Many factors can influence children and teens’ ability to complete homework. For instance, fear of failure, anxiety regarding not being“smart enough,” comparison of their academic abilities to peers, and previous negative feedback from teachers and/or parents can often hinder children’s self-esteem, motivation, and desire to complete homework assignments. However,parents can help children establish an after-school routine to make the task of completing homework more structured and consistent.
Structure and routine should be a top priority for parents and their children, especially when it comes to homework completion. A consistent and stable routine will help children understand the expectations and household rules for academic importance and can also diminish arguments between parents and children regarding homework. For example, when children get home from school, a snack and hydration is a good first step to making sure children have the energy, both physically and mentally, to successfully tackle homework assignments. Secondly, having a dedicated homework space for children will increase their ability to focus and concentrate. For instance, the kitchen table may be an appropriate homework space if effort is made to decrease distractions for the child. Similarly, in order to increase the frequency of homework completion, a quiet and calm environment may be beneficial in aiding in the child’s ability to attend to the assignments. In addition, positive reinforcement, in which parents routinely provide praise and encouragement for the child’s efforts, will help boost confidence and self-esteem, thereby increasing the child’s desire to continue working on assignments. For example,reward charts and checklists can be a helpful way to allow children to see the progress they have made during their homework time.
While structure, routine, and consistency are important factors in helping children increase their homework completion, it is important to remember that children may require breaks. Scheduling in 5-minute breaks after a pre-determined period of focused work (e.g., 20 minutes of working on homework and then a 5-minute break) is one way to increase children’s motivation to finish their assignments. Likewise, parent availability is also key if children have questions or need help in understanding or clarifying homework assignments and requirements. Consistent parental availability in the homework process is important because it expresses that parents are also interested and a part of their child’s day-to-day academic journey. Within the structure and routine of homework time, it is important for parents to remember that children and teens still need time to unwind from their day. Factoring in time for play, computer/television/phone time, and family activities after homework completion can help serve as a reward for hard work and effort. Furthermore, a scheduled bedtime and adherence to a bedtime routine will help aid in a child’s ability to maintain energy and focus for the next day.
Parents, remember, increasing structure, routine, positive reinforcement, availability, and rewards for children and teens’ efforts can minimize homework refusal, and perhaps even make the homework process enjoyable and fun for both children and parents!