The one headache that many parents share, is getting their kids to do their homework.
Kids are masters of procrastination, avoidance tactics and using smoke and mirrors to fool their parents into believing that they are actually doing their homework. If you are familiar with that early morning panic where your child is scribbling frantically or texting friends for information, you’ve probably got a serial offender in the family!
So what is the secret of getting the homework done with the minimum of pain?
Set up a routine
For younger children it’s easier to establish a routine. If you’re starting when they first get homework, they’ll probably go along with a regular pattern. Get home, get changed, get a healthy snack, sit down and talk about homework.
If you’ve been battling this problem for years, then suddenly trying to institute a routine is a bigger challenge. For most children at secondary school level, the best approach is to treat them as rational adults and have a discussion. If you’re reasonable and ask for their views, then explain that you don’t want to be constantly nagging and ask if they would be willing to meet you half way. When they have a hand in creating the plan, they are more likely to stick to it – most of the time.
Pick a time that works best for everyone
While teenage hormones do have an impact on sleep patterns and many teenagers seem to be able to sleep all day during holiday time, are you aware of whether your child is a lark or an owl?
If they function better earlier in the day, then getting homework done earlier will get a better result than waiting until they’re tired and need to chill out. However, if you have an owl, letting them work on their assignments a little bit later in the evening might be a better bet.
Younger kids probably need to get their homework done as soon as possible after they get home from school – and may need your support to help them – so make sure you’re not busy preparing dinner or doing something else when they need your attention.
Older kids don’t need such close supervision, but beware of letting them disappear into their room with their social media and other digital distractions. Be supportive, ask if they need help or if they’re struggling with anything. Bring them a drink or snack to keep them hydrated and their energy levels up.
The psychologists believe that kids respond better to the carrot than the stick. So if you are running a reward system, give points – or stars or stickers – for success in completing homework, but don’t add black marks when they don’t do it.
You might promise them a visit to somewhere they want to go or something else they really want to have or do if they get to a particular positive number of points. But to succeed, it has to be something they want enough to make the effort.
The digital connection
Things are different today than when you were a kid. Digital devices and social platforms have changed the way kids communicate and work forever. The concept of working together and sharing information is much stronger than when you were their age.
The days of shielding your work from your classmates so they couldn’t copy are a hazy memory. This doesn’t mean that it’s OK to cheat, but kids are much more likely to help each other – and it’s OK to do that – it teaches them how to operate in a team.
So, if your teen wants to discuss homework with their classmates online, don’t overreact. Of course, there is a fine line between discussing homework and chatting with friends on social media, but trust is important. As long as your child understands that once they lose your trust they’ll have to work twice as hard for a long time to regain it, they are less likely to abuse it.
If you are supportive without being intrusive, you’re half way to gaining cooperation in tackling that homework mountain.