Getting Kids to do Their Homework

Getting Kids to do Their Homework

It’s about a month into the school year and you’ve probably gotten into some type of family routine (or not). Some kids may be excited to be back in school, while others are already counting down the days to summer vacation (183, 182, 181…). Either way, homework is often a battlefront for parents, even if their children are good students and like school. Things come up—friends, activities, clubs, sports, church, synagogue, TV—things that grab your children’s attention. Before you know it, it’s bed-time and their homework is left unfinished.

Two things should be considered; long-range goals and short-term tips. Let’s start with the long-range goals.

Long-range Study Goals

Goal One

Help your children develop a love or appreciation for learning. This is best achieved with a combination of modeling the behavior yourself and designating a family study time. If your kids see you as stagnant—in other words, you’re not curious about things, they don’t see you looking up information, you don’t read or share knowledge about what you’ve read or listened to—they won’t make learning a priority either.

You can model a love for learning by trying new recipes, watching documentaries or short how-to videos online, making some crafts or home projects, discussing current events, and showing an overall interest in keeping your mind active. And talking about it!

Set aside regular family time for learning. This can be a few days a week or daily and should include school homework. For example, let’s say your child has homework assignments every Tuesday and Thursday. You’ve had a family meeting to come up with the best time, which you decided would be the hour after dinner. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday you read a book or article aloud as a family and talk about it afterward. On Tuesday and Thursday while the children are doing school assignments, you’re close by doing study of your own or helping them.

Goal Two

Help your children develop good study habits. The immediate goal is for them to complete their assignment. The bigger picture is to lay a foundation for personal responsibility and time management skills. These skills will benefit them at home, at school, in college, and eventually in the workplace. Teaching your children to take care of responsibilities or problems as they arise (as opposed to procrastinating) will help them throughout their lives. Maybe procrastination is an issue you’ve struggled with yourself; today is a great time to change that and develop good habits right along with your kids!

Short-term Homework Tips

1)    Allow your children a break after getting home from school before requiring them to start doing homework. Even adults need a little time to unwind after work before finishing work-related projects they’ve taken home. It doesn’t have to be long. The kids can have a snack, walk the dog, clean their room, or do a household chore. It’s probably best to not let them use their break to play video games or watch television; it will be too hard to pull them away when it’s time to get down to business. Video games or TV can be the reward after their homework is done.

2)    Have a designated time and place for study. An uncluttered student desk in the family room or at the kitchen table (also uncluttered) are great places to study at, assuming there aren’t noisy background distractions like the radio, TV, or loud conversations.

3)    Be available to help them when they have questions about their assignments. If you don’t know the answer, that’s okay! Don’t be embarrassed. It might be that the child will have to leave the answer blank and ask for the teacher’s help the following day. If there’s a pattern of your child not understanding the work, it’s probably time to schedule a conference with the teacher to see what the problem is. It could be miscommunication between teacher and student, or the student might have a learning disability, or it could be that “Johnny” just needs a little more practice in order to get a concept down. Not every child learns at the same pace.

4)    Make homework materials accessible and convenient. There should be a special box, drawer, or bins where paper, pens, pencils, pencil-sharpeners, crayons, markers, ruler—whatever your child might need—are kept so time isn’t wasted looking for things. It saps mental energy and decreases motivation when one is ready to get started but can’t find the necessary tools to get the job done! It seems to be that way whether you’re a child or an adult.

5)    Reward good behavior and habits. Don’t bribe your children, such as: “If you finish your homework, I’ll give you some ice cream.” Instead, use positive reinforcement: “You guys have worked hard all week getting your homework done on time. Let’s go out for some ice cream.” Bribes are little more than manipulation, and there will soon come a time when the child says he doesn’t want ice cream anyway. Then you’ll be stuck. The kid decided he’d rather go without than do his homework. A battle will ensue. But that’s a different parenting topic for another time.

If you set firm rules and stay consistent, getting your child to do homework won’t be such an uphill battle. Now, let’s go watch a documentary!

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