Making Homework A Habit
Getting children to complete their homework is not impossible;you can use specific strategies and techniques to make it happen. First I’ll review the underlying philosophy that allows a parent to have influence over daily habits, such as homework. Then I’ll describe the nine key strategies you can implement to build a foundation for academic success.
The Terrific Parenting Approach
We all have our own philosophies of parenting. They evolve out of childhood experiences, education, and our experiences as parents. Many of us were raised in environments where parents and teachers used threats and punishment to try to create obedient children. Some parents hold on to the illusion that these strategies were successful; they feel powerless and believe that returning to a harsher and more punitive parenting style will help them regain control. These harsh tactics were no more successful then than they are now. They might create the illusion of control for a while, but eventually they self-destruct.
The reality is that we cannot control our children. So we must learn how to control our own behavior in a way that influences our children to move in healthy and productive directions. To teach children successful habits, we must adopt an approach that acknowledges the importance of firm, clear limits and at the same time values our relationship with them. The model…teach…learn approach to parenting enables you to have more influence on your children’s behavior than you might imagine.
From my perspective, the Terrific Parenting approach has worked so well because we start solidly grounded in reality. This serves to:
- remind us to pay attention to the data and not just our theory about things,
- keeps you focused on what you really have control over (your own actions and the environment your children live in);
- acknowledges your children’s ability to choose and to learn from the consequences;
- recognizes that healthy habits are created over time and are rewarded in predictable ways that maintain self-motivation.
Parental Mindset Must Change!
The mindset that works to produce long-term success is simple: Relinquish control and embrace your influence. As we struggle with child-related problems, we tend to tighten up our controls. We try to control their behavior, to instruct them, command them, and demand that they respond to our requests.
But the reality is that we cannot control our children. We can only control ourselves and the environment that affects our children. The secret is to spend our time mastering our own behavior, and our control of the environment that shapes our children’s responses.
One of the keys to successful parenting is the old axiom “Keep a winning strategy and let go of a losing strategy.” If your children are struggling in school and you’re engaging in every form of coercion to try to motivate them, you probably know already that your strategy isn’t working:
- Maybe you’re giving the daily lecture.
- Maybe you’re yelling the same old message over and over.
- Maybe you’re starting to think no one is listening.
- Maybe you’re threatening your kids with no TV forever.
- Maybe you’re ready to try to buy some good grades.
STOP! This is a losing strategy. Lose it now or it will exhaust you and leave you feeling angry and frustrated with your child.
The challenge is to learn how to control our own behavior so we can influence or teach our children to move in healthy and productive directions. The next challenge is to understand how we use structure and consequences to help shape that behavior.
Successful parenting includes firm, clear limits and consistency with those limits. We learn that words are often ineffective, so we must know how to use action. This mindset is the secret to relaxed, yet highly effective parenting. You will find more about this topic by reading this article
If you try to protect your children from every failure, you guarantee their ultimate failure, because they won’t be prepared for life. Allow them to experience the consequences of their choices.
This doesn’t mean you just ignore their actions, or pretend you don’t care. You must learn, however, that protecting kids from the consequences of their choices is the equivalent of expecting a muscle to grow when you never work it. It just doesn’t happen.
Life happens. In every circumstance, there is a consequence for choices. Please recognize the critical role that life consequences play in teaching your kids about life. In every strategy and product offered by TerrificParenting.com, you will find a structure that allows kids to learn from their choices. We can’t protect them from age-appropriate struggles and choices; this is how they build emotional, social and intellectual “muscle.”
Protect them from the consequences that come with poor habits, and you will teach them a false lesson. They will grow up thinking that the world will protect them from poor choices – and this just isn’t so!
This lesson goes hand-in-hand with the next…
3. Words don’t teach critical lessons. Consequences do.
I’ve never seen a child turn around his or her academic performance after receiving a lecture from a parent, teacher, or therapist. Instead, children feel bad about not measuring up, offer excuses and lies, and—most important—start to believe that they’re poor students.
After a while, kids learn to ignore repeated discussions and lectures; you just become like background noise.
Other kids will get angry, and lash out at you. None of this is teaching what you really want them to learn.
Instead of lecturing, parents can make certain that the environment and circumstances are structured in a way that consequences will teach the lessons they want their children to learn. During the teaching-learning process, children will fail. They won’t always perform the way you want them to. Just stay the course and keep the consequences in place.
4. Establish the structure of success: “Work, then play. Everyday.”
Successful students and successful adults organize their lives so that they work first and then play, a structure that automatically rewards effort. Parents can apply this principle as a ground rule until the kids graduate from high school: Every day after school, the children do their homework, then they may play. Until their work is finished, there are no phone calls, visitors, toys, TV—no distractions. If they don’t want to do their work, don’t argue with them. In most cases, they’ll quickly become so bored that they’ll choose to get the homework out of the way so they can play. Over time, this structure will produce a powerful set of behaviors that will propel your children to success in any endeavor.
The key is to be consistent. For example, if the soccer game is at 4:30 and your children get home from school at 3:00, they must complete their homework before the game – or they won’t go. They may miss a game or two at first; this is part of the learning process.
As you do this, you…
5. Do not nag, argue, or lecture about homework.
No need. Your kids are smart.
Set up the ground rule: “Work, then play.” Enforce the no-play with action – not words.
I repeat: Set up the ground rule: “Work, then play.” Enforce the no-play with action – not words.
Avoid the word battles and threats. When coercion works at all, it’s only a short-term solution. You may be able to use these tactics and win the battle for that particular evening; however, you’ll lose the war. As your children get older, the battles will increase, frustrating you and undermining your relationship with them. And this relationship is the basis for your influence and leverage in your teenagers’ lives.
What should you do instead? Make clear that “work then play” is the rule every day. Don’t offer repeated lectures or discussions about this; just remain absolutely firm and unwavering in your denial of play activities until work is complete. You can expect frustration and anger, whining and complaining from your child. Accept it and ignore it. Stick to the rule.
6. Focus on efforts, not outcomes.
Don’t wait for the test scores. Reward your children with attention while they’re working.
It can be as simple as a touch on the shoulder, a smile, or an offer of juice. Don’t interrupt their work, but casually engage them while they’re putting forth effort. As they learn to work more diligently on their homework, continue to pay attention to them, but less often. When they finish their homework, remark on their effort rather than the quality of their work. Be grateful and complimentary.
7. To promote independent learning and thinking, teach independence.
Don’t sit with your children and guide them through their homework. Don’t answer every question and help them with every little challenge. If you do this, you’re promoting an attitude of helplessness and incompetence, and the children will start to believe that they can’t do their own homework.
It’s essential that they learn to tackle these difficulties themselves. Think of yourself as a coach:
- Give instruction and allow opportunities to learn.
- Ignore whining and complaining.
- Have them save their questions for the end of the homework session, so they’re encouraged to answer them on their own.
- If they genuinely need help, offer guidance and direction but let them solve the problems.
8. Teach your child to self-correct.
Many parents are reluctant to send their children to school with homework that’s less than 100 percent accurate. They want their children to get As. This isn’t doing them any favors. Instead, we need to send them to school with work that reflects their skill level, so the teacher will know what to respond to and focus on.
Instead of correcting homework, coach your children to do it themselves. Ask questions that guide their attention to errors and help them solve problems, then notice and reward their efforts. If you assume the responsibility for correcting their homework, you’ll produce children who depend on you for all the answers. As they get older, this will produce more frustration in school and poorer performance.
How do you do this within the “Work, then play” approach?
Simple. You make sure the homework is “checked” by you before play begins. In other words, HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE!
Give few clues, when you see errors. Over time, gradually put more and more responsibility on them to find their errors before they can play. In this way, there is no reward in rushing through their work. There is reward in learning to pay better attention, so that you don’t have to keep repeating your homework. Slowly…for some…they get it. Others will get it very quickly.
Now, it’s just time to…
9. Hold the Course
As you implement these strategies, do so strongly and confidently, so your children know you’re prepared to hold the course. They’ll recognize any hesitancy or vacillation. Be firm and consistent in your control of the environment, not in your control of your children. Offer them a choice, but maintain the “work then play” structure every day.
Then sit back and have some fun. Notice how enjoyable your interactions with your children become when you’re no longer nagging them to do their homework. Instead, you’re allowing the consequences of the work-then-play approach to build behavior over time. Be patient. Healthy behavior doesn’t appear overnight, or in a week. If you persist, you’ll likely see changes in two to six weeks.
However, your situation may feel more pressing. Your son or daughter may be at risk of failure, and it’s mainly because of poor effort and lack of follow-through. Click here to learn more about Homework Habits Made Easy.
Is getting your child on track an urgent issue for you?
- Do you see your child’s future squashed by their poor academic habits?
- Fearful that their habits will destroy their chances for college?
- Want to ensure that you are doing everything you can to get them on track?
You may want to consider purchasing the “Homework Habits Made Easy” program. It will walk you through the details of how to establish the habits of success, and give you a specific, detailed program with a proven track record. No longer do you need to fear that poor habits will squash your child’s chance of a successful future. Get help now!
You can order the program on CD, or you can download the audio version right now and have the program in your hands within minutes. Click here to learn more about Homework Habits Made Easy.