Homework is a topic that causes anxiety for parents and students, leading to arguments, hurt feelings or worse. It’s also a complicated issue. When we say, “I want to help,” children often hear, “You can’t do it.” Below are more ideas that may help reduce the emotions and anxiety surrounding homework.
- Observe. First, start by slowing down and simply observing the typical family dance to see what role you and/or your spouse contribute to your child’s refusal, struggle and apathy. If you carry more of the worry, fear, disappointments, and concern than your child does about his work, ask yourself “What’s wrong with this picture and how did this happen?” Remember, as long as you carry their concerns, they don’t have to. Adjusting your level of concern may be the first and best step.
- Put a structure in place. Put limits in place and enforce them without emotion. Set the expectations, but don’t get into a debate. If the expectations are not met, then enact consequences. I like the Love and Logic approach and just say, “If you don’t do what we ask, then we’ll have to do something.” Below are some examples of limits:
– Homework is done at the same time each night.
– Homework is done in a public area of your house.
– If grades are failing or falling, take away screen time so your child can focus and have more time to concentrate on his work. Apps like OurPact are free and work well to limit electronics.
– The weekend doesn’t start until homework is completed.
- Use natural consequences: Within the parameters you set around schoolwork, your child is free to make choices. This space allows your child to learn responsibility. If you take too much control over the situation, it will backfire by turning it into a power struggle.I’ve seen kids purposely do poorly just to show their parents “who’s in charge.” I’ve also seen children who complied to ease their parents’ anxiety, but these same kids never learned to think and make choices for themselves.
They choose to do homework or not, as well as the level of effort. The logical consequences will come from these choices. You can always ask questions that aren’t loaded, like,
“Are you satisfied with how things are going?”
“If not, what do you want to do about it?”
- Ask yourself what worked in the past: Think about a time when your child has gotten homework done well and with no hassles. What was different? What made it work that time? Ask your child about it and believe what they say. See what works and motivates theminstead of what motivates you.
- Intrinsic vs Extrinsic motivators: Extrinsic motivators are rewards we get after we do something. Intrinsic motivators are rewards we get while we do something. Intrinsic is the goal. External rewards work best when given intermittently.
- Be consistent. Whatever you try, remember to be consistent.
If you are changing rules and patterns to affect behavior, remember people resist change, especially if it is someone else’s idea. With change things will likely get worse before they get better, but stick with it for at least a month before giving up. Like changing any habit, it takes time, patience and consistency.