It’s that time of year again, school has started, tons of mixed feelings for everyone. With that, comes homework, which is by far not everyone’s favorite time of the day. I hear so many parents ask, “how do I get my kids to do homework?” It’s such a frustrating thing for parents (and kids), they are tired of the power struggle, so how do we get them to do it without arguing every night about it?
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Changing Our Mindset About Homework
We all have heard over and over that we need to focus on our homework to be successful. If we don’t do our homework our lives will be pretty much ruined. We focus so much on getting good grades and passing the class, but we don’t focus enough on what the real reason for school is about.
So, we need to first change our mindset about school, homework, and education. School isn’t to get good grades so we can go to college to get a good-paying job. School is to educate ourselves, learn new things, expand our minds and learn about the world, and grow as a person.
Set a positive mindset for yourself and your child
We also need to have a positive mindset around homework and learning. For example, “I don’t understand math so I’m bad at it.” vs. “I’m not understanding math right now, it’s hard but I know I will eventually understand it. It’ll take time.”
When the remote learning first started I thought that this was going to be simple, all I had to do was help when he got stuck, sit with him, and help him solve problems and he will get it. But, oh my gosh I was wrong. I was getting frustrated because I didn’t know how to teach him. I didn’t know the strategies that they were using in class for him to learn the material.
I would get short and very impatient when it came to helping my son, because I would show him and he still didn’t know how to do it, or he wanted to quit or just say I can’t do this.
There were multiple times where we both would end up in tears. I wish I knew then what I know now. I learned to be patient, let him process things in his own way even if it wasn’t how we were taught, you know sit still and be quiet.
My son had to move (which it is unrealistic for us to think that kids need to sit still for long periods of time), so he would walk around, stand on the couch, wiggle in his seat, and then eventually he would be able to come up with an answer. I wouldn’t hover over him, I simply let him know that when he needs help I’m here.
I gave him space, sometimes he would want me to sit next to him, others he wanted me to leave, and then he brought the worksheet to me after he was done to look over it.
Kids are learning so much every second of the day even when they aren’t in school, their brains are constantly taking in things and questioning things, and exploring things, it’s a lot of work to be a kid. So, that being said it’s very important that they get free time, a break from learning just like us adults want some downtime to do things we enjoy, the same goes for kids.
During homework time, if feasible set it at the same time every night, I wouldn’t recommend right after school “to get it over with”, because that is just what will happen, they won’t even absorb what they learned, and they are already burnt out from school, they need breaks.
When they are doing the homework and they start to get stir crazy and not focusing that is a cue that they are done for the night even if it’s not done.
How long should my child spend on homework every night?
Well, this topic has somewhat mixed reviews. There is a 10-minute guideline that parents and teachers tend to follow however, some parents and teachers don’t really agree. So, use this only as a guideline.
It’s said to have your child spend 10 minutes of homework for each grade they are in. So kindergarten and first grade would be 10 minutes, then the second 20 minutes and 3rd 30 minutes. In high school, it’s said to be 15-30 minutes on each subject they have.
I can see why parents and teachers both question this because this doesn’t account for students who may need a little more time to process and understand the subject. So, it’s good to use this as a limit because there can be big consequences if they are overworked. They need breaks, they need to play and have friend and family time. Working them too hard will result in burnout and start to have a bad relationship with school and learning.
To learn more about this, here are two articles that talk about the benefits and risks of homework.
We are not responsible for our child’s choices
Eeks! I know that might not sit well with a lot of parents. But, as much as we try to make sure our kids make the right decisions and choices, they will be the ones making the ultimate decision. I’m not saying let’s just give up and let them run around doing what they want. If we can’t control them so what is the point?
Well, controlling them isn’t the point. It is our job to be their guide, not their enforcer.
We can definitely encourage them and educate them on why it’s important to do homework (or anything for that matter), but after the end of the day, we can not control or get them to do things they just don’t want to do (without threatening, punishing, and scaring them highly not recommended).
It is our job to have open conversations about the why’s, and let them know the reasons, all while working together. That is what being a parent is, is working together not working over (0r under) them- controlling or permissive.
We can all agree that education is important, it’s how we have conversations with each other, challenge each other, live. It is important that our kids learn. Even though we can’t “control” our kids to do things we can certainly set boundaries and still be flexible with them. Setting boundaries is all about setting them with intentions and with both parties involved. Work as a team together to set boundaries around homework if this is something you find to fit your core family values. It’s important that your child takes part in the decision-making too and that both of you can come to an agreement where both of you are satisfied. This might take some creative thinking but it will be extremely beneficial.
You are also not responsible to motivate them- extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation.
I know this might sound extreme but it’s true. The best way to get your child motivated is if it comes from within themselves. So, I’m talking about intrinsic motivation. This is when your child becomes motivated from an experience that made them feel good and proud about themselves without feeling like they had to prove themselves, or do something to please someone else, this motivation is completely from because they felt good doing it for themselves.
Extrinsic motivation is us motivating them with threats, bribes, rewards and causing a lot of pressure. In the long run, they don’t stay motivated to do things, they either lose interest because it’s something that they don’t really care about in the first place, they are needing autonomy so they are resisting because they don’t want to be controlled, or they end up doing things to please people or look for reassurance in everything they do on an unhealthy way, like doing something good then seeing if anyone was watching.
So how do we go about embedding intrinsic motivation into our children? There are many different ways, and a big one is an autonomy. When they get to make decisions and choices about learning, it can be as simple as where they study, when they study- after dinner or after bath, letting them have a say as much as possible, the less there is pressure the less they will resist.
Ways to cultivate intrinsic movitation in students
- Rethinkg rewards– like we talked about, rewards don’t work very well because after awhile they don’t really want it because what they are needing to do isn’t worth it. Or they do something just to get something in return, and not fully understanding or appreciating what it is that is needed to be done.
- Autonomy- letting them be able to make decisions and choices helps build confidence and great ideas.
- Make mastery cool– perhaps modling that learning is cool but learning something yourself, or show them someone that they look up to learning or reading or something along those lines.
- Show them the higher purpose– Showing them the greater good in what they are doing, and how it is helping them or other people may help them feel good about it and help them be motivated. Show them the benefits of what they are doing.
- Make them feel like education is a choice not a requirement– when they feel like they have a choice and not being hounded to and forced to do something they will be more willing to partake.
- Don’t use fear of punishment as a motivator– this is highly recommened in any situation. The more they are threatend they will want to resist. If they are punished they will either be more resistant or they will be scared and do what they are told only because they are scared, which will cause a lot of anxiety in their life and resentment.
- Self- Expect direction not compliance– help them become self-directed rather than goalding them, they start complying because they are driven to themselves.
- Visualize and conquer– help you child remember a time they felt good about a time they accomplished something completely on their own without an agenda or being told to. Encourage them to hold onto that feeling. Also, help them visualize the end result and how great that looks like, so they are motivated to meet their goals.
- Make them feel capable– encouragement goes a long way. When they know that they have support and knowing that they have you to believe in them will help them know they are capable.
- Cooperation and competition– cooperation can help with intrinsic motivation when they feel the satisfaction of helping others. Also, when they can genuinely compare their work to others, in a non-boostful way.
- Help them trust themselves to succeed– when we let them have choice and make decisions (with guidance when needed) that is us trusting in them, even if they fall. That was a learning experience for them. Then they are able to learn and see how to do it differently and that will help them build trust in themself.
Things to do to help encourage them to do homework
Even though we can’t really make them motivated, we can still encourage them, which pairs well with cultivating intrinsic motivation. Here is how:
- don’t force them.
- talk to them and come up with a plan- let them have a voice in the matter
- talk about the natural consequences of their actions
- ask questions (not nagging, if they seem to be open to talk, don’t force it)
- let them take breaks, notice signs that they need a break and are finished for the night
- Put your child first over the homework- let’s face it, homework isn’t the end all.
- make it fun for them
- offer to do homework with them and bond with them
- let them do homework the way they want to. Not everyone processes things the same way.
- keep calm. Even if you showed them a million times how to do something, they are learning, they need time to process things, it’s new to them, and if they can’t focus that is a sign to end homework for the night.
- have them describe the homework to you before and after so they can see the hard work they did and this can actually help them retain it better. It also may make them feel confident about what they learned and know that they actally do understand what they are doing.
The best thing we can do is be their biggest supporter. We often get stuck in our fears in our parenting, and education is a huge one. We have learned that if we don’t do well then our lives are over, if this is a fear for your child, it’s valid. How we can help them thrive in life is to work with them and guide them, learn to trust and listen to them. I hope you found this helpful. Feel free to leave a comment below on what is the bigger struggle you have with your child and their education?