Raise your hand if you ever had a fight trying to get your kid to do homework? Excellent—You all have normal children!
Homework is supposed to reinforce learning taught in school and teach self-responsibility; the problem is all too often it becomes the focal point for power struggles at home.
Let’s face it—most children do not like homework. We need to come to terms with that. It would be as if you worked all day and then went back to work for a night shift. Would you be jumping to do it? Doubt it.
So, one of the most common statements I hear about homework is “ I don’t care!” Know that somewhere deep inside they do care. By saying I don’t care it becomes a power struggle. Your child is saying “I’m not going to care because you can’t make me; you don’t own me. And truth is you can’t make him care or for that matter do his homework. You can’t move the pencil for him. We assist when needed but we can’t force them.
Why? Because homework is not your problem it is theirs! I assume you all aren’t currently sitting next to your 3rd grader in school. Your child is the one doing the homework and responsible for it. So often parents see homework as their own problem and try bribing, threatening and cajoling which don’t work. The parent’s responsibility is to create a structured environment for the opportunity to do the homework. It is the child’s job to do it. The consequences of not doing homework rest on them not on you. Logical consequences will come from the choices he makes. Don’t do your homework, get in trouble with teacher, and get bad grades.
We need to believe in our children and their ability to do the homework and solve problems that may arise. Very often we as parents operate out of fear of the future. If we don’t jump in and help them then they aren’t going to do it. And if he doesn’t do his homework then he won’t do well on his math test then how is he ever going to get into a good college. He will never find a job and he will be living with me when he is 30!!
You might be thinking I’m just trying to help you do well but what your child hears is “You’re a failure.” There is an underlying message of you can’t do it and you’re not good enough. Instead your message should be one of encouragement and praise. Parents need to encourage a growth mindset which means fostering the belief that through hard work, effort and perseverance intelligence can be developed and that challenges should be embraced not avoided.
We know they don’t like homework and yet it is their responsibility. So how do we encourage them to do their homework with the least amount of struggle? Here some helpful tips to avoid homework hassles.
Tip #1 Establish a homework routine.
Have your child help decide when homework should be done. After school, before dinner etc. Keep it the same every night. Have a regular place clear of distractions for doing homework(phones, TVs, ipads etc.) Included in the routine maybe a 10 minute warning that it will be homework time and the current activity needs to end. Younger students often need help getting started so you may want to get their bag and take out their planner. All needed supplies should be handy too.
Tip #2 Don’t hover or do the work for your child. You can let them know you are available to help.
–Tell story of mom at science fair saying come look at my project.—
When your child says, “I can’t do it (even with tears in their eyes). Say, “Act as if you can.” Pretend that she knows what she is doing and then see what happens. You then need to walk away and see if she can handle it, otherwise they will suck you in! If they persist that they don’t know and you offer help ask these questions rather than doing it for them.
“What do you get?”
“ What parts do you understand?”
“Can you give me an example?”
“What do you think the answer is?”
“How could you find out?”
“What strategy did you use for the last problem? Can you use it for this one too?’
Tip #3 Teach organizational skills
Teach time management skills. Help them prioritize according to importance and due date. For long term assignment look at calender and work backwards from due date to decided when each part of the assignment should be worked on. Teach them create a list of all that needs to get done and cross it off when finished. Start on the hardest assignment on the nightly list to get it out of the way. Then only easy tasks left. Create slogans to help with organization like, “Homework is not done until the bag is packed.”
Tip #4 Use Descriptive Praise to encourage internal motivation.
External rewards only work in the short term. They don’t encourage children to develop a long term love of learning.
Say things like:
“You followed the directions exactly and finished in 15 minutes.”
“All your letters are right between the lines. Your teacher won’t have any trouble reading this.”
“I see you got yourself organized and started right away. That is what I call being responsible.”
When they get frustrated, empathize.
“I see this is hard for you tonight.” Or “It seems like this is taking longer than you expected.”
Tip # 5 Be a role model
Use homework time to get some of your own responsibilities done. Do the dishes, fold laundry, pay bills (you can even pay bills while your child is doing math to show how math is used in the real world). You can read while your child is reading. Just keep the TV off and avoid fun or noisy activities that will distract your child. Let’s face it just about anything is more exciting then homework!
Tip #6 Find a new name for homework.
Just the name homework make kids hair stand on end. Try eliminating the ‘dirty’ word from your vocabulary. They are ok with the home part. It is the ‘work’ part that causes the trouble. Call is something different at home. Like ‘home learning’ or ‘study time’ or ‘brain boosting time.’
Since just the word homework sets them off it is best to avoid bombarding with homework questions as soon as they walk in the door from school. Let them chill and give them the opportunity to talk to you about their day. As soon as we start with the questioning they shut down. When you do discuss homework avoid asking probing questions like how many math problems do you have tonight or how many pages of reading do you have and what the questions you need to answer.
Tomorrow night while your child is doing their homework, your homework is to read over the handout and decide which tips you will implement.
Written by Courtney Evenchik,
MA, NCSP Director of School Psychology Services