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6 Tactics for Homework Motivation

Many parents have been there. Your child comes in from school with a stack of homework and zero motivation to do it, regardless of how much you nag and lecture. It makes you feel helpless.

Yet kids look to you as their leader, and your attitude and actions can make the difference between an apathetic student and an eager learner. These strategies can help. 

Strategy 1: Be Positive.

Discuss the homework in a positive light, even if you secretly can’t stand the subject. When you convey that you see the value in something, chances are good your kids will see it too. They’ll be more likely to buy into doing the work.

Strategy 2: Set Goals.

Focus on the big picture. Encourage your child to come up with and commit to two to three new behaviors. Have him write them on a big sheet of paper and hang it up in his room. For example: I will do my homework after dinner without being asked or I will not turn on the TV until all my homework is completed. Keep a record with stickers or tally marks that recognize days he follows through on his new agreements.

Make sure there is a consequence such as no TV or less computer time if the goal isn’t met. Celebrate even small successes and signs of effort. 

Strategy 3: Be a Good Coach.

Ask: Does my child lack the skills to get the job done or is the problem that she doesn’t want to do the task?

If your child doesn’t understand, say, fractions, then explain the concepts, provide help and gradually let her try herself. Resist the urge to complete the problems for her.

However, let’s say your daughter is capable of doing her essay but would rather write messages on Facebook. It’s time to foster responsibility. Go to the big picture goals (Strategy 2), resist nagging and set firm limits and consequences if she breaks her agreements. 

Strategy 4: Teach Accountability.

Have you heard excuses like “It’s not my fault,” or “The teacher didn’t explain the homework,” or “I’m just horrible at math”?

In response, ask, “What can you do to influence the situation?” or “What might you do differently to avoid this problem?” These questions encourage your child to assume responsibility and focus attention on aspects of the situation he can control. 

Strategy 5: Be Patient.

Don’t give up when bad habits return. If your child makes progress for a few days but then slides back into his old, resistant ways, keep your cool. Calmly

remind your child that he needs to follow through on his commitments. Simply restate your agreement: No TV,  no computer, until the homework commitments are completed. 

Help him divide the work into smaller, more manageable parts. Return to Strategy 3 and diagnose if the obstacle is related to a lack of understanding.

Strategy 6: Link Success to Effort.

Instead of saying, “C’mon, you can do it. You’re smart,” remind your child how shesucceeded in the past: “You worked for days on your geography report and remember how well it turned out?” The message is that effort and perseverance, not innate talent, lead to success.  

Remember, be patient. Reward your child’s hard work with praise, even if he performs poorly or makes mistakes.

Jamie Woolf is a regular contributor to Working Mother magazine and author of  Mom-in-Chief: How Wisdom from the Workplace Can Save Your Family from Chaos.

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