With back to school season, some children may struggle getting back into the routine of school and doing their homework at night. In this article, we will share some common reasons kids avoid homework along with some tips that you may be able to add to the homework routine in your household.
Dr. Thomas W. Phelan in his book,1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Child 2-12, emphasizes the importance of setting a homework routine for all children. Homework should not be a spontaneous request. Homework should be done at the same time and same place each night. Find a place that works best for your child and your family with the least amount of distractions. Some kids may need to be in their bedroom, for others their bedroom may be too distracting. Some kids need to be somewhere that you are close by in case they need help. If you have the space in your house, let your child dedicate a space in their room or in the house to just doing homework. If you can, let them decorate it and place study materials so they feel ownership over it.
For all kids, it is better to do homework earlier in the evening. Later in the evening, their brains are tired and they are more irritable (less likely to listen). Your kid may need a break after school, but if it is too long they may struggle to transition to getting work done.
Put the smartphone away. They can be distracting to kids and teens trying to focus on their homework. Research shows having the phone around, even if the person is not using it, decreases our ability to focus. (If you are interested in learning more about this, you can read the great article from ChildMind).
Draw up a homework schedule with your child. Help kids decide what materials they will need and what assignments may require your help. ChildMind.org has a great homework planner, that your family may find useful. When giving feedback to your child on their homework it is important to have realistic expectations and to “sandwich” your feedback. Start with praise (Thank you for doing your work, Look how hard you worked), then give specific constructive feedback (Let’s look at this problem again, let’s rewrite that R), and then give praise again. This helps foster a sense of independence and self-worth with your child. Next, we will look at why kids may struggle with doing their homework.
There are lots of reasons why a child may avoid homework. Some common reasons include struggles with focus, motivation, and comprehension. We will list some different strategies you may try based on your child’s needs.
For some kids, good grades are motivation enough and for others, they may need additional rewards to help them establish good homework habits.
Some kids may be motivated by a simple “first, then” reward system. First is homework, then they can do an activity they enjoy to do. This may be first, homework and then, play time outside.
If you have tried a simple reward system and child still struggles with motivation, one strategy Dr.Phelan suggested was setting up a 5 point scale system with your child. The five components of the scale include: neatness, correctness, completeness, showing a positive attitude (or at least not whining), and doing it independently (not having reminders to do their homework). Your family can decide if you would like a reward system tied to it or if your child would respond just to getting feedback. For example, if they receive a certain amount of points in a week then they could choose from a menu of rewards. We suggest giving them choices with their reward, as a single reward may not be effective in the long term.
If your children struggle with focus and attention, such as children that have ADHD, use a timer to divide up the time into reasonable chunks. Allow them to take a break away from their homework after the timer goes off. We suggest not letting them use screens as breaks, as they can struggle to put the screen down and get back to homework. Focusbooster is one great app to use to help kids with time management.
Help them prioritize what they should work on first. Help them stay organized, if your child loses assignments or forgets assignments easily, try using a digital calendar that can send them reminder of when assignments are due. Apps such as Remember the Milk use one tool to use to help kids stay organized and prioritize their work.
If you are concerned that your child’s difficulty with homework stems more from comprehension (understanding the material or having a the cognitive ability to complete the work), a good place to start is to discuss your concerns with your child’s teacher. This allows you to see if your teacher has similar concerns, to hear more about the ways concepts are taught in the classroom to reinforce this at home, and to collaborate with them on ways to assist your child with homework at home.
If you continue to have concerns regarding your child’s comprehension and aptitude, you can also discuss with your child’s school regarding an educational evaluation for your child to determine if they may be eligible for additional support through the Exceptional Children’s program. We will have more information regarding this process at our parent education night in November 11th, IEP vs. 504.
No matter your child’s needs, setting up positive homework habits is important. It helps reinforce what they are learning and sets them up for success as they transition into adulthood. If you have additional questions regarding you managing homework, we have a Parent Education Night September 11, 2018 in our Asheville office.
Kelly Jean Tucker, MA, LPCA
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