Homework Struggles Solved

Getting kids to complete assignments without nervous breakdowns.

Tired of nagging and arguing with your children to get them to do their homework? Are you discovering that bribing, threatening and punishing don’t yield positive results?

Here you will find the three laws of homework along with eight homework tips that— if implemented in your home with consistency and an open heart— should significantly reduce study-time hassles.

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 mostly sitting and studying. Therefore, forfeit your desire to have your child like homework. Focus instead on getting him or her to do it.

The Second Law of Homework: You cannot make your child do it.

You cannot make your child learn. You cannot make him maintain a certain attitude. You cannot make him move his pencil.

While you cannot insist, you can assist. Concentrate on assisting your child with homework by offering positive motivation. Invite and encourage your child to complete assignments using the ideas that follow.

The Third Law of Homework: Homework is your child’s problem.

Your child’s pencil has to move. His brain needs to engage. His bottom needs to be in the chair. It is his report card that he brings home.

Too many parents see homework as their problem. As such, parents create ultimatums, scream, shout, threaten, bribe, scold and withhold privileges. Yet, most of these tactics don’t work.

A parent’s responsibility is to provide his or her child with opportunities to do homework. A parent’s job is to provide structure. The child’s job is to use the opportunities and structure to accomplish personal tasks like homework.

Tip #1: Eliminate the word “homework” from your vocabulary. Replace it with the word “study.” Have “study” time instead of “homework” time. Have a “study” table instead of a “homework” table. This word change alone goes a long way toward eliminating the problem of hearing your child say, “I don’t have any homework.” Study time is about studying, even if your child doesn’t have any homework. It’s amazing how much more homework kids have when they have to study, regardless of whether they say they have homework or not.

Tip #2: Establish a study time routine. This needs to be the same time every day. Let your child have some input on when study time occurs. Once the time is set, stick to that schedule. Kids thrive on structure, even when they protest. It may take several weeks for the routine to become a habit. Persist. By establishing a regular study time, you demonstrate that you value education.

Tip #3: Keep the routine predictable and simple. One possibility includes a five-minute signal that study time is approaching. The signal brings your child’s current activity to an end and provides an opportunity for clearing the study table, emptying the backpack of books and supplies, and then beginning the study period.

Tip #4: Allow your child to make decisions about homework and related issues. He can choose to have study time before or after dinner, or immediately after getting home. He may also choose to wake up early in the morning to do homework. Invite your child to choose the kitchen table or a spot in his room. One choice your child does not have is whether to study or not.

Tip #5: Help without over-functioning. Assist your child with studying only if your child asks for it. Do not do problems or assignments for him.

When your child says, “I can’t do it,” say, “Act as if you can.” Tell him to pretend that he knows what to do and see what happens. Then leave the immediate area and let him see if he can handle the task at hand from there. If he keeps telling you he doesn’t know how to solve the problem and you decide to offer help, concentrate on asking rather than telling. Ask: “What parts do you understand?,” “Can you give me an example?,” “What do you think the answer is?” or “How could you find out?”

Tip #6: If you want a behavior, you have to teach a behavior. Disorganization is a problem for many school-age children. If you want your child to be organized, you have to invest the time in helping him or her to learn an organizational system. Remember: Your job is to teach the system. Your child’s job is to use it. Yes, check occasionally to see if the system is being used, especially at first. Provide direction and correction when necessary.

If your child needs help with time management, teach him time-management skills. Guide your child in learning what it means to prioritize according to the importance and due date of each task. Teach him to create an agenda whenever he sits down to study. Help him experience the value of getting the most important things done first.

Tip #7: Replace monetary and external rewards with encouraging verbal responses. End the practice of paying children for getting good grades or rewarding children with a special trip for ice cream. This kind of bribery has only short-term gains and does little to encourage children to develop a lifelong love of learning.

Rather, make positive verbal comments that concentrate on describing the behavior you want to encourage. Some examples of positive comments include: “You followed the directions exactly as asked and finished in 15 minutes.” “I noticed you stayed up late last night working on your term paper. It probably wasn’t easy, saving that much work toward the end of the due date, 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 handout.” “I see you got the study table all organized and ready to go early. Great job in being responsible.”

Tip #8: Use study time to handle some of your own responsibilities. When your child sits down for study time, do the dishes, fold laundry or write thank-you notes. Keep the TV off! If you engage in fun or noisy activities during study time, your child will naturally be distracted. Study time is a family commitment. If you won’t commit to it, don’t expect your child to do so.

Tonight when your child is studying, do your homework assignment: Reread this article. Decide which parts of it you want to implement. Determine when you will begin and put it in writing. Then congratulate yourself for doing your studying!