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I have a 12-year-old daughter who procrastinates terribly when she is supposed to be doing homework or studying and we are constantly threatening, bribing, reasoning with her to get her to do her work. She is often up late at night still doing it and we’re always fighting. She frequently refuses when told to do things she doesn’t want to do and I just can’t make her.

Her behavior is so stressful to the rest of the family and we are all constantly on edge. How can I get her to complete her assignments without all the defiance and yelling? She is on Focalin and is a good student (with a lot of our badgering to do her work).

Please stop the arguing, bribing, threatening, etc. It is not working and does not work. Shift your focus to why she is acting this way rather than trying to make her change. I have yet to meet a 12-year-old who really wanted to fail or to disappoint his/her parents. There must be a reason and it is your job to find out what it is.

For example, I assume she is on Focalin because she has ADHD. If she takes the medication in the morning, it has probably worn off by about 4 or 5pm. Could this be a reason she struggles at night? Second, if she has ADHD, there is a high likelihood that she also has learning disabilities. Has she been tested to see if she might? If not, do so.

The answer to your question is not to increase the consequences and hope she will change. The challenge is for you to find out why she is struggling and to address the reason. Have you ever sat down with her and said, “I know you don’t like to do poorly in school and I know you don’t want to disappoint us. Let’s work together. Help me understand what is hard about doing the work. Let’s figure out together what we can do to help you be more successful.”

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