The three stages of homework:
- "Hmmm. I don't think I have any."
- "Wait, I do have some, but it's pretty much done."
- "Please help me, Mom! It's due tomorrow!"
Sound familiar? We can do several things that will allow us to help our children gain the necessary responsibility to complete their homework on their own.
"Our kids" homework is their problem" (Cline and Fay 190). Now those are words we can live by!
"Our parental responsibility is to provide our kids with the opportunity to do their homework. Whether it be for a half hour or an hour or even two hours, our children must sit down at a table or desk with their schoolbooks nearby. That's the opportunity. We allow the kids to choose the place (dining room, kitchen or their room) and time. We even allow them to choose whether to study or not" (190).
One of the best words a child can hear is "let's" Even though homework will be their responsibility, let's is a positive way to invite them into the homework hour.
"Let's both sit down at the table and we'll get our work done."
You don't need to be studying: doing church work, handiwork, anything will do. If you sit close to your child while he completes his work, you'll be right on hand if he has a question, and setting an example of hard work.
Do I Help?
One woman relates a story about the time her mother, an artist, "helped" her draw her self-portrait for an art final. The daughter, now grown, still cringes as she remembers walking in to the final with a self-portrait that was much better than everyone else's, not to mention any previous work she'd done for the class.
Go ahead and help: and strike a balance between helping too much (doing it yourself) or too little (doing it until you're grouchy about helping).
Parenting experts give this guideline: help "only if your kids ask for it, and only as long as it's profitable. When we start to become irritated, we've helped enough" (Cline and Fay 191).
Create a period of time, about half an hour to an hour, each evening that's set apart for homework completion. Kids don't have to do their homework during this time, but keeping the TV and other media off and not allowing friends over during that time might make homework more appealing.
Ever been on the cusp of wanting to finish a project or poster, but not been able to find the glue? Having a place for everything: from tape and glue to backpacks and textbooks, can be a boon to a child wanting to complete her homework. It also keeps "wandering time" to a minimum.
Let your children see that their homework skills aren't just for kids. Using homework time each night to study or get your own work done is a great way to model the behavior you're hoping to see.
Dr. Latham suggests that parents contract with children about completing homework if children aren't completing it: if they do the work, they earn privileges, if they don't, they lose them. The privileges can be decided on beforehand, and often a contract can be used for a while until the habit is learned.
Asking children to "show off" their homework to you can be a great way to celebrate a job well done and let them know you acknowledge their hard work. "Will you show me your favorite thing you've worked on today"?
Verbalize your good habits. No, really, go ahead! "I am excited to watch that video, but I want to get my work done first. That way I'll enjoy it more." Your child might start to pick up on your good example if she sees it and hears it. "I love starting my Sunday School lesson preparation the week before. I get much better ideas that way."
Having commonly used supplies--and some not-so-common ones--on hand is a wise idea. "Once a year" items, such as large construction paper, poster board, glitter, and the like have a way of forcing us to make an inconvenient dash to the office supply store. If you have a stash of supplies to pull from it can save frustration and energy. Think of it this way: build your year's supply of office supplies.
"Unwillingness to do homework is a complicated issue. Laziness is only one cause. A myriad of other underlying causes may be at the core of the problem. The child might have a learning disorder, an attention-deficit disorder, a neurological problem, or an attitude problem. In these cases, treating the symptoms does no good whatsoever. If you determine that these more serious underlying causes may exist, seek professional counseling" (Cline and Fay 191).
The goal is not just to get completed homework out of our children, but to help them become responsible and to develop the discipline to complete assignments on their own. As our children take ownership of their assignments they'll build their self-image and self-esteem.
We get to give our children the time, space, supplies, and example, then let homework happen.
Cline, Foster and Jim Fay. Parenting with Love and Logic. USA: Pinion Press, 2006.
Latham, Glenn I. The Power of Positive Parenting. Logan, UT: P&T Ink, 2006.