How to motivate kids to do their homework
It's the start of a new school year, and parents (as well as children) may start to feel their stress levels rising. Early morning school drops offs, extramural activities, new school supplies and other responsibilities that come with the modern school system can be daunting to think about. And then there's homework. Aahh, let the battles between child and parent begin!
Many parents find themselves tearing their hair out every school night, trying to convince their children to sit down and do their homework. Shouting and crying often accompany this battle, as well as consequences such as being grounded or being sent to timeouts. Some children are more cooperative than others, but there is usually some sort of debate, even with the most compliant child.
Like all events, there are different sides to the story. For the parent, they want their child to succeed and excel in their school career. Naturally, parents want to ensure that their child does well in school and secures a possibility of a bright future. For the child, they have already spent the whole day sitting behind a desk, and a single more second of sitting behind a desk just feels torturous. There could also be an element of control playing out. Most kids despise being told what to do and have a natural inclination to bend the rules. This is a normal part of the developing brain and mind.
The hard truth for parents is that you cannot make your children do anything. Many parents have a hard time separating their own desires from that of their children's. Parents also have a tendency of wanting to shield their children from failure or getting in trouble at school. This conflict of interest can cause tension and fighting in the home. In fact, forcing your child to do what you want them to do can have counterproductive results.
What you can do is to set limits, respect their choices, and help motivate them to motivate themselves. But how can parents encourage their children to get homework done in a cohesive, healthy way? Read on for our top tips!
Create a fun working environment
Set a space aside for your child/ren to do their homework. Ensure all necessary materials are available, including pencils, pens, rulers, calculators, dictionaries, and other supplies. You can make it fun by letting them choose their own stationary and supplies. Let them get that funky pen or the colourful notepad. Decorate the area with motivational and loving messages to keep their spirits high. Another nice idea is to give them some yummy, healthy snacks while they get their work done!
Create a structured routine
It has been proven that children thrive on routine. If they have a structured routine every day after school, they're likely to accept what needs to be done without arguing. Routine gives children (and many adults) a sense of security and consistency. Rather than randomly springing "homework time!" on your child while they're in the middle of playing a game or watching a program, they should know when to expect it so that it doesn't throw them off.
Set limits around homework time. Here are a few ideas:
- Homework should be done at the same time every evening.
- Allow your child to have some downtime when they get home from school. Let them spend one hour doing activities of their choice after school before doing homework.
- If your child becomes restless while doing homework, give them a 10 minute break before they continue. Rather than forcing them to complete an assignment when they’re already frustrated with it, this approach will save you and them a LOT of frustration associated with homework time.
- Make it the rule that weekend activities don’t happen until work is completed.
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Let them make up their mind.. and suffer the consequences
Instead of banging your head against the wall in an attempt to get your child to do their homework, let them choose to do it or not. Sometimes parents need to back off and let them learn the hard way. The consequences may be bad grades or getting in trouble with teachers, and it's not your job to protect them from natural consequences! If you're always there to save the day, they may lose out on the lesson of 'the real world' and the outcome of their decisions.
Instead of always being the source of motivation (even if it's fear-based), allow them to discover self-motivation, even if it's as a result of getting in trouble one too many times at school. It's better for your child to learn from those consequences during their school career than for them to learn in their adulthood. Failing in adulthood holds harsher consequences than failing as a child.
Should your child's grades drop, or if they've earned themselves a detention, avoid being snarky and judgmental. Lay off the "I told you so" approach, and instead offer your support to come up with a way forward. Let them know that you would like to guide them, but you need to work as a team!
Be available to offer help
Once again we must mention that it's important to not do things for your kids. Be there to help and guide them, but let them follow through with their responsibilities. They may feel more encouraged to do their homework if they know that you're rooting for them, and that you care. Ask your child how you can be helpful to them. Ask them what they struggle with. Ask them for their ideas on how to improve their homework situation. By letting them answer these questions and come up with solutions, they are likely to feel more in control, rather than feeling like they're being bossed around by you.
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Setup a reward system
Many parents aren't a fan of reward systems. It's believed that rewarding your child teaches them to always expect a reward for every good thing they do, and won't get anything done without the prospect of a reward. Additionally, the line between bribes and rewards is very thin. However, rewards aren't always that bad if executed creatively and in a balanced way.
Incentives for students motivate them to be more productive because they create a feeling of pride and achievement. Being successful makes people happy, even adults. So how do parents structure a reward system without the risk of creating spoilt, entitled human beings? It can be tricky, but it's doable!
Avoid giving them a reward every time they complete their homework without a fight. This might encourage them to develop a thirst for instant gratification and get upset when they don't get a reward. Instead, create a star chart (or something similar) where they can work towards a reward that they will receive at the end of the school term. This teaches them to work towards a goal, and is very similar to us earning a salary.
Keep in mind that other rewards include words of affirmation ("well done", "I'm proud of you", "you've really made wonderful improvement since last year", etc.), high fives or a big hug to show how pleased you are with their work. Rewards don't only have to be material things.
Do YOU have any ideas on how to motivate kids to do their homework? Let us know in the comments below!
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