Ok, let’s talk homework. If you are struggling to motivate your kids to do homework, you’re not alone. Homework is a universal problem that all of us experience as parents. Where do we start when we have kids that are just not into it? Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet, but here is a starting point. What’s their struggle? Figure out what is going on, what’s the hardest part of the homework, why are they struggling? It is going to be different for each kid, so you want to figure out what the core issue is. Are they just really tired? If I come home from a busy 8 hour day and someone tells me, “Hey, here is some more work” – that would be really hard for me. A lack of motivation is often just energy level. Another possibility is comprehension. Maybe they didn’t understand the assignment at school, and now they are expected to do it at home, alone. It becomes an insecurity issue, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” “I don’t want to do it because I don’t get it.” Start by asking yourself “What’s going on with my kid?” instead of starting a discipline battle. Observe the complaint patterns and figure out what they mean. “I just got home,” “I’m tired,” “I don’t like math,” “I don’t get it,” “It’s boring,” “I don’t care.” Then observe what is happening during the homework – are they doing it, are they getting bored, is it an issue at school and home? Here are some of the most common complaints kids have with homework.
1. “I’m exhausted, and I can’t do it, I’m so tired.”
This is an issue at some point with every kid. The first thing to do is empathize with them, “I totally get it, I wouldn’t want to do it either.” The goal is to empower our kids to self-regulate and self-motivate. Ask your child before the school year starts or the week starts, “When is a good time to do your homework?” or “What works better for you, coming home having a snack and then homework or coming home and knocking it out?” Partner with your kids and empower them by allowing a little control. Being on the same team and figuring out a plan in advance is great, but what happens when the plan fails? This is a muddy and messy process, so, regroup. You don’t want this battle, and it is okay to give them a break or give them the option not to do it. If Xbox or Fortnite is your enemy, then don’t give that option for a break, give them some other downtime choices (snack, chat, read, etc.). If you have a child who is a people pleaser and doesn’t have an academic struggle try saying something like this, “Your homework is between you and your teacher, if you don’t want to do it that’s fine, you don’t have to do it. I’ll email your teacher and let her know that I asked you to do it, but you didn’t want to. You can talk to your teacher about it tomorrow.”
2. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
If your kid has an academic struggle, homework is just going to be a reminder that they are struggling. View homework as an indicator instead of a judgment. It is a gauge to see if they are getting the information. If they aren’t, reach out to the teacher ask if it is typical to see this much struggle with homework. Sometimes we wait a little too long and our kids end up floundering. Also, if we end up helping our kids too much on their homework then the teacher doesn’t know how much they struggled. Communication is key, let the teacher know, “My child does not seem to understand the assignments. Is there extra support we can provide?”
3. “It’s boring, I don’t want to do it.”
Again, empathize with your kiddo. I’m sure it is boring. It can be boring helping kids with their homework. Get rid of the tone that it is you against your child. Be on their team. Describe homework like dominoes. “This assignment is a domino, and you have to do the assignment to pass this class to pass 4th grade, to pass 5th grade, to go to high school, to go to college, to do what you want to do. I didn’t make the domino, but if we don’t do the domino, we can’t move on.” (don’t use this metaphor on kids that are perfectionists). Find out what your kids’ values and strengths are and find out what reason math plays into that, maybe it’s just so they can learn how to struggle and learn resiliency.
4. “I don’t care.”
here is anger and frustration under that statement and can sometimes really mean “I don’t know how to do it,” or “I can’t try because I’m afraid of failing.” Try to zoom out to find the underlying meaning to the “I don’t care.” Another tip is to find out what makes your kid passionate. Figure out what’s important, what makes them tick. What do they like about the video game they are playing. Do they like coding, illustration, architecture, building? Is the game just a distraction or an escape, or do they genuinely love it? Join in their world. If we care more than they do about their homework, then they’ll never pick up the slack. Spend your effort in motivating your child to motivate themselves.
5. “I don’t want to do this because I’ll fail and my life is ruined.”
This is a perfectionist mindset. Talk about the meaning of homework, “Homework is practice, you’re not supposed to get 100%. It is really great when we mess up because it’s how we learn.” For perfectionists, instead of highlighting academic achievement, highlight effort and efficiency. “You worked really hard on that project.” “Way to go, you did that assignment without revisiting it, and it turned out just fine!” Help to make a homework plan, these kids often procrastinate because they worry they will fail or not be good enough. Break the assignment down into smaller more manageable pieces.