When It Isn't Negotiable and How to Get Their Homework Done!
The Procrastination Problem

When It Isn’t Negotiable and How to Get Their Homework Done!

 

We offer our kids choices after choices to give them a sense of autonomy and to make the day run a bit smoother.

Do you want to wear a white shirt or the blue shirt?

Do you want to color or play with the blocks?

Do you want carrots or peas with dinner?

Do you want to do Spanish or German lessons after school?

Do you want to practice the guitar for 30 minutes and then do homework or do you want to start your homework first?

Do you want to start with your history reading or your math homework?

But there is one thing that is not negotiable: Homework must get done.

Despite this being “non-negotiable,” homework often does not actually get done.

Instead, our kids procrastinate. They play video games or Snapchat with their friends. When we ask them (or maybe even yell at them) to do homework, we hear “5 more minutes!” in response. By the time kids actually sit down in front of their schoolwork, they do not know where to start, or it is so late that, even though they had enough time to finish their work, they no longer do. This routine, left untreated, can continue for what seems like an eternity and can also escalate into serious arguments between you and your child.

What is a parent to do?

Talk with your child. 

“Jack, I have noticed that recently you have had a difficult time completing your homework. I know that you are capable of doing your homework. I have noticed that you start your homework so late that you do not have enough time to finish. Then when you turn in your homework, it is not your best work, and you do not get the grade you deserve. I imagine that is very frustrating. What do you think?”

Once your child agrees that you have an accurate understanding of the situation, move on to brainstorming.

“So what do you think we can change about our current system to make it easier for you to get your homework started earlier in the evening?”

Wait for his ideas. Try to figure out how at least one of them could work.

Jack says, “I do not have enough free time after school. I’m always working! I need more playtime.”

So perhaps you say, “Okay. Typically you have one hour of free time after school before you start doing your homework. How about we change that to an hour and a half hours of free time? We can try it for one week. However, if homework is not done, then we will try one of my ideas.” (If he actually starts homework after an hour and a half, then he will actually be starting earlier than he has every other day!)

Have some of your own ideas ready to suggest now, but only try them out next week if the homework situation stays the same. 

If the homework situation improves but is not completely perfect, adjust the new routine. Ask for their input. Try to make that work first. Then you can offer up some of your own ideas. Perhaps they need a snack after free time as part of the transition back to school mode. Have them work in the kitchen so that after their snack, they are already in their study space. Let them come up with solutions and give their choices when it comes to the means, but the end is always the same: homework gets done.

Okay – somehow you got your kid to start doing their homework. That’s amazing. How do you now help them maintain their focus on their homework?
Study Tips, The Happy Student Podcast

The Happy Student Podcast #80: Now That I Have Your Attention

Okay – somehow you got your kid to start doing their homework. That’s amazing. How do you now help them maintain their focus on their homework? Fireborn has 8 tips to help your children sustain their attention. Talk with your kids about which strategies they want to try when school starts. That way, when they start their homework, they can keep working, finish their assignments, and start the school year off right!

Okay – somehow you got your kid to start doing their homework. That’s amazing. How do you now help them maintain their focus on their homework?

CHECK OUT THE EPISODE BELOW:

[smart_podcast_player]

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT…

  • We often get distracted more easily from our work when it’s something we are afraid of.
    • If you just say, “I’m just going to read through the assignment and then I’m going to take a break. I’m not actually going to try to do any of the work.” That’s a lot less scary and it’s much easier to read the instructions. The benefit of this is that while you are not stressing about it, your brain is subconsciously thinking about how to tackle the problem. So that when it is time to start working on it, your brain has a head start and you probably already have a few ideas of what to do. This means that instead of starting work and immediately getting distracted, you have a place to start, which will reduce the chances of getting so easily drawn off course.
  • Set a timer – say for 20 or 30 minutes.
    • For that period of time, you promise yourself to do the work. Having a set time like that can be quite motivating.
  • Incorporate music instead of just a timer.
    • So I like to have 20, 30, and 1-hour long classical music playlists for when I’m doing work. I choose which playlist I’m going to use, so I know how long I’m going to focus for. The music playing is a cue that triggers me to start working.
  • Keep in mind that breaks are really helpful.
    • It’s impossible for anyone to maintain their focus all evening without breaks. In fact, neuropsychologists suggest taking a brain break after each hour of intense work. Planned breaks help motivate us to keep focused for the time we set aside for working.
  • Do difficult stuff first – or do the easy stuff first.
    • Help your child figure out which style they prefer so that they plan to do their work in that order going forward.
      • Some people like to do the difficult stuff first so that it’s not weighing on their mind. If they start with the easy stuff, they get distracted because all they think about is their anxiety about the hard stuff.
      • Other people like to start with the easy stuff so that they can check things off their list quickly and feel like they’ve accomplished something. They can then start the hard stuff and have a better attitude about it because they already feel good about themselves.
    • Break large projects down into manageable action items.
      • If you are working on writing a research paper, it’s not a great idea to just sit down and say, “Okay, now I’m going to write this whole thing.” It’s much more manageable mentally if you say, “Okay, what do I need to do to get this paper written? I need to think about what my thesis is. I need to do some research and find some quotes and evidence to back up my claim” and so on.
    • Reward yourself!
      • Breaks are one type of reward, but they’re not the only reward. Make sure that you reward yourself after you get something major accomplished. That will help you get to work and maintain focus next time, knowing that you get something special at the end.
    • If you are stuck on something, it’s okay to move on to a different subject.
      • It’s okay to give your brain a break from something that is hard for you even if you are in the middle of your work session because you’re not actually accomplishing anything just sitting there staring at your paper worrying that you aren’t getting anything done. So instead of doing that, just move on to a different subject for a bit and come back to the hard stuff later. That mental break can be really helpful because subconsciously your brain is still thinking about it, making it easier to return to later.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

homework advice for parents
Elementary School, High School, Middle School, School Advice, The Happy Student Podcast

Episode #55: How to Not Be a Homework Nag

So often helping kids with homework feels more like nagging them to just sit down and do their homework. That stinks. It’s really no fun for parents or kids. So how do you shift from being the homework nag to your kid’s homework coach? Fireborn’s got 6 tips for you on how to stop being a homework nag so that homework becomes, dare we say it, potentially a pleasant, collaborative, relationship-building opportunity instead of an all out fight!

 

CHECK OUT THE EPISODE BELOW: 

[smart_podcast_player]

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT…

How do you shift from being the homework nag to your kid’s homework coach?

  1. Preview the work with your kid and then take a break.
  • Do something fun on the break.
  • There is no pressure during this break.
  • While they are having a break doing other stuff, their brain is thinking about how to solve those problems.
  • By the time they start homework, they actually have some ideas on how to approach the tough questions.
  1. Establish a study time habit.
  • Have a specific spot (that your child chooses) to do homework.
  • Have a routine to start the work.
    • Examples: Eat a snack, put on classical music, or exercise.
  • Try to start at the same time every day.
  1. Ask your child to just do short bursts of homework.
  • It is less intimidating to do 10 minutes of work than to do all of the work for a subject.
  • Sometimes just getting started is the hardest part and once your child has started, he can decide that he wants to keep reading.
  1. Make sure your child gets breaks.
  • Powering through is not actually a thing. And it’s really bad for your brain.
  1. Help your child develop intrinsic motivation to do homework.
  • There are three parts to internal motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
    • Autonomy – the desire to be in charge.
      • To give them autonomy with homework, you can try letting them choose:
        • What time or place they do their homework.
        • The order in which they decide to do their homework.
        • What music they listen to.
    • Mastery – the desire to do things that we are good at and that we want to get better at.
      • To give them mastery with homework:
        • Make sure to celebrate the small wins.
        • Give your child as many opportunities to get better at stuff that they like, both with homework and extracurricular activities.
    • Purpose – the desire to do things that matter.
      • To help them with purpose for their homework:
        • Have your child set personal academic goals and plans for the year.
          • These goals should explain how and when the child will accomplish these goals. The more specific the goal and the plan, the better.
  1. Assume good will.
  • Taking a breath and remembering your child wants to do right by you will help adjust your mindset so you can respond more effectively when your child is avoiding studying for that exam.

By doing these things, instead of nagging your child, you’re actually teaching her strategies for how to study when you aren’t there to nag her.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode and how you handle homework issues with your children?

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Homework Help
Difficult Topics, Motivating the Unmotivated, Study Tips

The Unknown Victims of Homework “Help”

One of my favorite education writers, Jessica Lahey, wrote about the disservice parents do to their children when they basically do their child’s homework for them (2015). Obviously parents have good intentions, as Jessica explains, “We’ve all been there, usually around 11 on the night before a child’s project is due, reluctantly stepping over the line between helping and taking over. It starts out innocently enough, as, “Here, let me help you cut those last pieces out so you can get to bed,” and quickly snowballs into a lie, a Ph.D. dissertation in third-grade handwriting” (2015).

When the child goes to school the next day presenting his parent’s work, he knows it is not his work and the lesson he has learned is that he is not capable of doing the work. Meanwhile, Jessica explains, the child, whose parent did not intervene despite knowing how subpar the project is, has to live uncomfortably with his project for a few hours knowing he did not do his best work. But then, it is over. And the next time he has a big project, he works much harder on it to avoid that painful experience. Therefore, parents, in an attempt to save their child from embarrassment, are actually hurting their child’s self-esteem and their child’s motivation to do better on his own next time.

That is a big deal and a good point. No parent helps their child with the hopes of hurting his self-esteem and drive.

What is missing from this conversation is the other victims of too much parental involvement in homework: the children who did their projects by themselves and deserve an “A”, but who see the projects with parent “help” and do not know that such help has been given. Those children are left thinking that their excellent work is actually subpar and can be discouraged. How can they ever live up to that impossible standard?

And what can teachers do?

Well, teachers can give the deserving students an A. However, those students are smart and have seen the other projects. They know the other children did better. So, even though they got an A, they still think it was not as good as it could or should have been. Their project is still lacking.

Teachers can also, as Lahey puts it, “assess children’s work for what it is — the work of children” so that parents do not feel compelled to improve their children’s work.

And what can parents do?

Try to focus on the long-term goals (internally motivated children with an understanding that they are capable) and suffer through the short-term anguish you feel sending your child to school with a project you know will make him feel uncomfortable.

Both parents and teachers need to recognize, prioritize, and value the long-term goals while understanding the repercussions for all students when parents “help”.

It’s hard, but your children (and the children of other parents) need you to be strong.


Lahey, J. (2015). When a child’s project shows a parental hand at work. The New York Times.