One of the most challenging everyday parenting tasks for the parent of a school going child is getting the homework done.
Nobody likes homework. Children don’t like it because they have to do it. And parents don’t like it because they have to supervise and get it done
In this article you will find answers to the following questions
When children come back from school – they have already spent several hours sitting in one place in their classrooms in school and studying – so they want to focus on playing. And if they have to do homework it takes time away from their playtime.
- Parents dislike homework because when they get back from work – they want to relax. They don’t want to sit down and coax and compel their children to do homework.
- They also believe that the child’s learning must be handled by the school and they should not be required to play a role in it once they have enrolled the child in school.
- Parents don’t like to be held responsible for getting something the child does not like to do done.
- Parents believe that children should be allowed to relax at home. They do not want an environment of stress in their house.
- Homework is a great learning tool that supplements and complements learning in school
- When a child does homework – she/he revises the concepts that have been taught in class
- Practice makes perfect – and doing homework is a good way to attain perfection
- Sending a fraction of the school work home – allows parents to be involved in the child’s learning and keeps them abreast with happenings in school
- Homework builds discipline. Discipline is – doing what you need to do when you don’t want to do it. And homework gives the child practice in that direction.
When children are reluctant to do homework or outright refuse to do homework – the majority of parents employ the following 3 approaches.
Parents who believe in the authoritarian approach to parenting – threaten their children with physical punishments to get homework done. They also threaten to deprive them of privileges by saying things like – “I won’t let you play until you finish your homework” or “I will take away your phone if you don’t do homework” or “I will cut the cable TV connection / change the Wi-Fi password if you don’t do your homework.”
Why are threats so bad for your child – When a child is threatened she/he feels like she/he is in danger, and this activates the survival area of the brain. The child’s focus shifts from what she/he is doing – to “How can I escape the punishment” Even if the child completes the homework because she/he is afraid of the parent – very little is learnt.
What you must remember before you threaten your child – Never misuse your power as a parent to bully and frighten your child. Be kind empathetic and patient. And lead the way with your own exemplary behavior. Your role as parent demands that you motivate your child through love. Threats will damage your child’s self-esteem and do irreparable damage.
Many parents believe in bribing their children to do the homework given. They feel that this will make them heroes in their children’s eyes and they prefer this to being seen as villains by their children if they threaten them. So they say something like “If you finish your homework – I will order pizza for dinner” or “If you do your homework – I will give let you play video games till 11 pm”
Why is bribing so bad?
Bribing may appear harmless and even kind on the face of it – but it is actually as bad or maybe even worse for children than threatening. Bribing kills the child’s internal motivation by repeatedly positioning an external motivator in the picture. When a child is motivated by a bribe – the child’s focus shifts from the work that needs to be done – to the bribe being offered. The child focuses on getting the work out-of-the-way somehow – in order to get the bribe being offered.
When this happens again and again – the child loses her/his desire to do things for the pleasure of doing them – she/he begins to do everything just to get to the bribe. Eventually parents run out of attractive bribes – and children lose their desire to excel at anything.
What you must remember before you bribe your child
You will soon run out of things to bribe your child with. And by that time your child would have lost the ability to function on his own internal motivation.
Taking over and doing everything
In their bid to be kind and empathetic to children some parents take over the entire task of doing homework from their children. They believe so strongly in making life easy for their child that they do the homework and the projects assigned to their child themselves and allow their child to slack off.
Why you should not do everything for your child
Love that blinds you is not good for your child. When you do everything for your child – the message the child receives is – that – shortcuts to success do exist. And that when there are challenges – instead of looking for a way to overcome the challenge – I need to look for a saviour.
When you help your child to do everything – your child feels incapable and this lowers her/his self-esteem. He also develops learns how to escape problems.
Your sympathy makes her/him feel like a victim in every situation and she/he learns that the world is out to get her/him. She/he learns that the only way out of a challenge is to feel sorry for yourself and blame others.
What you must remember before you do everything for your child
Bringing up a self-absorbed escapist will pave the way for failure for your child.
- Make it clear that homework needs to be done
- Look at homework as a challenge to be overcome
- Do not look at homework as a problem from which your child needs to escape.
- Help your child do the homework by participating in the endeavor and explaining the concept
- Lead the way with your positive attitude and your enthusiastic approach to challenges
- Empathize with your child and communicate that you understand your child’s desire to go play and relax.
- Show your child the value of disciplined and focused work.
- Set an example your child can follow. Do not laze in front of the TV while your child does homework. Sit next to your child and do something that you find challenging.
Expect the best
When you start talking about homework every evening – do not begin with the thought that your child does not want to do his homework. Every child wants to finish her/his homework and go back to school with a completed homework notebook. Never assume that your child is lazy. Never be fooled by your child’s don’t care attitude.
Look at homework as a challenge
Homework is disliked universally – but do not make the mistake of looking at it as an obstacle to fun. Look at it as challenge that needs to be overcome. Approach it with enthusiasm and happiness instead of disgust.
Focus on solving the problem at hand
Many a times we approach homework with “how to escape this drudgery” approach. Do not do that. Remember – homework is good for your child. Your child does not need you to find her/him a route to escape the problem. What your child needs is a strategy to overcome the problem. Help your child to understand and find meaning in what has been asked. That will help your child to overcome the challenge and build her/his self-esteem.
Stay on your child’s team
Your child needs a partner to overcome the challenge – not a savior or a disapproving spectator. Help her/him to understand underlying concepts that will make it easier for her/him to do the homework so that she/he finishes faster. Stay by her/his side and encourage her/him. Do something that requires a lot of effort and struggle yourself as you give your child company. This will reassure your child that she/he is not the only one struggling and make her/him feel better.
Focus on making your child independent
Keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of parenting is to hand over control and make your child independent. And for that it is important to teach decision-making, problem solving and resilience through open communication. Don’t shut down communication with your threats and don’t run away from communication because you are afraid of your child.
Remember – you are your child’s partner in homework. It is your attitude and approach towards homework that will teach your child the right attitude towards learning in particular and work in general.
Children constantly learn from what we say and do. And our approach to this small but significant every day issue determines what happens to a child’s character and confidence.
Approach homework with the right attitude and it will not be a problem anymore. It will turn into the path towards success.