Why Does A Smart Child Struggle with Homework?

Does your child struggle with staying organized, starting homework, managing long-term projects?

If so he may be struggling with executive functioning.

Organizational  skills need to be taught. Your child/teen will not miraculously learn how to do these things someday.  A disorganized 10 year old, will be  a disorganized 16 year old and a disorganized 25 year old.  If your child has the cognitive ability and desire to go on to higher education in college he must learn how to manage homework. I have seen too many smart kids fail in college because of executive functioning weaknesses.  If you can’t get your homework turned in during high school while living at home, you will NEVER get homework turned in during college when no one is tracking where you are and there are distractions all over the place.

I don’t mean to scare you, but I feel that other professionals will not tell you these things.  I have a unique perspective because I see some children over many years. I also see children’s developmental progression from preschool to college.  Poor executive functioning can be a life long disability, but it is one that we can treat and support.  It does require an effort from you and your child, but addressing this can mean the difference between academic and career success or failure.

I want to be clear that I am not talking about getting the homework done “right,” with all the correct answers. I am talking about successfully managing the process of completing homework. Getting it home, getting it started and completed, putting in back into a backpack and turned into a teacher.  If your child cannot manage this process independently during his high school years, we have a problem.  He is not lazy or “bad,” but he needs to build these skills ASAP. If not, how will he succeed as an adult?  Imagine the consequences of not getting work done on time for a “real” job? Or not being able to manage long term projects?  Most jobs require an ability to manage time and production which is basically what homework represents for children and teens.

I think mastering executive functioning abilities is much more important that the actual content of what your child learns in school. With all due respect to teachers, a child who cannot organize information is at a severe disadvantage in life.  Everything else we can just Google.  Really. We are in such a new information age that the reality is the ability to organize and analyze information is so much more important than knowing the information itself.  (I’m not suggesting your child not be required to learn anything and just Google. What I am saying is our educational focus needs to be more about teaching kids how to access, analyze and organize information because we can now interact with so much information with just a few strokes on a keypad).

Going forward, I suggest you prioritize your child’s executive functioning development.  Whether it is on an IEP or 504 plan in school or at home your child MUST possess the ability to mange homework and information by the time he is a senior in high school.  Because if he cannot do this by age 18, then what?