Question: Why is it such a struggle to get some children to do homework?
Answer: You are not alone in your struggles! Parents often report tremendous power struggles over school assignments. According to Mary McKheen, a local therapist, some parents report that when they try to force their children to study, they find their kids sitting and staring, doodling, getting up for water, or simply not doing their assignments. Homework can be a potentially frustrating experience; however, it can also be an area to develop character growth, responsibility, and self-discipline.
Regarding schoolwork/homework, kids fall on a continuum – from one extreme to the other. On one end of the continuum are students who by nature are organized and detail oriented. They actually like classroom challenges. They take school seriously and recognize the importance of getting good grades. To do poorly on a test would depress them for several days! Parents of these children rarely have to monitor their progress to keep them on-task.
At the other end of the continuum are kids who are disorganized and have an aversion to school work. They would rather play and have trouble concentrating for any extended period of time. Getting them to complete homework assignments often feels like pulling teeth. This causes tremendous frustration for both the child and their parent. Kids that suffer from Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) typically fall on this end of the continuum.
While kids that struggle with homework issues are challenging, there are practical things that parents can do to help their children succeed including the following:
- Create a homework schedule. This will be different for every family. Some kids do better to complete their homework as soon as they get home from school. Other kids need time to unwind and get rid of some pent-up energy. Evaluate what works best for your child and family and try to follow the same routine every day.
- Organize a homework area. Choose a quiet area with low traffic and few distractions. Be sure to provide a desk with a comfortable chair and the school supplies that may be needed. Keep the noise level down in nearby areas.
- Provide direction but don’t do the work for your child. Some kids say, “I don’t get it” even before they’ve read the directions. In these cases, rather than reading the directions to yourself and then explaining them, ask your child to read the directions aloud to you. This strategy enables kids to hear the directions, which is often all that’s needed to make the assignment clear. Many children do need help with homework, but it is important to help in ways that will lead to independence and being a more confident learner.
- Support your child’s homework time. Provide healthy snacks during or after lessons, including fruits, veggies, nuts or cereal bars, along with milk or a fruit drink. Encourage them that the homework will reinforce what they have learned or are learning. Never say negative things about it being a waste of time or not important.
- Goals and rewards can be effective. Promises of a special privilege after homework is satisfactorily completed can be a powerful motivator. Or use a chart to list goals and track positive homework behaviors and/or grades then reward your child’s efforts. Goals should be realistic and rewards need not be expensive (e.g. an extra half hour of TV time or time with a friend). We all need motivation and rewards now and then!