Take the Battle Out of Homework

30 April 2015

Here’s a quick homework multiple choice question…

Which excuse have you heard from your child this week?

• “Homework is boring and stupid.”
• “I’ll do my homework later.”
• “It’s not due today anyway.”
• “I don’t understand this dumb assignment!”

Homework battle stations

This happens in most homes and more often than you would think (it’s not just you!) Kids tune out as soon as they hear their parents request, they plead and yell about homework, the battle is inevitable. Your child sees you as the enemy instead of homework. Everybody loses.

Why all the fuss?

Kids try to stay within their areas of strength and natural ability - it’s basic human nature and part of the survival instinct within every child. But what is your child actually good at? If school work and homework are not your child’s strengths, you need to be even more deliberate about your incentives and consequences otherwise your child will do what they can to get out of it.

Tapping into your child’s motivation

By and large children are not self-motivated for homework. Some kind of external motivation needs to be created for your child to do homework without a ‘black cloud’ descending on your home. Use small rewards like a favourite snack or allowing your child to have some extra screen time. Alternatively, try withdrawing a privilege such as taking away internet or television time, or some other personal privilege can be a boost to future homework motivation.

Privileges and rewards will undoubtedly differ from home to home, but expecting kids to do their homework with a good attitude simply because ‘they should’ is not realistic and not really how human nature works.

Alarming experiences

Imagine how dysfunctional schools would be if they didn’t have school bells and sent teachers to tell everybody that it’s time to go to class instead! The school bell becomes the neutral object that declares that it is time to work. Children are used to blindly obeying the school bell to get to their different classes and they comply like Pavlov’s dogs. In a similar way, set an alarm to go off each day that tells everybody it is homework time. You can tap into this at home too, where your child is attuned to the alarm clock or mobile phone alarm rather than a parent yelling at them.

Is there a vision problem or dyslexia (more than just laziness)?

Regularly check your child’s vision at your optometrist to ensure your child has healthy eyes and is not experiencing vision problems.

Also consider dyslexia which hinders your child’s progress and enjoyment of work. Parents can get a quick indication of potential dyslexia at home with the simple question – “What are the words doing on the paper?”

If your child’s response is along the lines of “They are dancing!” or “They are fading away!” or “They’re wobbling around a bit”, it’s likely to be dyslexia. See a specialist who can assess your child and show you some straightforward ways to help.

Who will have the last laugh?

One day our children are going to grow up and hopefully take responsibility for their own lives. Until then, let’s just continue to do our best to distinguish between whether our child genuinely needs help, or is just procrastinating and being lazy. As parents, we try to instill independence in our children so they can do homework and other school tasks without us.

Imagining our own children helping their future kids with homework can be a consoling thought but one that seems so far away. Maybe your parents laughed at the same thought when you were young. Happy homework!

Would you rather watch a movie than read about it (pardon sounding like a like a teenager)?

Here’s a video of some interesting new homework tips and advice (enjoy!):

Written by

Michael Guy Clark

Michael Guy Clark offers free tips and advice for parents at Dyslexia Improvements. He's a happy husband and lucky dad of two kids and specialises in helping with dyslexia and other learning difficulties. Michael loves to find what children are interested in and then to create fun and easy ways to help kids learn. Michael is a school teacher and also leads Big Improvements Tutoring which is part of a movement towards giving parents tools to make learning easier for every Australian child.

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