"I can't do homework with our son again," I told my husband, "even if it means that he fails the year!" These are the words I spoke with frustration, after having another difficult day getting our son to complete his homework. His attitude had really taken a toll on me: it was like pulling teeth to get him to do his homework!
Our daily routine was very predictable: my son would arrive home from school, he and his siblings would be given a nutritious snack, and then it would be homework time. That's when the tantrums, rage and complaints would begin. Common complaints were that I was SO mean and unfair, or "torturing" him to do his homework!
How could it be that a child who got good marks and was well-behaved at school, could act this way in regards to homework? As a parent, how could I deal effectively with my child's constant refusal to complete his work? With four other children at home to care for, including two with homework, what could I do to ensure there were no disruptions to the others? My son would spend hours trying to avoid homework!
Here are some tips I have used to get my son to do his homework, since the episode I wrote about. (Yes, I did not give up on it after all!)
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Don't Run on Empty! -- Before starting homework, feed your child a nutritious snack. Even if dinner is one hour away, do offer cheese and crackers, a piece of fruit, or veggies and dip. Don't offer a sugary treat, as sugar gives a quick burst of energy, followed by a sudden energy drop. If your child is in Junior or Senior Kindergarten, a 30-minute nap before homework goes a long, long way!
Find The Sweet Spot -- Get your child set up for homework at a spot with minimal distractions, such as a desk or the kitchen table. Ensure that distractions like television, video games, toys and other games are not in the picture. A quiet room is an ideal place to do homework, away from other noises and activities.
In The Mood -- Try to gauge your child's mood before embarking on homework. For example, an irritable child doesn't want to hear that it's homework time! Try to sweeten a sour child's mood by talking about his or her favourite things or happy memories. If you reach a homework impasse due to your child's mood, leave it and return to it in 30 minutes time or so. Is the homework due tomorrow? If not, perhaps leave it today, if your child agrees that it will be done tomorrow.
Be a Detective -- If your child won't do the homework, ask why? There is a difference between not wanting to do the homework, to not being able to do the homework. Does your child need extra help in a subject? If so, be prepared to step in, or find someone who can assist, like a classmate, teacher or tutor. If your child has a hard time sitting still for a long period of time, or has a shorter attention span, break homework up into two different sittings or offer a 10-minute break in between.
Offer an Incentive -- If you child works well with incentives, offer one for completing the homework! It could be a simple reward like playing outdoors with their friends, watching 30 minutes of their favourite television programme, or doing a special activity on the weekend. A reward chart works well for this, with one week of completed homework equating to a special incentive that you and your child can decide together.
Work Alongside Your Child! -- If you work alongside your child while homework is completed, you will be able to discuss the homework together, correct your child's work on the spot, offer praise for a job well done, or encourage a procrastinating child to keep working ahead. And chances are good that your child will enjoy the companionship!
Go Ahead -- If your child is in a groove and speeding through the homework, do try to work ahead if the teacher permits it. Not only will you get a lot accomplished, you will have the opportunity to skip a day if you need to. This technique has worked well for my children, who get their homework assigned on Monday, with it due on Friday.
When All Else Fails (Mommy's Secret Weapon)! -- If your child refuses to do homework, reach for Mommy's (or Daddy's) Secret Weapon! Only you will know what will work with your child in times of desperation. I had tried threats, punishments, guilt-trips and bargaining without results. So, I use Mommy's Secret Weapon: a note to teacher stating that my child wouldn't complete the homework and that I'm aware of it. I have never sent it yet, but I am willing to. This always snaps my child out of his trance and gets the homework done!