How to end homework battles
Every week. The begging, nagging and outright threatening required to get your child to sit down and complete homework at the last possible minute.
It makes them unhappy, it makes you unhappy and the end result is often hardly worth the effort.
Take a breath and a step back.
There might be another way.
You can pick up your FREE homework coaching script at the end of the page!
First let’s consider the situation as your approach will vary with the age of your child.
Younger children are more likely to need support to focus, the bonus being that at least the homework tends to be of a more manageable level.
Honestly, until your child is around at least 6 or 7 they will need a lot of support and reminders. This is simply because young children haven’t fully developed the cognitive capacity for planning ahead.
Your plan will also depend on the personality or temperament of your child. Some children are natural organisers or engage easily with school, others not so much. Consider the individual quirks of your child when you put a plan in place.
Older children might need some support to start taking responsibility for this themselves and this may come in the form of practice. And practice means learning how to fail.
Here at Mellownest we talk a lot about resilience.
Resilience is defined as the ‘capacity to recover quickly from difficulties’.
It's easy to see that the ability to bounce back from setbacks could be a valuable asset throughout your child's life.
We all want our children to thrive.
We also know there'll be times that our children will face struggles and challenges without us being there to help.
Our role isn’t to rescue but to support them to develop these coping skills for themselves.
Developing resilience doesn’t mean never being sad, frustrated, angry or disappointed. It means the exact opposite.
To develop resilience, we have to allow our children to feel these uncomfortable feelings and still know on a fundamental level that they are okay.
That might mean not rushing to fix things for your child as soon as they get tricky.
It might mean managing your own uncomfortable feelings when your child is angry rather than responding with anger yourself. Some of this stuff isn't easy and means taking a more mindful approach to our parenting.
Okay so we're on the same page with resilience but what has all of this got to do with homework?
To begin to develop resilience and responsibility your child needs the opportunity to have struggles.
Homework is a struggle.
Often as parents we step in to rescue our children in this situation.
- Perhaps because we don’t like to see them finding things hard.
- Because we want to prevent them feeling a sense of embarrassment or save them from an unpleasent consequence.
- Maybe because we don’t want our children’s teachers thinking that we’re ‘those parents’.
- More likely it's because our own sense of responsibility as a parent means that we want to support our child and we value their education.
To develop resilience we have to shift our role from captain to coach.
Our job is not to do it for our children but to coach them to develop the skills they need.
And here’s the big takeaway message – you don’t have to fix it!
Realising this is like taking a load off your shoulders. It's possible to be empathetic and present without offering your child an easy way out or rescuing them. This approach actually shows them that you trust them to figure it out themselves or that they can get through it with your support.
So let’s get down to business.
The homework plan
Have the conversation - let your child know that there is going to be a change in the homework approach. Acknowledge that it hasn’t been fun for them or you the way that you’ve been doing it at the moment.
Tell your child that you will plan two slots in the week when you’ll be available to sit alongside them while they do their homework.
Ask your child for input on these times (whilst keeping it practical) – before or after dinner? Weekends or weeknights?
Make it as appealing as possible – tell them where you’ll sit, that you’ll have a couple of snacks or a drink and if possible guarantee that this time will be uninterrupted by siblings or anything else.
Explain that if they refuse to come and do the homework at that time, you won’t be able to help at another time.
Put plan in place!
If your child refuses to come at the agreed time just let them know that you’ll be sat there for as long as agreed in case they change their mind (have some of your own tasks to do while you wait).
Try not to get too annoyed or nag as those are the feelings and behaviours that you're trying to move away from. Remember this is about handing over some control and helping your child to develop their own sense of agency. Breathe and continue to step 3.
Now the hard part – follow through.
If your child doesn’t do their homework, take a deep breath and let them feel the consequences in school. (If you feel this is going to be a real issue talk to your child’s school beforehand and explain why you’re doing it).
Hold your nerve.
You might have to keep this up for a couple of weeks to help your child learn about this new way of doing things.
If they do get in trouble in school, be empathetic rather than judgemental and use this as an opportunity to focus on your relationship and offer the support again.
Use your judgement and be a little flexible on the plan. If your child is really tired or having a terrible day it might be smart to agree to move your appointment to later or the next day.
Becoming a coach not a captain applies in to many areas of parenting.
You can’t MAKE your child eat, sleep or play nice. But you CAN provide the right conditions, helpful modelling and support for when things don’t go so well.
Coaching your children is huge gift – it lets them know that you have confidence in their ability to make choices and allows them to experience failure in a manageable and safe way. These are the skills our kids will need going out in to the big wide world without us.
So, step back, coach and connect.
(And abandon the homework drama!)
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