How to Motivate Your Kids to Do Homework
(without having a nervous breakdown yourself)
By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller
Tired of arguing, nagging and struggling with your kids to get them to do homework? Are you discovering that bribing, threatening, and punishing don't yield positive results? If so, this article is for you. Here you will find the 3 laws of homework and 8 homework tips that if implemented in your home with consistency and an open heart, will reduce study time hassles significantly.
The First Law of Homework: Most children do not like to do homework.
Kids do not enjoy sitting and studying. At least, not after having spent a long school day comprised mostly of sitting and studying. So give up your desire to have them like it. Focus on getting them to do it.
The Second Law of Homework: You cannot make anyone do it.
You can not make your child learn. You cannot make him hold a certain attitude. You cannot make him move his pencil.
While you can not insist, you can assist. Concentrate on assisting by sending positive invitations. Invite and encourage you child using the ideas that follow.
The Third Law of Homework: It's their Problem.
Their pencils have to move. Their brains need to engage. Their bottoms need to be in the chair. It is their report cards that they bring home.
Too many parents see homework as the parent's problem. So they create ultimatums, scream and shout, threaten, bribe, scold, and withhold privileges. Have you noticed that most of these tactics do not work?
Our responsibility as parents is to provide our children with an opportunity to do homework. Our job is to provide structure, to create the system. The child's job is to use the system.
Tip # One
Eliminate the word homework from your vocabulary. Replace it with the word study. Have a study time instead of a homework time. Have a study table instead of a homework table. This word change alone will go a long way towards eliminating the problem of your child saying, "I don't have any homework." Study time is about studying, even if you don't have any homework. It's amazing how much more homework kids have when they have to study regardless of whether they have homework or not.
Tip # Two
Establish a study routine. This needs to be the same time every day. Let your children have some input on when study time occurs. Once the time is set, stick to that schedule. Kids thrive on structure even as they protest. It may take several weeks for the routine to become a habit. Persist. By having a regular study time you are demonstrating that you value education.
Tip # Three.
Keep the routine predictable and simple. One possibility includes a five minute warning that study time is approaching, bringing their current activity to an end, clearing the study table, emptying their back pack of books and supplies, then beginning.
Tip # Four
Allow children to make choices about homework and related issues. They could choose to do study time before or after dinner. They could do it immediately after they get home or wake up early in the morning to do it. Invite them to choose the kitchen table or a spot in their own room. One choice children do not have is whether or not to study.
Tip # Five
Help without over-functioning. Only help if your child asks for it. Do not do problems or assignments for children.
When your child says, "I can't do it, " suggest they act as if they can. Tell them to pretend like they know and see what happens. Then leave the immediate area and let them see if they can handle it from there. If they keep telling you they don't know how and you decide to offer help, concentrate on asking than on telling.
"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?"
Tip # Six
If you want a behavior you have to teach a behavior. Disorganization is a problem for many school age children. If you want them to be organized you have to invest the time to help them learn an organizational system. Your job is to teach them the system. Their job is to use it. Yes, check occasionally to see if the system is being used. Check more often at first. Provide direction and correction where necessary.
If your child needs help with time management, teach them time management skills. Help them learn what it means to prioritize by the importance and due date of each task. Teach them to create an agenda each time they sit down to study. Help them experience the value of getting the important things done first.
Tip # Seven
Replace monetary and external rewards with encouraging verbal responses. End the practice of paying for grades and going on a special trip for ice cream. This style of bribery has only short term gains and does little to encourage children to develop a lifetime love of learning.
Instead make positive verbal comments that concentrate on describing the behavior you wish to encourage.
"You followed the directions exactly and finished in 15 minutes."
"I notice you stayed up late last night working on your term paper. It probably wasn't easy saving that much to the end, but your efforts got it done."
"All your letters are right between the lines. I'll bet your teacher won't have any trouble reading this."
"I see you got the study table all organized and ready to go early. Looks like initiative and responsibility hooked together to me."
Tip # Eight
Use study time to get some of your own responsibilities handled. Do the dishes, fold laundry, or write thank you notes. Keep the TV off! If you engage in fun or noisy activities during that time children will naturally be distracted. Study time is a family commitment. If you won't commit to it, don't expect that you children will. Special Note: tonight when your child is studying, begin on your homework assignment, which follows. Reread this article. Decide which parts of it you want to implement. Determine when you will begin. Put it in writing. Then congratulate yourself for getting your homework done.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of "The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose," to be released in November and "Couple Talk: How to Talk Your Way to a Great Relationship" (available from Personal Power Press at (toll-free) 877-360-1477). They also publish FREE email newsletters, one for parents and another for couples. Subscribe to one or both at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.chickmoorman.com and www.thomashaller.com.