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How to Motivate Kids to Do Homework

You know how important your child's grades are to his future college and career success, but teenagers tend to live in the here and now. That boring geometry assignment has little meaning or purpose. Avoid bribing or rewarding your teen for completing his homework. Instead, focus on the reasons for failure and work with your teen to find solutions. This process not only improves your relationship, but teaches your child important life skills.

Identify Challenges

One of the main reasons kids don't do homework, notes John Andrew Williams, a teacher and founder of Academic Life Coaching, an academic coaching and tutoring service for teens in Portland, Oregon, is because they fear failure. Teens are creatures of habit. They tend to like what they understand and avoid work that is confusing or hard.

Discuss homework challenges and work with your child to find solutions. For example, if your child is struggling in math, offer some help yourself or arrange for additional tutoring from someone else. Emphasize that grades aren't a reflection of your child's intelligence or worth, but evidence of her understanding and ability to complete assignments. When something's confusing or hard, teach your child to persevere and seek out solutions.

"When parents talk with their teen about the fear of failure and the ability to push through confusion, they’re on the right path," says Williams.

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Raise the Bar

On the other hand, sometimes a teen's resistance to homework occurs because the homework is too easy, notes Williams: "When good grades are coming easily for a student, the homework can become mindless, and they are less likely to enjoy learning about a subject."

If you suspect your child is simply bored, talk with teachers about offering more challenging material. Sign up for AP or college courses to spark your child's interest in learning again.

Make It Meaningful

Young children are naturally curious and eager to learn. Unfortunately, due to an inordinate focus on grades, many teens have lost this intrinsic motivation. They find learning dry and dull and may not see the value of homework.

"Finding a student's intrinsic motivation is one of the keys to helping students be proactive and excited about their accomplishments in life," says Williams. Encourage teachers to allow some choice in selecting homework assignments when possible. If your teen's fascinated with engines or robotics, let him take classes in these subjects. Talk with him about how people use math, science or writing skills in their careers and daily life so your teen understands their relevance. He might be surprised to learn the importance of physics in amusement park ride development.

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Maintain Balance

The social pressure of high school is intense, and many kids falter academically because they're spending time and energy trying to fit in, says Dr. Michael Provitera, Ph.D., a young adult motivational expert and author of "Mastering Self Motivation" from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

He suggests parents help a struggling child focus on natural interests and gifts rather than trying to conform to a social norm such as being a cheerleader or jock. Teens often need help in managing priorities and time. Limit sports, parties and extracurricular activities to maintain a healthy balance between academics and other interests. Know who your teen's friends are and encourage her to choose friends wisely. A child running with the partying crowd is almost certain to slide academically.

Harness Technology

Many kids these days just can't get excited about opening a big textbook and working with a pen and paper, but they do respond very well to technology, notes Scott Wilson, a teacher and Chief Executive Manager of Tutor Tango, an online tutoring service in Brooklyn, New York.

"If you constantly nag your child to get off Facebook or power-down the video game and hit the books, try meeting him half-way by encouraging the use of technology for educational purposes," recommends Wilson. Let them do reading assignments on a tablet and incorporate educational websites or online tutoring services into their homework routine.

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