This article will, hopefully, shed some light on why homework is necessary and provide you with some tools to motivate your kids to knuckle-down and get the job done, without threats or bribes.
Sometimes kids, especially kids with attention issues or a learning disability, struggle with or just refuse to do homework.
Homework is supposed to facilitate mastery of new information and skills, all too often it becomes a focal point for power struggles at home. Homework is an opportunity for parents to be involved in their children’s education. A parent’s interest can spark enthusiasm in a child and help teach the most important lesson of all—that learning can be fun and is well worth the effort.
What are the benefits of homework?
After all, if homework isn’t good for anything then we should definitely eliminate it. The good (and bad) news is that when homework is appropriately assigned, it is vital for learning and development.
Benefits of appropriate homework.
- Skill Mastery. New skills, especially in maths and critical thinking, require practice to achieve mastery. There is not normally enough time during the school day for students to obtain all the practice they need. Once they “get it” in the classroom, they need independent practice to cement new learning, essentially reviewing and practicing what they’ve learned at school.
- Preparing for the following days class.
- Supplementary Skill Development. Some skills that are taught in school are vital for real life, but are not part of the official curriculum. Internet & library research or practicing a speech (without peer commentary) are valuable skills that aren’t always practical or possible to spend time on during the school day.
- Explore subjects more fully. Class time is limited & homework provides students the opportunity to wrap their minds around subject matter.
- Self-Discipline. This is a vital skill for all students and especially for those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD or ADD) or learning disabilities. Students simply must learn how to manage their time, work independently, and accomplish lengthy, multi-step projects. Getting their homework done and on time is a great tool to practice this skill set and develop good habits.
- Bring parents and educators closer together. Parents who supervise homework and work with their children on assignments learn about their children’s education and about the school.
Let’s make this perfectly clear: if a child does not obtain the self-discipline to complete homework consistently and on time, that child will struggle in their adult life.
Why don’t kids want to do their homework?
Bottom line, some people enjoy learning and homework but people prefer “fun” activities. There are so many high-stimulation, low-cognitive-cost activities competing for kids’ time that homework is easily brushed aside. Television, internet, Facebook, instant messaging , telephone, video games, you name it! Nobody is marketing homework, there is no industry marketing maths and science. You can’t expect kids, who are new to the world and susceptible to marketing influences, to make rational, adult decisions. The deck is stacked against them.
How can you get your kids to do their homework without a fight?
Research shows that intrinsically motivated behaviors always prevail. If your child does their homework because they expects a reward, then the behavior is less lasting than if they are motivated because they feels good and proud of what they’ve done.
Give them a good dose of training. Forget that they “should know” or “should do it because” and just focus on training them that they will be rewarded for proper behavior, and slowly transition them away from external rewards (extrinsic motivation) to internal rewards (intrinsic motivation).
- Establish written expectations. That you negotiate with your child. If they don’t understand what is expected of them, then they are being set up for failure. If they aren’t part of the process, then they feel powerless and are more likely to reject the expectations. Example: 90% of all homework assignments will be completed on time with a C or better grade.
- Keep an eye on them. You have to be a little sneaky, but your intention here is to catch them doing something right. Depending on your child, this may take a while. Peek in their room without knocking, email their teachers, install hidden cameras in the fridge, whatever it takes. Find SOMETHING that they did right, catch them RED HANDED, and IMMEDIATELY reward them and state exactly why you are proud of them. “Because you’re doing your homework for once (or for a change)” is not a compliment. Pretending to have a heart attack because your kid did something right may be funny, but it won’t train your kid to be anything more than a smart aleck.
- When they falter…and they will! It is a requirement for being human. DO NOT make a big deal out of it. Don’t lecture. Don’t shame or embarrass them. If you react emotionally, then you are reinforcing the behavior. Accept that it will take time for new behaviors to become habits. In your written expectations you must have some clear consequences. objectively follow those guidelines.
- Focus on Feelings. This is vital. You’ve got to help them build an internal reward system so that chocolate and cell phones and allowances aren’t what motivates them. They have to–eventually–be motivated by the good feelings that “getting the job done” generates. Rewards are important in the beginning but should be less and less frequent as time goes on, and ultimately should be replaced by intrinsic motivators. You help your child create this by saying things like:
- “Doesn’t it feel good to have this out of the way?
- “Great job getting this finished early! I’m proud of you and you should feel proud, too.”
- “Remember how stressed out you felt when you left your last project until the last minute? You’ll feel a lot better if you start now.”
Of course, if you are a procrastinator yourself, your kids will pick up on that and copy it. Live the way you want your kids to live and they’ll pick up on that instead. We hope this helps!