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Motivation Tools to Get Kids to Do Their Homework

Homework comes under intense scrutiny and debate. Some parents agree with it, and some don’t. But the fact is, most kids have it almost every night. Educators assign homework to teach responsibility, work habits, time management and organization. Children practice skills they’ve learned in class. Some children are intrinsically motivated: They complete assignments independently, self-check and correct them, stick with homework until it’s done and hand it in on time. However, your child might fall into a more common category – kids who'd rather do anything than homework. If homework time at your house resembles a battleground, it’s time to put some motivational tools in place.

Enticing Work Area

“Plan ahead so your child won’t give up when he doesn’t have the correct tools,” recommends Kiley Beyer, English instructor at Miami Valley Career Technology Center in Clayton, Ohio. If your child is doing a math assignment, and he doesn’t have a ruler at hand to complete it, he might choose to do a sloppy job or even skip the math problems that require a ruler. Set your child’s study space up like an office. Have essential supplies close at hand, such as a stapler, paper, pencils, erasers, a calculator, art supplies and a calendar. Involve him in the setup process. Teachers often send a supply list home at the beginning of the year. Take that list to the store when you shop for supplies.

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Limited Distractions

Remember how annoyed you were when your little ones talked and laughed so loudly that you had to end your phone call? Put yourself in your young student’s shoes. She might set out to attack her homework head on, but background noise, such as the television, stereo or animated conversations, derail her efforts. It’s particularly tough to concentrate when it’s a difficult assignment. Consider incorporating a nightly “brain hour” for the family, suggests Beyer. All electronics are off. Even Mom and Dad read, work on the family budget or do crossword puzzles — any activity that uses the mind. Your child will have an easier time focusing on homework if the entire family is involved in the plan.

Routine Schedule

Children are less resistant to homework when they know what to expect. Establish a nightly routine and stick to it. Involve your child in the process. Maybe he works best immediately after school, or perhaps he needs some wind-down time. Plan a schedule that allows for free time and social engagements. He’ll be motivated to cooperate if he’s had some choice in the homework time slot.

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Initial Push

“When a child looks at her math, English, social studies and science homework, she might feel overwhelmed and want to give up before she gets started,” warns Beyer. Sit with her at the onset of homework time. Discuss the assignments and ask her to explain what she has to do and how she plans to tackle it. When you talk her through the process, you reduce her anxiety. Don’t hover — just act as a guide. Ask questions. She won’t feel a sense of accomplishment if you take over or do the work for her.

Praise

Tangible rewards work as motivators initially, but the goal should be to transition away from them. Positive talk goes a long way toward building self-esteem. Motivate your child: Mention that you’re impressed with his efforts and the way he completed his homework independently every night this week. Give him immediate and powerful accolades. Don’t criticize or punish him when he’s frustrated with homework, because that backfires. Speak calmly and help him find solutions to his problems.

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"Pride is a powerful motivator. Even though she might resist, require your child to redo assignments when they are incomplete or sloppy," suggests Beyer. She will realize a sense of accomplishment when she receives a high grade or positive feedback from her teacher. If she knows her best effort is expected, it soon becomes second nature and part of her work ethic.

Teacher Involvement

It’s possible that the workload does not match your child’s ability level. If he takes a very long time to complete homework or frequently becomes extremely frustrated and confused, talk to his teacher. She might suggest modifications or provide after-school help or assistance tools. If he does a lesser amount of problems and experiences success, it will encourage him, and he’ll be more inclined to complete the work.

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