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Is Your Daughter Deadline Challenged?

Your daughter is stressed out. And her way of coping is stressing you out. She announces school projects the night before they're due and punctuates homework discussions with comments like "it doesn't matter what I do—the teacher hates me!"

How to Cope

Photo of a girl doing homework.There's not much you can do the night before a project is due but lend your support—lecturing her about planning better or questioning her study habits isn't going to get it finished any sooner. Calm her down and help her get through this crisis. And know that tomorrow you'll share your project planning skills with her to avoid a repeat of this evening.

How do you keep from blowing YOUR cool? Follow these five steps:

  1. Make it "un-personal." The assignment is the assignment. All the kids got the same—or similar—assignments from the teacher. Don't let your daughter get sidetracked by personalizing why the teacher gave her THIS project or THAT set of questions.

  2. Clarify what's needed. How many problems need to be done? How long a paper does it have to be? What's the topic she's supposed to research? How much has she gotten done already? What's left to do?

  3. Set do-able parameters. Your daughter's original plan may have been to build a to-scale model of the Parthenon, complete with worshipers providing offerings, but that don't mean that's what HAS to be done. Was it a history project? Writing an essay about what the Parthenon was, who built it, and why, might suffice. Is it a math assignment? Providing a to-scale floor plan of it may do. An English assignment? Can she retell a myth—or make up her own?

  4. Break it down step-by-step. Once you've found out what's left to be done, break it into small steps. A three-paragraph essay is more easily written one paragraph at a time. And a scale drawing can be more easily drawn once she knows the dimensions of the building and how many graph paper squares there are to each inch, foot, or yard.

  5. Assign each step a deadline. Your daughter is overwhelmed—by both the project and her own emotions. Assigning each step its own realistic, mini-deadline—setting five minutes as the limit for each math problem, or two minutes as the max to label each foot on a piece of graph paper—will keep her focused on the task-at-hand, which will decrease her anxiety.

Life Lessons

Don't buy into the idea that this has to be the best project ever. Or that she has to get every homework question right. Discovering that she can't cram a whole month's assignment into one night's work can be an important lesson to learn—just as important as who built the Parthenon. Identifying what part of the homework assignment she does not understand and asking the teacher for help with that concept or skill is exactly what homework was designed for.

Plan the Next Challenge
Share your project-planning skills with your daughter! Here's a crib sheet for you to review before you have that talk:

  • Put It on the Calendar
    Set your daughter up with a calendar for every month. Have her write the project down on the date it's due.

  • Break It Down
    Help her identify the steps she'll need to do to complete that project. A research paper means she'll need to spend time at the library finding the books, AND read them and take notes. She'll also need to write multiple drafts and proofread the final copy.

  • Assign Time for Each Step
    How long will it take her to find the books she needs? How long will it take her to learn a stanza? Help her be realistic, not optimistic, in her planning.

  • Plan Backwards
    Start at the deadline, and count backwards to the last step. If it'll take her two days to proof her paper, have her count back two days from the due date—that's the deadline for the proofing. Do this for all the steps.

  • Double Check the Calendar
    Does she have a track meet? Are you planning a trip to Grandma's? Is the family hosting a holiday celebration? Don't plan on her doing any work on the project during that time. Adjust the mini-deadlines accordingly.

  • Agree Upon Your Role
    Agree on when you can check on her progress—maybe every other mini-deadline is a good time for her to review her progress with you. That way you can help her problem-solve as challenges appear (the book she needs is checked out of the library), rather than wait until the crisis hits (the project is due and she never got the book).