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Homework blues, divorce and behavioral concerns

By Gregory Ramey, PhD, child psychologist at Dayton Children's and Dayton Daily News columnist

Edition: August 9, 2010 | Topic: Behavioral concerns, Communication, Discipline, Divorce, Parenting, Questions from readers

Questions from Readers


School is beginning in a few weeks and Im not sure whos dreading it more - me or my fourth grader. Homework is a daily hassle, with lots of whining and crying. Ive had my son tested and he is an average student in an academically competitive school. Any suggestions?


Start off the new academic year with some clear rules regarding homework.

When is he expected to begin homework?
How much help will you give him?
What consequences will occur if his homework is not completed?

Stay in close contact with the teachers so that you have a realistic understanding of how much time should be spent on homework. Structure your sons afternoons so that things he enjoys doing (e.g., playing outside, watching TV, etc.) occur after he has accurately completed his homework. Consistently enforce reasonable consequences.

Keep in mind that academics will be difficult for your son. While school is important, be sure to keep a balanced approach and encourage his involvement in non-academic activities where he can experience success.


I have two young children and am in the process of getting a divorce. Even though my ex-husband and I seem to disagree about everything, we do share a strong love for our children. The kids are already starting to ask me questions about their dad. Do you think therapy would help?


Instead of therapy for the youngsters, focus on developing an excellent relationship between you and your ex-husband. Even though you are no longer married, you still have to figure out ways to communicate, compromise and put the interests of your children before your hurt and angry feelings.

Therapy for you and your ex-husband can help equip you with those critical communication skills and is apt to have a greater impact than therapy for the children.


We have a 3 year old boy who is very sweet and also very rotten all rolled into one. Lately, hes become intolerable. He throws his food, hits us, urinates on the floor and yells. While I try to be consistent, I do feel that I give him too many warnings. Any suggestions?


Start off with focusing on a few difficult behaviors. Stop giving him warnings or talking to him when he does something wrong. Simply state what he did incorrectly and then put him in time out. If he throws food, you should simply say, No throwing food. Sit in the
corner until you are quiet for three minutes.

Keep your explanation brief, typically no more than about 10-15 words. Be sure that he stays in time-out until he is quiet for about three minutes. That means that you should not respond to questions, crying or other verbalizations.

If you are truly consistent with this approach, as well as positively reward his appropriate behavior, you should see a change within a few weeks. If not, speak with your family doctor about a referral to mental health professional.

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Dr. Ramey Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit and join Dr. Ramey on facebook at

©2010 The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. Columns may be reproduced with the permission of Dayton Children's.


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