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Tips for Kids to Remember to Turn in Their Homework

If your child isn't completing homework on time consistently, there are a number of possible reasons. Perhaps the homework load is too heavy. Another common reason kids don't turn in homework is because it lacks meaning. A child who's passionate about dinosaurs, for example, probably won't forget a special project on that topic; static worksheets, on the other hand, may have little appeal. Talk with your child's teacher about the problem. Perhaps you can collaborate to reduce the homework load or make the content more interesting. A few organizational tricks can help, as well.

Encourage Accountability

As a parent, it's natural to want your child to succeed. But one of the best gifts you can give your child is the gift of self-sufficiency. You should ask one simple question: "Do you have everything you need to be successful tomorrow?" suggests Julia Simens, author of Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child. Instead of nagging, ask this question every afternoon before your child goes out to play. Children learn the skills of planning and problem-solving, which will serve them well not only now, but in the future.

"Imagine the problem," says Simens, "when a parent has to remind the child about everything she needs to do: 'Do you have your math homework? Did you pack your PE gear? Do you have the reading book?' This approach is labor-intensive and places accountability on the parent's shoulders, rather than the child's.

Get Organized

Kids bring home a lot of paperwork, and the problem only gets worse as they get older. Teach kids from an early age to keep homework organized, advises Rhonda Franz, managing editor of Parenting Squad, a website for parents. Set up a to-go box by the back door. Keep all school-related papers in this box and check the box daily. No more scrambling for papers and books on the way to the school bus or wailing over lost homework assignments.

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Help kids organize this space, but encourage them to use it independently. "It's important that kids do this themselves," says Franz. "Don't grab the stuff for them, or put it away for them. Have them do it, so it's their habit, not Mom's or Dad's habit. This encourages self-sufficiency, responsibility, and ownership of their homework."

Break Down Tasks

Some kids have difficulty breaking homework into manageable chunks. Instead, they see only an overwhelming, insurmountable project. To help with this, show your child how to write down each assignment in a notebook or planner. Under each assignment, write the steps needed to complete it. Then note when the assignment is due, and think about how long the assignment will probably take. Map out a list of tasks to complete each night. For example, read the chapter on Monday, write a brief report on Tuesday, and so forth. Breaking assignments into small parts helps reduce anxiety.

While you're at it, teach your child to write a short checklist each day. "Even adults need those," says Franz. "Before walking out the door, your child should read through the list and make sure he has everything he needs. For very young children, use pictures along with the words."

Consistent Routine

The period after school is the witching time for most families. Kids (and parents) are hungry and tired. You're running a million different directions and trying to get everything done. In the rush, kids often forget to do their homework. Or, if they complete it, they may rush through it or forget to put it in their backpack.

Try to schedule a consistent time everyday to do homework, advises New York City elementary school teacher and adjunct professor in the graduate school of education at New York University, Otis Kriegel. Cut back on activities if necessary so kids have time to focus on studies. "If you set aside a sacred time to do homework, it won't be forgotten," says Kriegel.

Natural Consequences

Nobody's perfect, and even the most conscientious students sometimes forget to complete or turn in their homework. In these situations, avoid nagging and let natural and logical consequences play out. For example, if your child leaves his homework on the kitchen table, resist the urge to make a special trip to school to deliver it. If your child has to miss recess at school, express your sympathy, but encourage him to remember next time. For most kids, a slightly unpleasant consequence after the first infraction is usually enough to encourage responsibility in the future.

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