Has the homework battle become a daily event in your home? You are not alone! Homework can be the most difficult (and, honestly, annoying) aspect of school for many children and their parents. Sometimes it’s because the work itself is hard, and sometimes it’s because executive functioning skills aren’t developed. What we want to focus on here, though, is the part a child’s attitude plays in the homework struggle.
Often, children see homework as a chore or punishment instead of an opportunity to solidify skills, learn from mistakes, and make new connections. It’s important for us to help them see assignments in this new light, and even to show them how “getting good” at homework will help them outside of school.
How can you help your child view homework as a tool for growth?
A principle, or core belief, will set the tone and define a purpose for this after school work. Come up with two or three guiding principles that reflect the attitude you want your family to have toward homework. Depending on your child, you may want to include them in this brainstorm; we’ve found this can really help with buy-in! Here are some examples:
Once you’ve chosen your homework principles, talk about them with your child. Why do you believe these messages? How do they apply specifically to your child? How will these principles help them?
Then, you need to repeat these principles out loud every day. Chances are good that you’ll get some eye rolls for the first few days, but your child needs to trust that you believe in these ideas, and they need time to internalize them. While you want your child to take this seriously, don’t be afraid to use humor to help them engage with this new way of looking at homework!
Once you’ve laid the foundation, you need to build on it. Keep an eye out for moments to further coach. When the negative attitude appears, repeat the principle and help your child adjust their approach. For example, if they complain about math homework, say, “Tell me one thing this assignment will help you get better at” or “How can doing these problems now help you on the test later?” Pro tip: If they reply, “I don’t know” ask them, “What if you did know?” Works like a charm!
Just as important, comment on the positive shifts. When they get right to work on homework, say, “I can’t wait to hear about what you’re learning!” If they work through a particularly tough or time-consuming assignment, ask them about it. “I noticed you put a lot of effort into this homework. What did you learn that will help you the next time you have a challenging assignment?” Not only are you providing positive reinforcement, but you’re also giving them a sense of control by identifying strategies that will help them in the future.
We all know that actions speak louder than words, and it’s no different in this case. It’s important to model the attitudes that you want your child to adopt. If they earn a low grade, getting upset or disappointed doesn’t show them that mistakes are learning opportunities.
Similarly, when you forget the dentist appointment or get lost driving to a new destination, getting angry and berating yourself or your spouse won’t communicate the positive sides of mistakes. Instead, own the mistake and share what you learned that will help you do better next time around.
Some students will need to work on more than just their attitude in order to improve their relationship with homework. Procrastination and a lack of motivation are two common areas children need extra support with. We offer practical strategies for both here and here. And, as mentioned above, some students need to develop their executive functioning skills.
Unfortunately, some homework assignments do not serve the purpose of reinforcing or extending learning. If your child regularly receives busy work, overly complicated assignments, or work they’re incapable of completing independently, we strongly encourage you to talk with their teacher.
When students are able to look at homework as a tool that will help them grow, their resistance will fade. Sometimes they just need a little guidance to come to that realization!