one can get him to do what he is suppose to do, like his missed the bus as wouldn't can we help???"