Motivating Your Child !
Homework can be an important tool to help children review and practice the skills taught in school and can improve their learning. In addition, homework can help enhance children’s personal growth by teaching them responsibility, independent work habits, organization, and time management. However, when problems arise, homework can be quite disruptive to family life by creating parent-child conflict and interfering with other important family priorities, such as recreation and social activities. One of the more common homework problems reported by parents is poor motivation, particularly in families with children with learning or attention deficit disorders. Children who are described as motivated to do homework do it by themselves, begin and complete it on time, actively participate in checking it, respond well when told to correct it, pay attention during it, and stick with it even when it gets difficult. When children display problems with any of these areas of homework, they are frequently described as being unmotivated. The tips described below are specific strategies and techniques parents can use to motivate their children to successfully do their homework on time and on their own.
Tip #1: Control and limit meaningful distractions
Some children and adolescents frequently choose to do their homework while listening to a radio or watching TV, claiming that it helps them focus. In many situations, this may be true. However, certain types of noise in certain situations may be distracting.
Audio and visual distractions will tend to interfere more with difficult assignments than with easy and routine assignments. In addition, meaningful background sounds, such as TV, speech, and vocal music, tend to be more distracting than instrumental music or other nonvocal background noise. As a general rule, you should try and control and limit meaningful distractions, such as telephone, TV, vocal music, and interruptions from others during homework time, particularly during difficult assignments. Do not worry as much about nonvocal background noise during easy and routine assignments, if your child is completing her work.
Tip # 2: Help your child develop a daily and weekly schedule of homework and other activities
One of the benefits of homework is that it can help children develop their skills in organization and managing their time. Homework can interfere with important social and recreational activities if the child does not plan ahead. Teach your child how to make both daily and weekly schedules for her activities (see figure below). On a daily basis, have your child decide what needs to be done that day and when to do it. This should include a listing of all homework assignments and other activities and responsibilities. It is often a good idea to decide ahead of time on the order of homework assignments, sandwiching the harder assignments in between the easier assignments. At the beginning of the week, it is helpful to list out all the activities for the coming week. This will help your child plan. For example, if your child has a Social Studies test on Wednesday and she needs two days to study for it, she can plan on bringing her Social Studies book home Monday and Tuesday nights.
Tip #3: Be supportive and encouraging, avoid criticism and punishment
Your general approach with your child around homework should be positive. Avoid using criticism or punishment to try to get your child to do her homework, these strategies will work against what you are trying to accomplish in the long run. You want your child to approach new challenges with confidence in her abilities, to have a feeling that she has control over her learning, and to be proud of her accomplishments. These goals are accomplished through being supportive and encouraging over time. When problems arise, your job should be to understand the problem and come up with solutions.
Tip #4: Praise efforts and independence
Parents should make a special effort to give their children frequent praise for the effort that they put into homework and their attempts to work independently. Praise effort and independence, even if they don’t get everything correct the first time. A general rule for using praise is to do it often, immediately, and powerfully. A powerful praise is one that is given in a warm tone of voice and includes a statement letting the child know what it is you are please with. For example, “I really like how you worked hard on your homework tonight! And you did it all by yourself! I am very proud of you!” Frequent praise that is related directly to children’s effort and independence can produce in them positive emotions, confidence, and an increased sense of control over learning. When this happens, children are likely to independently put forth effort and persist at new learning challenges.
Tip #5: Use a Goal Setting Strategy
Goal setting is a very useful strategy for improving homework performance and independence. It improves motivation by assisting children in managing their own homework, providing immediate feedback, and rewarding goal accomplishment. Goal setting includes the following steps.
Divide daily homework assignment into smaller goals. Work together with your child to divide the evening homework assignment into a several smaller, specific goals. The goals should be challenging but attainable, and include the amount to be completed, a time limit for completion, and accuracy rate. For example, 10 problems will be completed in 10 minutes with 80% accuracy.
Limit requests for help. In order to encourage your child to work independently on her homework, before each goal period tell her that she can only ask for help once during that period.
Record each goal performance on a chart. Have your child evaluate whether she achieved the goal she set and confirm it for her. Record it on a worksheet. Record the percentage of goals achieved on a weekly chart. Incomplete or inaccurate portions of the goal can be incorporated into the next goal. Set daily and weekly goals. Daily and weekly goals need to be set at a level that represents improvement toward a desired end goal. It is important to initially set the goal at a level that is achievable by the child. If the goal is set too high, she may perceive it to be unachievable and will, therefore, not put forth the effort. It is important that your child experience the rewards early in the program. The best way of establishing the starting goal is to set it slightly above the level your child was performing before starting the program. Goals can be gradually adjusted upward based on the performance of the previous day or week.
Tip #6: Communicate with the teacher
Homework is a partnership between school and home designed to improve your child’s learning. Do not be afraid to contact your child’s teacher when problems occur. Consider talking with the teacher when any of the following occur.
When your child has very little homework. Is this because the teacher is not assigning homework, or is your child failing to report assignments to you?
When your child fails to remember assignments or bring home books or materials. When this happens, you may need to have your child and teacher use a homework journal or card to keep track of assignments (see example below). When your child does not know how to do homework assignments. Homework should focus on simple skills and on the integration of skills that the student already possesses.
Homework should not be used to teach complex skills. When your child has problems with understanding how to do an assignment, it may be that the assignment requires skills that your child has not yet mastered. It could also indicate that your child is having problems in class, such as problems with paying attention or learning a particular skill.