As the school buses start to crank their engines, parents feel one of two things about their kids’ return to school: a big sigh of relief or a bit of dread. And, for many, the tendency to wander ‘off track’ is a recurring theme. This translates to homework battles, repeated reminders, and, often, poor performance.

Below I have outlined the fundamental principles that will get your family on track. Do the basics, and you will get results. Yet, many who struggle with their kids, will read this article and find reasons to argue before even completing the final point. They will fight for a system that is fundamentally not working.

That’s okay…because this game plan is for those of you ready to take action, and get results. There are other ways, but none come with such a high probability of success! So let’s get started:

1. Start early: Get everyone on the same page.

Have a chat with your kids. Tell them matter-of-factly that there is going to change. Let them know the days of nagging and arguing are over (yes…really over!).

Apologize for the past struggles and battles. And do emphasize Mom/Dad’s role in those battles. Next, explain…

2. Work first, then play… every day!

This is ‘Dr. Cale’s Success Principle’. Follow it, and triumph will naturally come to your family. This success principle is very simple: “Kids, you do your work first, then you play.”

When your children get home from school they get a five or 10-minute break. After that, it’s time for homework, chores, violin practice, or whatever tasks they’re responsible for.
During this time, there’s no TV, no phone calls, no going outside, no toys, no extended conversations with Mom and Dad. No friends over. Nothing, until their work is done.

You need to keep your focus on what you can control: the goodies. Make them unavailable, including their phone, until the work is done.

If they refuse to do their work, let it be. But strictly maintain that there’s no play in any form until work is done. Yes, you are allowing them to fail for a few days. But you’ve stacked the deck in your favor. If they choose not to do their homework, they will be bored to tears.

It may take several days, but they will choose homework over utter boredom. Just be patient. This can be a trying couple of days, depending upon your situation and the age of your child. Next…

3. Abolish all nagging, prodding, arguing, lecturing, begging, yelling, or trying to force it to happen!

Nagging and pushing and prodding only leads to more nagging and pushing and prodding. As you step back, just notice how things deteriorate as the months go by. You’re working harder and harder…they’re working less and less.

4. Hold them accountable for doing their best.

This is essential. Why? Because many kids (not yours, of course!) will lie. They will deceive you and tell you their work is done.

Only believe this after you see it and inspect it. Hold them accountable for doing their best, but without lectures or repeated messages about doing their best. Instead, inspect the work, and either approve it because they put their best effort forward or disapprove because they didn’t. This is how you hold them accountable for doing their best. And of course…

5. Be patient. Allow for learning.

Good study habits are like any other habit – they have to be learned. It’s natural for them to try to cheat the system and find ways to make their job easier. Let them! Just don’t be upset. Instead, stick to the system and allow for learning. It doesn’t happen overnight but will evolve in a matter of weeks if you stick to the game plan.

Don’t try to keep making life easier for your kids. This formula will make them work, which may lead to a struggle. That’s okay, as it reflects the way life operates. Sometimes we struggle; it’s just a fact.

So be patient, and allow for some resistance and struggles. But as they do, don’t be tempted to explain yourself again and again. Instead, control the goodies, and wait for the leverage to take effect (i.e., work first…then get your goodies). It will work…and then your patience will have paid off.

Learn more about managing the daily routines with your family by attending one of my upcoming seminars:

  • Queensbury High School: September 13, 7 pm: End the Nagging, Drama, and Fighting Over Homework With Easeful Daily Routines
  • Bethlehem Middle School, September 26, 7 pm: Not Just getting By But Teaching Your Kids to Thrive.