Getting your child to turn off the TV and actually do some homework can at times be a little like pulling teeth. From “just five more minutes” to “I don’t have any homework today”, it appears that they have an excuse for everything. And even if you can get them to turn off the TV and actually sit down, how can you ensure that they actually try to learn something.
The first thing to realise is that part of the reason your child is not doing their homework could be because you are not correctly encouraging them to do. The second thing to do is to change that.
Establish a Routine
The key to any effective study routine is just that, establishing a routine. Straight away this removes the “just five more minutes” argument. There are two steps to establishing an effective routine.
• The first is giving your child some say in when the time is set. Ask them whether they prefer doing their homework before or after dinner for example. The advantage of this is that as they have had a say in the matter, they are more likely to respect it.
• The second is to stick to the routine religiously. You would be surprised at how quickly children fall into the habit of opening their books at a certain time once they begin to take it as the norm.
Choose a Location
One of the most common mistakes made by parents when trying to get their child to study is to not provide an adequate study environment. Part of the above mentioned routine should include a specific quiet place where your child can do his/her homework. Again, it is important that you involve your child in deciding where this location is but ideally it should meet the following characteristics.
• A quiet location is essential. Of course, complete silence is rarely achievable but the sound of conversation, television or music should be kept to a minimum.
• There should be as few distractions as possible.
• While a desk is not necessarily required, some form of table and chair very much is. A surprising amount of children do their homework on the floor but doing so encourages frequent thinking breaks (day dreaming).
Teach Them Time Management
One thing that always amazes me about the teaching system in the US is that despite the endless classes about fossils and fault lines, very little time actually goes into teaching the basics of success such as effective time management and task prioritisation. Humans as a species are not born with these skills and yet learning not to leave things to the last minute is essential for your child to not only do their homework but to do it effectively. Therefore rather than solely helping your child with their maths equations, help them to understand how to actually study.
Encourage Them to Figure Out Problems Themselves
No parent wants to be the type that is never around to help their child with their homework but some parents go a little bit too far by running to the rescue the second their child doesn’t understand something. One of the best ways to actually learn and retain something is to run into a problem and subsequently figure out how to solve it. By helping your child with your homework too often, you are actually lowering the effectiveness of the time that they actually spend doing it.
The ideal compromise is to let your child know that you are there to help them if they need it but that you won’t help them until they have genuinely tried to solve the problem themselves.
Show Them What’s in it For Them
While the life of a parent might be slightly easier if their child was a robot, children are not simply puppets that can be told what to do. While you can make your child sit and do homework during an allotted time, actually making them learn something is impossible. You need to get your child to actually want do well at school and the only way to do this is to teach them the advantages of doing so. Teachers will encourage good grades with discipline, their friends will encourage bad grades with name calling. You need to encourage good grades by telling them what’s actually in it for them.
If promises of fancy future titles and “the life you never had” doesn’t work, there is always bribery. While there is a level of debate around the subject of bribing your children to get good grades, many studies have shown that bribery can actually be incredibly effective provided it is done correctly. The key is to not offer a bribe for minor tasks such as getting out of bed on time but instead to offer carefully measured rewards for the completion of tasks that are genuinely important.
You would be surprised just how much harder a child will work at something if they know they will be rewarded. Effective rewards for homework can range from something small for two hours of study time to a new bike for good grades in their Christmas exams.
Never Ask for Too Much
Speaking of grades, depending on the age of your child, setting exam based goals (whether backed by bribery or not) can be a very effective means of getting your child to not only do their homework but to do it effectively. Many parents make the mistake however of thinking that the higher the goals they set, the more difficult their child will work.
In fact, expecting more than your child can reasonably deliver usually has the opposite effect. Therefore whenever you are encouraging your child to get a certain grade in an exam or homework assignment, be very careful to never set the bar too high.
Teach from Example
My final tip for getting your child to do your homework is to show some solidarity. Unfortunately, if you are going to prevent your child from having any fun at an allotted time, you need to prevent yourself from doing so too (at least from their perspective). TV off time therefore means no TV for you either. As an adult, you are likely to have something productive that you need to get done so let your child see that you are working during this time period also.