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Handling Homework Hassles

Tired of arguing, nagging and struggling with your child to get him to do homework? Are you discovering that bribing, threatening, and punishing yield very few positive results? Here are 15 important tips that, if implemented in your home with consistency and an open heart, will reduce homework struggles significantly:

1. Allow kids to make choices about homework and related issues. They could choose to do study time before or after dinner. They could do it immediately after they get home or wake up early in the morning to do it. Invite them to choose the kitchen table or a spot in their own room. One choice kids do not have is whether or not to study.

2. Back up words with actions. Make it clear that choosing not to do study is choosing not to enjoy certain privileges. Say, “If you choose not to study, then you will choose not watch TV, listen to music or use the telephone. The choice is yours.”

3. Eliminate the word “homework” from your vocabulary. Replace it with the word “study.” Have a “study time” instead of a “homework time.” Have a “study table” instead of a “homework table.” This word change alone will go a long way towards eliminating the problem of your youngster saying, "I don't have any homework." Study time is about studying, even if you don't have any homework. It's amazing how much more homework children have when they have to study regardless of whether they have homework or not.

4. If Tip #1 does not work, then you may need to establish a study routine. This needs to be the same time every day. Let your kids have some input on when study time occurs. Once the time is set, stick to that schedule. Children thrive on structure even as they protest. It may take several weeks for the routine to become a habit. By having a regular study time you are demonstrating that you value education. Keep the routine predictable and simple. One possibility includes a five minute warning that study time is approaching, bringing their current activity to an end, clearing the study table, emptying their back pack of books and supplies, then beginning.

5. Help without over-assistance. Only help if your youngster asks for it. Do not do problems or assignments for kids. When your youngster says, "I can't do it," suggest they act as if they can. Tell them to pretend like they know and see what happens. Then leave the immediate area and let them see if they can handle it from there. If they keep telling you they don't know how and you decide to offer help, concentrate on ‘asking’ rather than on ‘telling’. For example: "Can you give me an example?" … "How could you find out?" … "What do you get?" … "What do you think the answer is?" … "What parts do you understand?"

6. If you want a behavior – you have to teach a behavior. Disorganization is a problem for many school age kids. If you want them to be organized, you have to invest the time to help them learn an organizational system. Your job is to teach them the system. Their job is to use it – and check occasionally to see if the system is being used. Check more often at first. Provide direction and correction where necessary. If your youngster needs help with time management, teach them time management skills. Help them learn what it means to prioritize by the importance and due date of each task. Teach them to create an agenda each time they sit down to study. Help them experience the value of getting the important things done first.

7. It's their Problem. Their pencils have to move. Their brains need to engage. Their bottoms need to be in the chair. It is their report cards that they bring home. Too many moms and dads see homework as the parent's problem. So they create ultimatums, scream and shout, threaten, bribe, scold, and withhold privileges. Have you noticed that most of these tactics don’t work? Our responsibility as moms and dads is to provide our kids with an opportunity to do homework. Our job is to provide structure, to create the system. The youngster's job is to use the system.

8. Most kids do not like to do homework. Children do not enjoy sitting and studying. At least, not after having spent a long school day comprised mostly of sitting and studying. So give up your desire to have them like it. Focus on getting them to do it.

9. Notice when your youngster completes homework. “I really like the way you’re getting your study time done. That’s what I expect from you.”

10. Replace monetary and external rewards with encouraging verbal responses. End the practice of ‘paying for grades’ and going on a special trip for ice cream. This style of bribery has only short term gains and does little to encourage kids to develop a lifetime love of learning. Instead make positive verbal comments that concentrate on describing the behavior you wish to encourage. For example: "All your letters are right between the lines. I'll bet your teacher won't have any trouble reading this." … "I notice you stayed up late last night working on your term paper. It probably wasn't easy saving that much to the end, but your efforts got it done." … "I see you got the study table all organized and ready to go early. Looks like initiative and responsibility hooked together to me." … "You followed the directions exactly and finished in 15 minutes."

11. State clearly how you expect study time to be done. Tell your youngster, “I expect you to do all your studies, every night. Under no circumstances will I tolerate you not doing study time.”

12. Talk to the teacher. If the problem continues, ask the teacher to back up your efforts by providing additional discipline for homework assignments not completed.

13. Consider drafting a “study time contract.” Make a written agreement with your youngster that states something like, “Each day you complete study time, you will earn one point. When you have earned five (or ten) points, you will earn a special privilege.”

14. Use study time to get some of your own responsibilities handled. Do the dishes, fold laundry, or write thank you notes. Keep the TV off! If you engage in fun or noisy activities during that time, kids will naturally be distracted. Study time is a family commitment. If you won't commit to it, don't expect that you kids will.

15. You cannot make anyone do study time. You cannot make your youngster learn. You cannot make him hold a certain attitude. You cannot make him move his pencil. But you can assist. Concentrate on assisting by sending positive invitations. Invite and encourage your youngster using the ideas above.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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