All you have to do is get them to want to.
In most schools homework is a given. The Year level that it starts might vary, but there it is. You are expected to do it.
The topic of compulsory homework, especially in Primary school is a hot issue, and not for this article. (But it will come. Oh, yes. It will come. I have a strong opinion.)
Indeed, I am going to address today’s rant to parents who know that
a) you get homework,
b) it has to be done and
c) that’s all there is to it young man (or lady)!
Let us further assume we are talking about High School students. (Don’t go away Primary School parents. This is for you too.)
So, what can you do?
1. Stop yelling, nagging, cajoling, bribing, threatening, punishing and predicting a dire future.
Yes. And stop the sarcasm as well.
All these are negative responses to what you see as a lack of motivation or application, and will be counter-productive.
Calm down for a minute, and observe. Does your child actually not do any homework at all? Do they do some, but not enough, in your opinion?
Remember that amongst all the turmoil of adolescence, they are actually learning to take responsibility for their own lives. The word ‘adolescent’ means ‘becoming an adult’. It is quite likely that are getting a handle on the idea, and they can do it themselves.
You don’t think so?
Well then, here’s the next thing you have to know.
2. Be subtle.
That doesn’t necessarily mean don’t let them know what you are doing. But you can achieve your aim in ways that are less direct. For example, don’t dogmatically declare that doing homework is important.
Better to let your wayward teenager know how much importance you place on doing homework. How much easier it becomes to understand what is going on in class. That the homework clarifies things you have been taught and leads you to ask questions that will help you to learn. You can come up with your own reasons.
If you’re clever you can make these observations in casual conversation, or at least woven into the fabric of homework discussions.
3. Find out from the young person in question why homework is a no-go zone.
Don’t accept answers like “I don’t see the point” or “It’s such a drag”. These don’t address the question. When you get a real answer, the door for intelligent dialogue is open.
“I don’t have the time. There are too many other things to do”. Now you can suggest some time management. An activity they can spend less time doing.
“It’s too difficult, I don’t understand it”. How about speaking to your teacher. Maybe a tutor can help.
These are genuine issues with real solutions.
4. They have their own ideas, opinions and methods for their own lives.
No. You can’t give them total control. But listen to what they say. Allow them to be the masters of their actions. Let them get the kudos for a job well done, and suffer the consequences of failure.
The rewards of attaining adulthood come with obligations and responsibilities. You learn by doing.
We can teach them, but we can’t live their lives for them.
5. The person inside.
It is vital that your son or daughter sees a value that is meaningful to them. In other words, what do they get out of it? You can’t answer that for them, but can help them find their own answer. The motivation comes from within.
This is a key point. You can add fuel to a fire, feed it with oxygen, protect it from the elements. But if there is no spark or ember inside, it won’t catch.
Similarly, even when the recalcitrant (Paul Keating taught me that word) student sees the value, she must want to do something about it. If the will is not there you will not see a change.
6. The home environment.
This includes his or her relationship with family, as well as the physical surroundings. Negative energy obliterates all good intentions. Your child should feel confident to be able to express her opinion without anticipating rancour, judgement or mockery.
7. Encourage homework skills development.
For any enterprise, starting is often the hardest part.
Sometimes they just don’t know how to get in to doing their homework. It has to be learnt. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, ask the school to help.
Find out what the obstacles are and then you can overcome them.
A study plan is a great tool. Help them make one.
With these tools in place, your teenager can just sit down and get started.
8. Lead by example.
This is true in all aspects of parenting. I referred to it in my article on teenage anger on this blog.
The wayward child will see you attack a regular task, that she knows you don’t want to do. You do it willingly, with the aim of completing it and knowing that when it is done the world (or household) will be a better place. She learns that this is life. It is the way things are done.
We all know the benefit of a routine. It is a framework. Something you know isn’t going to change. That is not the same as saying that it requires strict adherence under all circumstances.
If the routine is: finish school, play sport, come home, play video games, have dinner, do homework, half an hour with the family, go to bed, then everything has its place.
But if there is no sport on a certain day, he can do his homework after school and spend more time with family after dinner. Or any other change can be adapted, either out of necessity or whim, without disrupting the fabric of the universe.
The routine is always there to guide.
10. Be there.
Learn what puts your child in good spirits, and provide it.
If he is not academically inclined, it will be harder for him to apply himself. Let him know you are with him whatever the outcome.
Give rewards for achieving goals. Her favourite dinner. Some latitude on a strict house rule. You’ll find them.
Teach them that homework and school are not drudgery. Find a way to make it enjoyable. Appeal to their competitive nature or sense of achievement. Associate homework with good feelings. Perhaps the homework can be done in a different way that is more appealing.
Allow them to involve you in the entire academic process, but don’t force yourself on them.
Speak to the school. They have been through this before.
And here’s what not to do.
This is an article on what to do, but the are some actions that will produce a negative result. Read item number 1 !
Don’t tell them they need to prepare for the future. It’s futile.
Children don’t have a future until they are in their late teens. It is a vague concept that doesn’t go beyond next week. Crikey, ten years in the future is as long as their living memory. Five years old was a life-time ago.
Don’t make a contract.
This is my opinion, and in the end anything that works is good. I believe it doesn’t address item number 5 though. Motivation comes from within. You might be able to force them to do their homework. But in my experience, when you force things they break.
In summary, make sure that really is a problem and you are not just imposing your will. Their achievements in life are for their benefit, not yours. If you feel there is an issue, talk to them about it as an adult. Always be kind. If things don’t improve, get help and advice from someone who knows what to do.
You won’t succeed without collaborative cooperation from the student.
There is plenty of information out there. I found enough to write a book.
Thanks for reading.
Once again I am indebted to Chris Hudson, and his excellent website, for his insight and the gift he gives me of being able to put my thoughts into intelligible form. I recommend you subscribe to his site understandingteenagers.com.au
As always I draw on information provided from all over the web. I use Australian websites as much as I can. raisingchildren.net.au is one I visit a lot and frequently refer to in my blogs, as well as on Facebook postings. The article I drew some information from today is here.
Stock photos are courtesy of Pexels.