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!
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.
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.
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:
[In Ground Swimming Pool]. Retrieved September 1, 2019, from:
Siegel, D. J. and Bryson, T. P. (2014 August 20). No Drama Discipline. New York: Bantam Books.