Is homework a source of daily stress for you and your child?
You’re tired of nagging them to get it done, and they’re tired of being pestered about it. It doesn’t feel good to either of you. But homework must get done.
Short of doing it for them, is there a better way to handle this common parenting dilemma? Can you stop the nagging, and motivate them to get it done, all while instilling positive feelings in your child AND lowering your level of frustration? There is!
In this article, you’ll learn the 5 steps to ending the daily battle over homework and getting your child to do what they need to do.
But before I reveal those 5 steps, I’d like you to imagine for a minute that you are your child. Why? Because it will help you understand why a different approach is so critical.
So let’s make believe that you are in grade school, and you don’t want to do your homework.
You really want to watch TV, play with your toys, or play with your video games. Dad walks into your room and says, “Have you finished your homework yet?”
You just spent the whole day at school, sitting at your desk and listening to your teachers telling you what to do. You want to take a break before diving into more school work. Imagine telling your dad, “Not yet but I will soon.”
An hour later, your dad walks in again and says, “You know, if you don’t do your homework, you will fall behind. You need to get good grades, so that you can get into a good college. It is important also that you get good study habits. When I was a boy, I used to do my homework after dinner every night and I couldn’t watch TV or do anything until it was done. If you don’t do your homework, you will end up flipping burgers at McDonald’s.”
Later that evening, your dad says, “If you don’t do your homework right now you are not seeing any of your friends for a week.”
Finally, you get your homework finished and show it to your dad. He looks at it and says, “Your handwriting is atrocious. Next time I want you to slow down and take care to write neater.”
I have two questions for you as you imagine being the child in this scenario. At the end of each interaction:
Now imagine a different scenario. Dad walks into the room and says, “Hey buddy, how are you doing? Didn’t finish your homework yet, huh? What is the reason? Is there something about the homework that’s making it difficult for you to get started? I know that homework can be annoying, sometimes you learn from it, sometimes it is just busy work. I know you have been in school all day and you want to play, but given that you have to do it for school, how can I support you in getting it done?”
Again, ask yourself, how did you feel when dad said that, and what did you conclude about yourself?
Perhaps the first scenario you felt tense and anxious and you concluded that what you want or how you feel doesn’t matter. When you finished your homework, it wasn’t good enough to please your dad. Maybe you felt that you weren’t good enough.
In other words, in the first scenario you formed negative beliefs about yourself.
And in the second scenario, maybe you felt understood and it led you to conclude that you are capable of solving your problem. It made you form positive beliefs about yourself.
A simple shift in how you approach your child can make all the difference in their attitude and motivation about homework, chores, or anything else they need to do. It can lead them to feel better about themselves, and it can allow you to feel better as a parent.
Why is this important? Because when your child forms positive versus negative beliefs about him or herself, it has an effect on the rest of their life. It can make the difference between a child who grows up to be a content, confident, and capable adult, or an adult who is unsure of himself, has low self-esteem, and is never quite fulfilled in life. You can read more about how important beliefs are in children here:Find Out More
Fortunately, any time you’d like your child to do something such as homework, it’s an opportunity to help them form positive self-regard and increase their self-esteem, all while teaching them to take initiative and do what they need to do.
All it takes to get there is these 5 steps:
Is there any child who wants to do chores or go to bed or do homework? Did you when you were a kid? Probably not. Regardless, we need to get our children to do things, but it’s not fair to expect children to think like grownups.
That’s why the following 5 steps are so helpful. They can help motivate your child, lessen the nagging and threats, all while helping your child form positive beliefs about him or herself. Here’s what you do:
1. State the problem. What is it that needs to get done, and what do you see your child doing (or not doing)?
2. Get to the source of the problem. One of the most important skills we can learn as parents is getting to the source of the problem. Before doing or saying anything, have the discussion with your child about school. Find out if your child is enjoying school in general. Is it too easy? Is it hard? Is he learning in his learning style? Does she have a problem with a specific teacher? Is he having a problem with peers so that he is not enjoying school? Or is he anxious while he is there? Is there something about the homework that is hard for her, or that she doesn’t understand? If you get to the source of your problem, you can help your child solve it rather than trying to manipulate them or force them into doing it.
3. Validate feelings. Your child may tell you they feel tired or that they’d rather do something fun in that moment. Validate how they feel by letting them know you understand. It doesn’t mean you’re letting them off the hook, you’re just letting them feel heard and understood.
4. Brainstorm solutions. Brainstorming sessions teach kids how to think outside the box, to solve problems, and to have an internal locus of control. Write down all their ideas and choose one together that makes sense, but don’t invalidate any ideas because it shuts down the creative process if you do that. Create consequences in advance with children’s input. What will happen if they don’t get their homework done?
5. Offer a choice. Would they like to do their homework right after school or wait until after dinner? Would they prefer to do it in their room or at the kitchen table? Having choices allows children to conclude they have agency and that they’re not powerless.
Using these 5 steps is much more effective than blaming, threatening, commands, lecturing, or guilt.
Plus, these steps have the added benefit of leading your child to feel good about themselves and allowing you to feel better as a parent, too.
Getting your kids to do their homework without having to nag them every day is just one of many parenting challenges you may face in any given day.
There are also these common situations you wish you could handle better:
Most of us don’t know the best way to handle these types of parenting situations, because we aren’t taught the right skills.
We tend to do what our parents did, and they did what their parents did.
I’m not writing this to make you wrong, I am writing this because I want to help you identify something that can sabotage your efforts in being a conscious parent.
That’s also why I created my program, Parenting That Empowers: How To Ensure Your Child Becomes A Happy, Confident, Capable Adult.
This program makes your job easier as a parent. It takes away a lot of the struggles that you may have and allows you to have fewer emotional battles and confrontations with your kids, all while showing you how to help your children form the kind of beliefs that will make them joyful and confident now and in the future.
This program guides you into making the best parenting choices in all of the situations I mentioned above, plus many more.
And if you’re despairing about the less-than-ideal way you’ve been approaching your child up until now, you’ll be glad to know that it’s never too late to help your child form more positive beliefs. In Module 7 of my program, you’ll learn how, and your child can start to dispel negative beliefs and reframe painful situations.Transform How You Parent Today
There are some things that children need to do for their (and our!) well being. We clearly would be remiss as parents if we took a hands-off attitude and let them do whatever they wanted.
That’s why I’m grateful to be able to provide you with a program that teaches you the skills that allow you to influence your child’s behavior when necessary without leading them to form negative conclusions about themselves.
P.S. In the over 30 years I’ve been helping clients resolve personal issues, by far the most common belief is, “I’m not good enough.” Wow!
That’s why it is so critical to help your child develop positive self-esteem as early as possible. How do you do that? It’s not by praising your child all the time or telling them how smart they are. The way to help your child develop self-esteem may actually surprise you. Learn more here:Help Your Child Feel Good Enough