It’s a question that’s plagued parents and foster parents for all of time: Just how do I get my child to do their homework? The answer’s different for every child, depending on who they are and how much assistance they need. So to give them the best possible start in life, try some of these 7 top tips and find the ones that work best for you.
1. Think and talk about what’s worked before
If your child’s concentration and enthusiasm varies from day to day, pay attention to the times when they’re most engaged. What’s different? Have they eaten or played outside recently? Has something significant happened during the day?
Talk to your child about it and trust what they say. See what motivates them instead of what motivates you.
2. Work out an effective routine
Routines are important for all aspects of a child’s life, especially for foster children, and homework time is no exception. For the best results, families tend to find it useful when homework is done:
At the same time each night.
In a shared area of the home.
Away from distractions like TV and other children.
3. Prepare incentives for doing a good job
Rewards can help get your kids on track if they’re falling behind or give them a reason to try a bit harder. However, it’s no good if they only do homework to get the reward. That can lead to them asking “What’s in it for me?” whenever you ask them to do something.
Money doesn’t make a good incentive for this reason. Better options include things like praise and attention from you, time to spend on their devices, days out to special places after consistent good work, and privileges like picking a movie for the family to watch. You could even use a sticker chart to show them how far away their next reward is.
4. Avoid penalties for a lack of effort
Getting your way with threats and fear is a mistake. You might be able to get immediate obedience but you risk driving them away and breaking their trust.
Natural penalties, such as disappointed teachers, can have a positive effect. And if you set a routine where the weekend doesn’t begin until homework is done you can avoid distractions. But try not to make homework a stressful event that ends in tears. A lot of the time, if a child doesn’t want to do homework, there’s not much you can do about it.
5. Make sure they understand its importance
Teachers set homework for good reasons, but children tend to see it as an unnecessary annoyance. Try to help them see why they’re being asked to do it by reminding them that it:
Reinforces the day’s learning and helps the important information stick.
Gives them time to practice in an environment that’s less rigid than the classroom.
Helps them learn self-discipline, time management and other essential life skills.
6. Let them make their own choices
You may find you need to back off a bit and let your child take responsibility for the situation. If you take too much control you could find yourself in a power struggle, where a child could intentionally do poorly to show you who’s in charge.
If your child decides not to take responsibility, let them realise the consequences: poor grades. Then you can ask if they’re satisfied with the result, what they want to do about it, and how you can help. If anything, it’s better for them to learn from consequences as a child instead of waiting until they’re an adult.
7. Take a break if it gets frustrating
Fighting with your child or foster child is never a good move. If either of you are feeling the pressure and starting to snap at each other, take a break for five to ten minutes. As well as cooling off, it can actually help your child’s brain absorb what they’re working on and compose their response.