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.