motivation

Five Fun Ways to Get Your Child to Do Homework

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(Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

It’s that time of year again. School has started and weekly homework struggles have begun. This struggle is not just difficult for the little ones in our lives. It’s also a challenge for us parents to motivate our kids to do their homework. As a parent who has struggled to get through homework with my little one, I have realized how much patience and persistence are necessary to overcome homework resistance. Through this experience and research, I have discovered five simple strategies to make homework more manageable, creative and fun.

1. Set a time

Instead of planning for homework to be done right after school, give your child some time to settle down after a full day. Homework time should be about an hour long and can be a time for everyone in the family to complete their “homework” together. Parents can also choose to work on something at this time and everyone can do their homework together in a common area, such as at the dining room table. If you are working on something at the same time, you are modeling appropriate work ethic and are also more available to help with any questions your child may have about their homework. If a full hour is too long for your child to complete their homework, and it will be for younger children, break the time up into shorter periods. Have your child work on their homework for 10 minutes and take a 5 to 10-minute break. Then repeat this a couple more times until you are through the assignment. Your child will let you know when they have reached their limit, so try to work with them to figure out a timeframe that best suits their abilities.

2. Give out rewards 

I am a believer in using a token economy to get through an assignment and there are several ways you can do this. Sticker charts can be modified to fit each assignment. Parents may choose to use a basic chart in which the child receives a sticker for every question they answer. I have included an example of a basic sticker chart, labeled as Handout 1. Make sure to have stickers that interest your child, so that they are interested in earning the stickers!

Download Handout 1

3. Play a game

You can turn the sticker chart into a fun activity or game to help motivate your child to get through the assignment. For example, in Handout 2, I created a “slide” that I broke up into components, each representing a question that needs to be answered. As the parent, I would explain that the boy wants to go down the waterslide, but he needs water on the slide to reach the pool at the end. The child will color a box every time they answer a question until the boy reaches the pool. This tool can be modified and should be adjusted to match your child’s interests. You can include favorite cartoon charters and a familiar story they enjoy to engage them more in the activity.

Download Handout 2

4. Be mindful

Be aware of when you’ve both reached your limit and need a break from homework. If there’s too much stress involved, your child could begin to associate homework with stress, which is the opposite of what we want. As professor of psychiatry and author Daniel Siegel says, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” When homework is paired with stress, homework begins to be viewed as a stressful and unpleasant activity. The goal is for homework a be part of your child’s routine. Adding an element of fun can help decrease their stress and dread when sitting down to complete homework. Be a calm presence during homework time since you are an example for them on how to handle stress and frustration.

5. Stay creative

Be open to your child’s suggestions on what would motivate them to complete an assignment. My son was able to help me improve the “waterslide” handout by adding coloring to the activity, which made the activity more fun for him. Try to be open to modifying the process over time. These strategies may not work forever so you will need to be prepared to have another strategy lined up when one stops working.


References

Barish, K. (2012 September 5). Battles over homework: advice for parents. Psychology
Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pride-and-joy/201209/battles-over-homework-advice-parents

[Boy on a water slide]. Retrieved September 1, 2019, from:
https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-boy-water-slide-little-slides-down-waterpark-image39798538

[In Ground Swimming Pool]. Retrieved September 1, 2019, from:
https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/ground-swimming-pool-271444649

Siegel, D. J. and Bryson, T. P. (2014 August 20). No Drama Discipline. New York: Bantam Books.

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Five Ways to Get Motivated

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(Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

Like many people these days, I can feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be completed on my “to-do list.” I have multiple lists of things I would like to accomplish in the long-term and the short-term. Sometimes the biggest hurdle is finding the motivation to accomplish all these goals. There are many things that may block our ability to find motivation such as anxiety or depression or just feeling overwhelmed by all of the work that will need to go into accomplishing a task.

There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. With intrinsic motivation, individuals find motivation within themselves to accomplish a goal or task. Extrinsic motivation occurs when people are motivated by factors outside of themselves, through things such as rewards and punishments. Many of us are able to access our intrinsic motivation when we are accomplishing tasks that are part of a goal we have set for ourselves, but sometimes it can be useful to use extrinsic motivation to get us through a task.

Here are five ways to find the extrinsic motivation to complete a task even when you’re feeling less driven.

1. Give yourself a reward after you complete a task can be useful in these moments. It can help us find ways to get through an undesired task and be more motivated to finish it.

2. Break a large goal into smaller goals. When a person is starting to work toward a goal, it may seem overwhelming because there are so many components in completing the goal. When we break a goal into smaller goals, we are able to only focus our attention on one thing at a time, which can also allow us to feel less overwhelmed. This can also reduce any anxiety we may have about working on a task to completion.

3. Structure tasks so that you are performing the least desired tasks first and most desired tasks last In doing this, you are getting the tasks you are dreading most out of the way and using the desired task as a way to motivate you. You may like one of the tasks, so you are motivated to finish the other task in order to be given the chance to work on the desired task. In a way, you are using one of your tasks as a reward while still accomplishing all the goals on your to-do list.

4. Notice things that are blocking your ability to accomplish a task, such as depression or anxiety. If you are highly anxious or depressed at the moment you are trying to work on a task, you may not have access to the tools in your brain that will help you accomplish that task at the moment. Anxiety and depression can shut down areas of the brain that allow us to complete the task, therefore making it even more difficult to accomplish our goals.

5. Practice mindfulness exercises, such as focusing on your breath to regain some control over these thoughts and feelings. You may also want to increase the number of breaks between tasks in order to give yourself moments to calm down. Once you are feeling calmer, try to approach the task again.

Incorporating these ideas into your life can make your ability to access motivation stronger and easier over time. Try to use these strategies regularly to further grow this skill.


References

Meier, J. D. (March 9, 2016). These Are the 7 Habits of Highly Motivated People. Retrieved
from http://time.com/4245079/motivation-habit/

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How to Have a Strong Resolve for the New Year

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(Happy New Year!)

By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

New Year’s resolutions, depending on who you ask, are something we look forward to or completely dread. One would reason change is a good thing – especially it is a self-guided betterment of oneself. Among the most popular choices are weight loss, exercise, money management, and quitting smoking (Proactive Change). All of these resolutions are good choices; that’s the first part. If only 46% make it past six months alone, where did we go wrong (Proactive Change)?

First, a good start would be to look at what a habit is. According to Professor Clayton R. Cook, Ph.D., habits are “behaviors that are provoked somewhat automatically in response to cues embedded in the environment” (Cho). Examples of such behaviors are brushing your teeth after getting up in the morning. Brushing your teeth is the behavior and getting up is the environmental queue. So, to form a habit, one must replace a behavior with another. Instead of grabbing a bag of chips when you are hungry, instead, you can grab an apple or a more healthy option. What this does is create another behavior to compete with your pre-existing one; realizing you are hungry signals that cue to grab chips, but it will also cue you to grab an apple (Cho). Then, once you grab enough apples (or another healthy option before you get sick of apples completely), it will become a routine. At this point, it does not require any further thought, for it is embedded in your brain. Establishing healthy habits is all about repetition.

Additionally, relapse is a part of making resolutions. The pitfall for many is not being discouraged by this. Only when you overcome relapse and stick with your habit can you can safely say you have made progress. Always keep in mind that slow progress is still progress. You do not have to reach a set goal within a week, but knowing you are inching closer and closer by the day is enough of a motivator to keep on track. Even so, goals can be the undoing of countless resolutions. Visualizing great success far down the line can especially hurt once you reach said point down the line. Maybe you wanted to lose 30 pounds by June, but only lost 20? You should be proud! Look how far you’ve come. If you can make an ounce of progress and stick with it, props to you. That is more than 54% of adults can say by June. For many, things as simple as riding a bike at least four times a week or maintaining a weekly spending limit can do wonders. Concrete guidelines ensure you are maintaining some semblance of progress, even at your lowest motivation.

Imagine how much better you will feel after following through with resolutions, regardless of immense or slight progress. Sticking with a habit and keeping a mindset of bettering oneself can make you feel so much better than you could without it. Better yet, imagine how delicious that slice of chocolate cake will feel when you know you have earned it. Habits can make or break us all – which side do you want to be on?


References

“Statistics: Top New Year’s Resolutions & How to Keep Them.” Stages of Grief & Loss: Grief Cycle & Grieving Process, Proactive Change, proactivechange.com/resolutions/statistics.htm.

Cho, Jeena. “The Science Behind Making New Year’s Resolutions That You’ll Keep.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 28 Dec. 2016, www.forbes.com/sites/jeenacho/2016/12/26/the-science-behind-making-new-years-resolutions-that-youll-keep/#3914f2287491.

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