‘Tis the season for homework. Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy. If you have grade school children, even mentioning the word homework is like dragging your fingernails down a never ending chalkboard. Some days I honestly would rather walk over a 1000 hot coals in my bare feet than suffer the homework induced anxiety that I experience during the week with my son as he moans, groans and flails his body from room to room with this ungodly pout on his face. He is not a big fan of homework, but then again, who is? Does anyone really truly enjoy doing it? Homework is fun said no one ever.
The reality is, it has to be done, and has to be done well. So how do we motivate our children to want to do their homework? The first step we must take is to convert ourselves first. What do I mean by that? As parents, we need to have a healthy attitude about their homework. I, for one, have been guilty of saying I hate homework around the house. The frustration can be overwhelming I admit, but that’s no excuse for my poor attitude. If I have a poor attitude, then why on earth would he have a good one? Being positive is the only way to ease their pain. We must teach them that if they consistently do something, even if it’s hard or if they don’t like it, it will teach them to persevere in the toughest of situations.
So what can we do to motivate our little ones you ask? Here are some steps we can take to minimize the homework tug of war.
1. Fuel Their Brains – Most children are hungry mid-afternoon, so it makes sense to give them an energy fueling snack like cut up apple slices and peanut butter, or a sandwich. They have been in school for 6 plus hours and they need to refuel their brains for the homework.
2. Space Designation – Designate a “homework” space in your home, whether it is in their rooms, an office or wherever is a quiet space that they can concentrate in. Children are creatures of routine, just like adults, and they will be able to sit down and focus much quicker in the same designated spot everyday after school to do their work.
3. TV Be Gone – Having the TV on is a big no-no when homework and studying are being done. Of course my child is still convinced that he can watch TV and do his work at the same time but unless he has two sets of eyes, which he does not, this is an impossible feat. They will get used to the quiet and be much more focused on their work this way. Turn the boob tube off folks.
4. Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel – Set a specific time when your children sit down to do their homework. Each child is going to be different. I have personally learned that my son is much better off doing his homework when he gets home from school than waiting until after dinner when the food coma has set in. Let your child choose for themselves when is the best time. This may take some trial and error but they will learn on their own what works for them.
5. The Final Countdown – Give your child a 5 or 10 minute warning as to when “homework” time must begin. This gives them time to get mentally prepared for when the work is going to begin. Announcing that it is time to do their homework can lead to a sense of frustration, almost as if you are “telling them what to do” or they are being forced to do their homework. I learned a long time ago that giving your children little warnings goes a long way.
6. Don’t Bribe, Reward – Bribing with money or food is so 90s. Although it sounds like an easy solution, this type of behavior has only short term gains and will not encourage your child to enjoy learning as they transition into adults. Try a reward system like letting them play their Xbox only after their homework is completed, or watch a movie after the work is done. I always say to my son that when his homework is done, he has the rest of the night to himself. He likes this because it gives him “freedom” to spend the rest of his evening like he wants to, so this works for us.
7. Don’t Be a Helicopter Homework Parent – Of course we want their homework to get done as soon as possible, but it does not help them if we hover over them or sit with them while they do it. Encourage your child to work independently from you. This will give them great satisfaction when they figure out a math question or write a history paragraph on their own. It will also teach them to make their own decisions and ultimately become more responsible.
8. Give Positive Praise – When your child does a good job or gets a good grade on a test, make a big deal out of it. Nothing makes them feel better than hearing words of positive encouragement. We all like to be told when we have done a good job at something, even as adults. With our children, it’s even more important to praise their good work.
Although these steps will not turn your child into a homework loving fiend overnight, they can most definitely help them work through their frustrations and encourage good study habits and hopefully minimize how much hair your pull out of your head.