Ten Homework Motivation Strategies for Children and Teens
Use these ten strategies to end the homework wars
Posted Sep 06, 2015
When it comes to homework, parents get burnt out hearing these hollow and suspicious words: "I did it at school," "They didn't give homework today," "It hardly counts for my grade," "My teacher never looks at my homework anyway," "That assignment was optional." As parents, hearing these words is enough to drive you crazy. As I write in my book, 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child, parents must not let their emotions get the best of them when their kids are not getting homework done. The strategies below are for helping your child or teen get unstuck:
• Nix the nagging! Pestering creates an adversarial, shaming dynamic that backfires. Instead, try my Calm, Firm and Non-controlling approach. Gently empower your child or teen by supportively saying, "I see that you are frustrated. Let's think of ways to help you get back on track with your homework/schoolwork."
• Encourage effort over perfection. Be mindful that kids tend to get intimidated when they have a hard time understanding material. They may get into negative self-talk like, "I can't do this." Even if they're truly thinking this way, parents may instead hear comments like, "I hate this." or "This is stupid." Remind your child or teen that doing his best effort is better than not doing it at all.
• Prioritize. Coach and encourage that the order that homework is done based on urgency, complexity, and workload. At the same time, realize that some students do better by starting with easier tasks and that this can help spark them to tackle more demanding assignments.
• Break it down. Reinforce breaking up homework time into manageable chunks and encourage taking regular breaks. Encourage moving around and walking away for a bit. Remind that an apple really does provide the same effect, and is healthier than an energy drink.
• Think "15 minutes of pain." Have the student set a timer for only fifteen minutes. Keep it lighthearted and explain that even if it "hurts" doing the work, she can stop after fifteen minutes. Like most things in life, once we push ourselves and get going, it's not so bad.
• Don't be consequence ravenous. Imposing consequences for homework not being done can backfire with defiant behavior. If you use consequences, don't present them with yelling. Keep them reasonable and ask the student to help you be able to move towards rewards (don't go overboard) and minimize consequences. Remember that real, natural consequences are the best motivators.
• Encourage Connection. Encourage the student to make or re-establish a connection with his teacher. I have seen hundreds of kids "shoot themselves in the foot" with incomplete homework if they don't have a decent relationship with their teacher.
• Change up the homework/study surroundings. Try putting an inspirational poster by the desk, moving to a different room, or silencing the cell phone. New changes can create more changes.
• Use those study halls. Encourage the use of them as much as possible. Some kids lose sight of that more done at school, means less to do at home.
• Allow for some fun. Notice if your student is racing through the homework just to have fun. Fun time like, TV, phone time, or surfing the web, is welcome, but make sure you put limits on it.
Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein is a psychologist with over twenty-five years’ experience specializing in child, adolescent, couples, and family therapy. He holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the State University of New York at Albany and completed his post-doctoral internship at the University of Pennsylvania Counseling Center. He has appeared twice on the Today Show, Court TV as an expert advisor, CBS eyewitness news Philadelphia, 10! Philadelphia—NBC and public radio. Dr. Bernstein has authored four books, including the highly popular 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child (Perseus Books, 2006 & 2015), 10 Days to Less Distracted Child (Perseus Books 2007), Liking the Child You Love (Perseus Books 2009) and Why Can’t You Read My Mind? (Perseus Books, 2003).