Homework. Just mentioning the word makes me cringe and brings back horrors from my own youth. The fights, the worry, the late nights. The hours spent thinking up excuses to explain why those pesky math problems didn’t get finished. Eventually, I learned what was behind my own personal struggle with homework: the perception that my work had to be perfect, which led to me feeling completely overwhelmed, anxious, and aided me in becoming the world’s greatest procrastinator. If only my parents and I had figured this out in the third grade, those countless battles of hurtful words, tears, and doors slamming in faces could have been avoided. If this sounds similar to how homework unfolds in your household, or if asking your child to complete homework results in lying, resistance, avoidance, yelling, ugly words, or running away (yes, one time I did run away to avoid homework), read on. Below are a few tips, which are guaranteed to make homework less of a struggle:
STRUCTURE IT UP
Most kids need a break when they get home from school or extracurriculars. Instead of insisting your child get down to business and start homework right away, give him or her 15-30 minutes to eat a snack and have some free time before homework starts.
- During the designated 15-30 minutes of free time, stay away from electronics. Encourage your child to play outside or engage in a short, creative activity. Allowing screen time before homework creates unnecessary opportunities for conflict.
- Creating a visual schedule can help to orient your child to his or her after school routine. Create this schedule with your child so he or she develops a sense of control and responsibility in this task. This will make it more likely your kiddo will actually follow the schedule in the future.
- Have a specific start time for homework each day. This can vary depending on extracurricular activities, but it should be the same each week (For example, homework starts at 4 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays and 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays after soccer).
- Homework should be completed in a designated place in the house, preferably not in your child’s bedroom. Common areas with a desk or a table are a good choice, as long as the environment isn’t too noisy and doesn’t have too many distractions (think: no electronics).
BALANCE IT OUT
Taking too much control over your child’s homework will likely lead to rebellion on everyone’s part. What’s more, being a control freak doesn’t help your child learn valuable skills- like responsibility and time management. With a daily after school schedule in place, your child has the structure to be successful and the ability to make independent choices. He or she can choose to do homework, with effort or not. The natural consequences will come from the choices your child makes. If grades begin to drop, schedule a phone call or in-person conference with your child’s teacher in order to troubleshoot.
FIND OUT WHAT’S UNDERNEATH
Homework refusal can be the result of many different underlying issues. Don’t automatically assume your child is being lazy or defiant. Is it anxiety, fear of failure, depression, peer relationship issues, learning difficulties, or boredom that’s keeping your child from success? Talk with your kiddo using validation and open-ended questions (For example, say to your child, “I can tell you’re really having a hard time with schoolwork right now… what do you think is going on?” rather than, “You’re failing math. This is inexcusable and will not be tolerated”). Share your concerns with your child’s teacher and see what he or she observes about your child’s mood and behavior at school. Getting to the bottom of why your child is refusing homework is extremely important for understanding and creating a plan to change the behavior and avoid consequences that may cause your child to feel shamed.
TRY IT OUT
Follow the above tips and let us know how it works. If your child’s homework habits don’t improve, contact Dr. Luisa at Harmony At Home to gain further individualized strategies for homework success.