Smart, Sane Ways to Coach Your Child for Success

by Susan Karyn Lasky

Happy teenagerWe want our children to have the best in life, and believe that good grades will provide more options for them down the road—from better schools to social connections, jobs, and a fuller, richer life.

But what about those children who struggle academically? There are so many children who are smart, even brilliant in many ways, but whose challenges with ADD/ADHD, LD and other social or emotional issues create problems for them. Unfortunately, some of the most common parental strategies to deal with these issues are fairly useless.

They include:

Arguing Children are masters at ‘tuning out’ conversations that they don’t want to hear, and the greater the escalation, the greater the focus (stimulation) is on the form, not the content. Avoid the natural urge to make your point by raising your voice, crunching your face (look in the mirror when you’re all worked up!), or pursuing a conversation that is going nowhere. Opt for a different time and place, or try bringing up challenging issues during a walk outside, keeping it an open discussion in which both people speak and seek a win-win solution.  Asking your child for his or her input (instead of telling them what you think is best) can produce amazing results.

Threats – These can fall flat, especially if you have a history of not following through, or doling out punishments that exceed the crime.  Children have a built-in “Fairness Meter,” and, while they’ll protest initially, they will often accept reasonable, clearly stated (consider written), logical and consistent consequences. And whenever possible, avoid bargaining with those things that boost their self-esteem, like being part of the swim team.

Unreasonable Demands and Unfair Expectations – If your child’s leg were broken, no one would expect him to walk up three flights of stairs. Yet children with “hidden disabilities” are constantly subjected to ego-damaging criticism for not performing to standards that they either can’t meet, take too long to achieve, or meet inconsistently (so that when they fail to achieve at a certain level, they’re told they aren’t trying hard enough). What may seem simple to you or reasonable to a teacher may be a Herculean task for your child, who is willing, but sometimes unable. Be a detective and find the clues that contribute to your child’s success, then use them to help solve problems. A clearly labeled, colorful “Homework’” folder may make it easier to remember to take home and hand in homework; a timer set for 15 minutes may make it easier to start working on a dreaded task; explaining the difference between a task and a project may make it easier to complete a paper, on time and on topic.

Help your child succeed in school, and in life, with a Coach Approach, one that encourages self-awareness, advocacy, strategic and insightful problem solving and accountability. Appreciate and encourage your child’s talents and interests, and remember that success for your child may look very different than what you have envisioned.

Susan Karyn Lasky is a Productivity & ADD/ADHD Coach and Professional Organizer, helping students and adults. She can be reached at 914.373.4787, or

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