Getting kids to do their homework is a universal challenge that every parent is forced to confront. I think it is so common that they could probably turn it in to a reality-TV show competition to rival Masterchef or X-factor.
Which strategy do you use? Bribing with reward or threatening with punishment? Whilst these may work they ultimately neglect the fundamental reason for homework; that students develop the independence to work on their own, at their own pace. It teaches responsibility and the values the process of learning. For junior students it is a good foundation to lay for High School. For High school students it is a good foundation for life after school.
That being said, I understand it can still be a struggle. With Xboxes, iPad’s, TV’s and Bicycles all calling for your child’s attention, it is no real surprise that spending an extra hour doing maths will not be the most enticing activity. Here are 7 strategies that might make the process a little easier on everyone:
1. Try to refer to it as ‘study’ instead of ‘homework’
It’s a simple technique that can change their attitude towards getting work done after school. ‘Homework’ is vilified in kids media as a chore that they have to do, whilst ‘study’ is reserved for hard working students who want to perform well. The small change in vocabulary can work wonders.
2. Create a regular schedule
Kids thrive on patterns and their homework schedule needs to be the same. Perhaps they work best right after school; so give them a sandwich and then get them to sit down for an hour or so and revise the work from the day. Maybe they prefer to work later, so get them studying for an hour before dinner. The when doesn’t really matter, but the consistency does. If they view it as something they do every day – on par with soccer training or band practice, they will view it as a compulsory part of their day and not something they can choose to do or not.
3. Build a routine
Simple things like a familiar study space and certain actions they do will expand their study muscle. Get them working in the same location each day. Have everything ready for them – pens, pencils and all the books they need. At the end of each session get them to clean their desk so it is good to go for the next day.
4. Give them choice
The gift of choice allows them to feel like they are in control. Let them choose what to work on. Let them choose where to work and when initially. Just don’t let them choose whether or not they are going to work.
5. Help them, but don’t do it for them
They might ask for help from time to time, but don’t do it for them. Ask questions to work out where the problem lies or where they are struggling to understand. This might be bias, but the support of a private tutor is invaluable in these situations!
6. Avoid distractions
I know it can be hard in a full house with the afternoon rush taking place, but try to avoid doing activities that your child will want to be involved in. Turn the TV off. Use the hour to do the boring things they won’t want to do – the same things we don’t really want to do! The ironing, the cleaning, the cooking dinner. If you have lots of kids, try to get them all working at the same time so one isn’t trying to focus while the other is kicking a ball around outside.
7. Replace rewards with verbal encouragements
Money or physical rewards are only a short term fix. And if it goes for too long your kids won’t do anything without expecting a reward afterwards. Instead use verbal encouragements to keep them going. Praise is free and it can completely change a child’s world. Tell them how good their writing is looking or how proud you are of them for getting such good results. Every kid wants praise from their parents, and it will encourage them to work harder in the future.
I hope that helps.
Homework, no, study, is an important foundation to ensure life-long success and with these strategies you might find it gets a little bit easier.
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