Handling Homework Resistance
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Justin is very motivated when it comes to homework—motivated to avoid it. He will do almost anything to escape doing what he calls the “h” word. His favorite ploy was to “forget” to bring home his books—until his parents solved that with a “no books, no television” rule. But the problem persists. He dawdles until it’s almost bedtime and then finally gets out his books. Sometimes he finishes; mostly he succumbs to frustration and fatigue and completes only part of it.
Justin is one of many students who expend considerable energy in avoiding homework. Some resist because they find homework tedious and unchallenging. Others find the assignments difficult and discouraging. Still others are lured by more enjoyable activities (the television, telephone and computer are the leading culprits). Usually it’s a combination of reasons.
While parenting a homework resister is often exasperating, there are some helpful steps you can take. First, address the basics. Make sure you have impressed upon your child the importance of homework and communicated a “homework comes first” policy. Avoid lecturing, screaming, or threatening your child. Your child may react to this approach by digging in his heels and not budging. Rather brainstorm with him to try to find the cause of the problem: Does he understand what to do? Does he have the materials he needs? Is the work too difficult? Is he unable to concentrate?
If your child is having consistent difficulty understanding the homework, schedule a conference with the teacher. Find out whether the teacher is also observing problems and whether she believes tutoring or an evaluation for special education is warranted.
Also consider developing a monitoring system. Talk with the teacher and arrange for your child to bring home an assignment sheet daily that is signed by both of you. Your child’s job is to record the assignments and then get it signed at the end of the day by his teacher, who verifies its accuracy. Your child then brings the sheet home for you to review and sign, and then returns it to school the following day to begin anew. This system—or a similar plan of your own design—lets you monitor your child’s assignments, lets the teacher know you are involved, and lets your child know that you will be checking to make sure that all homework is done.
You may want to use this assignment sheet to keep track of your child’s progress and to provide rewards for improved performance. Stars and stickers are especially appealing to young children. You might reward your child for attaining a specified number of stars or stickers with a special privilege or family activity (for example, a visit to your child’s favorite restaurant). With time and steady progress, you can gradually phase out the incentives.