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Homework Habits: How to Motivate Your Child

When it comes to homework, it can seem impossible to get your child motivated to start or to stay on task. It can be especially frustrating when you know your child is smart and capable, but they aren’t willing to put in the time and effort it takes to get the (good) grades you know they can. You want your child to put their best effort into their schoolwork without having to pester them and have the situation affect your relationship in a negative way.

Here are some tips to help motivate your kid to stay on task:

Establish clear expectations - One way to avoid a constant battle is to communicate in advance what your expectations are: “When will you complete your homework? Will you start working on it right after school or right after dinner?”

Let your child know where it is appropriate for them to complete their homework. Some kids are able to stay on task if they are alone in their bedroom, while others may find their toys or electronics distracting. Other kids may prefer to work at the kitchen table, while others may find this to be too distracting because of other family activities going on around them. Other kids need to be reminded that sitting in front of the TV while working on homework is not a good idea.

Once you have established when and where your child will work, make sure they have easy access to the supplies they need. It is also a good idea to let your child know what your expectations are for homework. Instead of focusing on the grade itself, let them know you expect their best efforts, that their homework will be completed on time, and you are available to answer any questions, if needed.

Another way you can motivate your child is by letting them know they can do something they enjoy after their homework is complete. For example: “When you finish your reading, you can go downstairs and play” or, “When you are done with your math homework, you can watch your favorite TV show.” This communicates the importance of homework over leisure time and gives your child the motivation to complete it.

Set an example and be supportive - One of the biggest motivators for kids is to have their parent’s support in the challenges they face on a daily basis. This does not mean that you do your child’s homework for them or that you bribe or reward them every time they do their homework. A high five or a “I knew you could do it!” are usually enough to put a smile on your child’s face. You can also show your support by setting a good example.

If your child is sitting down at the kitchen table to work on homework, it may be a perfect time to sit down too and work on writing a grocery list, sorting mail, or adding things to your calendar. You will set a good example and create a quiet environment for your child to work while getting a few things off your own to-do list, too.

Teach responsibility - Your child is responsible for their own homework and grades. Allowing your child to face the natural consequences of completing their homework (or not completing it) will help them learn responsibility. If your child puts in minimal effort, rushes through their homework, or forgets to do it, their grades will most likely be negatively affected. If they put in their best work, take their time, and complete assignments in a timely manner, their grades will see a positive boost. You can also give your kid extra responsibility by letting them choose when they will work on homework, how they will break up larger projects into smaller workloads, and what organizational tools work best for them.

Homework can seem like a constant battle, but establishing good habits is usually the best way for your child to manage schoolwork. Keep in touch with your child’s teacher(s) and your child to make sure all parties are a team and working toward helping your child succeed.

Sarah is a mother of six children, including triplets.

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