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The Homework Battle: How to Get Children to Do Homework
By debbie pincus, ms lmhc.
Parents often feel it’s their job to get their kids to do well in school. Naturally, you might get anxious about this responsibility as a parent. You might also get nervous about your kids succeeding in life—and homework often becomes the focus of that concern.
But when parents feel it’s their responsibility to get their kids to achieve, they now need something from their children—they need them to do their homework and be a success. I believe this need puts you in a powerless position as a parent because your child doesn’t have to give you what you want.
The battle about homework becomes a battle over control. Your child starts fighting to have more control over the choices in their life, while you feel that your job as a parent is to be in control of things. So you both fight harder, and it turns into a war in your home.
Over the years, I’ve talked to many parents who are in the trenches with their kids, and I’ve seen firsthand that there are many creative ways kids rebel when it comes to schoolwork. Your child might forget to do their homework, do their homework but not hand it in, do it sloppily or carelessly, or not study properly for their test. These are just a few ways that kids try to hold onto the little control they have.
When this starts happening, parents feel more and more out of control, so they punish, nag, threaten, and argue. Some parents stop trying altogether to get their children to do homework. Or, and this is common, parents will over-function for their kids by doing the work for them.
Now the battle is in full swing: reactivity is heightened as anxiety is elevated—and homework gets lost in the shuffle. The hard truth for parents is that you cannot make your children do anything, let alone homework. But what you can do is to set limits, respect their individual choices, and help motivate them to motivate themselves.
You might be thinking to yourself, “You don’t know my child. I can’t motivate him to do anything.” Many parents tell me that their children are not motivated to do their work. I believe that children are motivated—they just may not be motivated the way you’d like them to be. Keep reading for some concrete tips to help you guide them in their work without having to nag, threaten, or fight with them.
Also, keep in mind that if you carry more of the worry, fear, disappointments, and concern than your child does about their work, ask yourself, “What’s wrong with this picture, and how did this happen?” Remember, as long as you carry their concerns, they don’t have to.
Stop the Nightly Fights
The way you can stop fighting with your kids over homework every night is to stop fighting with them tonight. Disengage from the dance. Choose some different steps or decide not to dance at all. Let homework stay where it belongs—between the teacher and the student. Stay focused on your job, which is to help your child do their job. Don’t do it for them.
If you feel frustrated, take a break from helping your child with homework. Your blood pressure on the rise is a no-win for everyone. Take five or ten minutes to calm down, and let your child do the same if you feel a storm brewing.
Create Structure Around Homework Time
Set limits around homework time. Here are a few possibilities that I’ve found to be effective with families:
- Homework is done at the same time each night.
- Homework is done in a public area of your house.
- If grades are failing or falling, take away screen time so your child can focus and have more time to concentrate on their work.
- Make it the rule that weekend activities don’t happen until work is completed. Homework comes first. As James Lehman says, “The weekend doesn’t begin until homework is done.”
Let Your Child Make Their Own Choices
I recommend that your child be free to make their own choices within the parameters you set around schoolwork. You need to back off a bit as a parent. Otherwise, you won’t be helping them with their responsibilities.
If you take too much control over the situation, it will backfire on you by turning into a power struggle. And believe me, you don’t want a power struggle over homework. I’ve seen many kids purposely do poorly just to show their parents who’s in charge. I’ve also seen children who complied to ease their parents’ anxiety, but these same kids never learned to think and make choices for themselves.
Let Your Child Own the Consequences of Their Choices
I’m a big believer in natural consequences when it comes to schoolwork. Within the structure you set up, your child has some choices. They can choose to do their homework or not. And they can choose to do it well and with effort or not. The natural consequences will come from their choices—if they don’t choose to do their work, their grades will drop.
When that happens, you can ask them some honest questions:
“Are you satisfied with how things are going?”
“What do you want to do about your grade situation?”
“How can I be helpful to you?”
Be careful not to be snarky or judgmental. Just ask the question honestly. Show honest concern and try not to show disappointment.
Intervene Without Taking Control
The expectation is that homework is done to the best of your child’s ability. When they stop making an effort, and you see their grades drop, that’s when you invite yourself in. You can say:
“It’s my job to help you do your job better. I’m going to help you set up a plan to help yourself, and I will check in to make sure you’re following it.”
Set up a plan with your child’s input to get them back on their feet. For example, the new rules might be that homework must be done in a public place in your home until they get their grades back up. You and your child might meet with the teacher to discuss disciplinary actions should their grades continue to drop.
In other words, you will help your child get back on track by putting a concrete plan in place. And when you see this change, you can step back out of it. But before that, your child is going to sit in a public space and you’re going to monitor their work.
You’re also checking in more. Depending on your child’s age, you’re making sure that things are checked off before they go out. You’re adding a half-hour of review time for their subjects every day. And then, each day after school, they’re checking with their teacher or going for some extra help.
Remember, this plan is not a punishment—it’s a practical way of helping your child to do their best.
“I Don’t Care about Bad Grades!”
Many parents will say that their kids just don’t care about their grades. My guess is that somewhere inside, they do care. “I don’t care” also becomes part of a power struggle.
In other words, your child is saying, “I’m not going to care because you can’t make me. You don’t own my life.” And they’re right. The truth is, you can’t make them care. Instead, focus on what helps their behavior improve. And focus more on their actions and less on their attitude because it’s the actions that matter the most.
Motivation Comes From Ownership
It’s important to understand that caring and motivation come from ownership. You can help your child be motivated by allowing them to own their life more.
So let them own their disappointment over their grades. Don’t feel it more than they do. Let them choose what they will do or not do about their homework and face the consequences of those choices. Now they will begin to feel ownership, which may lead to caring.
Let them figure out what motivates them, not have them motivated by fear of you. Help guide them, but don’t prevent them from feeling the real-life consequences of bad choices. Think of it this way: it’s better for your child to learn from those consequences at age ten by failing their grade and having to go to summer school than for them to learn at age 25 by losing their job.
When Your Child Has a Learning Disability
I want to note that it’s very important that you check to see that there are no other learning issues around your child’s refusal to do homework. If they’re having difficulty doing the work or are performing below grade-level expectations, they should be tested to rule out any learning disabilities or other concerns.
If there is a learning disability, your child may need more help. For example, some kids need a little more guidance; you may need to sit near your child and help a little more. You can still put structures into place depending on who your child is.
But be careful. Many times, kids with learning disabilities get way too much help and develop what psychologists call learned helplessness . Be sure you’re not over-functioning for your learning disabled child by doing their work for them or filling in answers when they’re capable of thinking through them themselves.
The Difference Between Guidance and Over-Functioning
Your child needs guidance from you, but understand that guidance does not mean doing their spelling homework for them. Rather, it’s helping them review their words. When you cross the line into over-functioning, you take on your child’s work and put their responsibilities on your shoulders. So you want to guide them by helping them edit their book report themselves or helping them take the time to review before a test. Those can be good ways of guiding your child, but anything more than that is taking too much ownership of their work.
If your child asks for help, you can coach them. Suggest that they speak with their teacher on how to be a good student and teach them those communication skills. In other words, show them how to help themselves. So you should not back off altogether—it’s that middle ground that you’re looking for. That’s why I think it’s essential to set up a structure. And within that structure, you expect your child to do what they have to do to be a good student.
Focus on Your Own Goals
When you start over-focusing on your child’s work, pause and think about your own goals and what do you need to get done to achieve those goals. Model your own persistence and perseverance to your child.
Believe In Your Child
I also tell parents to start believing in their children. Don’t keep looking at your child as a fragile creature who can’t do the work. I think we often come to the table with fear and doubt—we think if we don’t help our kids, they’re just not going to do it.
But as much as you say, “I’m just trying to help you,” what your child hears is, “You’re a failure; I don’t believe you can do it on your own.”
Instead, your message should be, “I know you can do it. And I believe in you enough to let you make your own choices and deal with the consequences.”
Related content: What Can I Do When My Child Refuses to Go to School? “My Child Refuses to Do Homework” — How to Stop the Nightly Struggle Over Schoolwork
For more information on the concept of learned helplessness in psychology and behavior, we recommend the following articles:
Psychology Today: Learned Helplessness
VeryWell Mind: What Is Learned Helplessness and Why Does it Happen?
About Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC
For more than 25 years, Debbie has offered compassionate and effective therapy and coaching, helping individuals, couples and parents to heal themselves and their relationships. Debbie is the creator of the Calm Parent AM & PM™ program and is also the author of numerous books for young people on interpersonal relations.
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Frank My daughter Nina just turned 8 (Feb 11). She does not like to do homework one bit. Her teacher gives her homework every day except Friday. She loves Fridays because she doesn't like homework. She always hides her homework under her bed, refuses to do her homework, and in the More morning she tells her teacher "I lost it last night and can't find it!". She feels homework is a waste of time, yes, we all feel that way, but poor Nina needs to learn that homework is important to help you stay smart. She needs to start doing homework. How can I make her 2nd-grade brain know that homework is actually good? Is there a way to make her love, love, LOVE homework? Let me know.
Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach We appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and sharing your story. Because we are a website aimed at helping people become more effective parents, we are limited in the advice and suggestions we can give to those outside of a direct parenting role. In addition to the tips in More the article above, it may be helpful to look into local resources to help you develop a plan for addressing these particular issues with your cousins, such as their doctor or their teachers. We wish you the best going forward. Take care.
Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach I hear you. Homework can be a challenging, frustrating time in many families even under the best of circumstances, so you are not alone. When kids struggle with a subject, it can be even more difficult to get assignments completed. Although you didn’t indicate that your daughter More has ADHD, you might find some helpful tips in Why School is Hard for Kids with ADHD—and How You Can Help . Author Anna Stewart outlines techniques that can be useful to help make homework more interesting for kids with a variety of learning challenges in this article. You might also consider checking in with your daughter’s teacher, as s/he might have some additional ideas for engaging your daughter in her homework. Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.
So, after reading this I get to say…GREAT…You really do not know my child. We have done 100% of everything listed in this article. In the end, my son has utterly declared “I DON’T CARE, AND I DON’T NEED SCHOOL”. We have attempted a “reward” system as well, and that doesn’t work. He cares about 3 or 4 things. Nintendo DS, Lego, K’Nex, TV…all of those he has lost over the past year. Now he reads, ALL the time. Fine, but that doesn’t get his homework done. It also doesn’t get anything else he needs to do done. We’ve done “task boards”, we’ve done “Reward Systems”, we’ve done the “What is on your list to complete”. EVERYTHING is met with either a full fledged meltdown (think 2 year old…on the floor, kicking and screaming and crying). His IMMEDIATE response to ANYTHING that may interrupt him is “NO” or worse. If something doesn’t go his way directly he throws a fit INSTANTLY, even if the response is “Give me a second” it’s NOW OR I’M DESTROYING SOMETHING. He’s been suspended multiple times for his anger issues, and he’s only 10. Unfortuantely we have no family history as he was adopted from Russia. His “formal” diagnosis are ADHD and Anxiety. I’m thinking there is something much more going on. BTW: He did have an IQ test and that put him at 145 for Spacial and Geometric items, with a 136 for written and language. His composite was 139, which puts him in the genius category, but he’s failing across the board…because he refuses to do the work.
Interesting article and comments. Our son (6th grade) was early diagnosed as ADHD and for the first 3 years of elementary school several of his teachers suggested he might require special education. But then the school counseling staff did a workup and determined that his IQ is 161 and from that point forward his classroom antics were largely tolerated as “eccentric”. He has now moved to middle school (6th grade) and while his classroom participation seems to be satisfactory to all teachers, he has refused to do approximately 65% of his homework so far this school year. We have tried talking with him, reasoning with him, removing screen time, offering cash payments (which he lectures us as being unethical “bribes”), offering trips, offering hobbies and sporting events, and just about anything we can think of. Our other children have all been through the “talented and gifted” programs, but he simply refuses to participate in day-to-day school work. His fall report card was pretty much solid “F” or “O” grades. He may be bored out of his mind, or he may have some other issues. Unfortunately, home schooling is not an option, and neither is one of the $40,000 per year local private schools which may or may not be in a better position to deal with his approach to school. Do “learning centers” work for kids like this? Paying somebody else to force him to do his homework seems like a coward’s solution but I am nearly at the end of my rope! Thanks..
RebeccaW_ParentalSupport 12yokosuka Many parents struggle with staying calm when their child is acting out and screaming, so you are not alone. It tends to be effective to set up a structured time for kids to do their homework and study, and they can earn a privilege if they comply and meet More their responsibilities. What this might look like for your daughter is that if she studies, she can earn her phone that day. If she refuses, and chooses to argue or scream at you instead, then she doesn’t earn her phone that day and has another chance the next day. You can read more about this in https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/end-the-nightly-homework-struggle-5-homework-strategies-that-work-for-kids/. If you are also looking for resources to help you stay calm, I encourage you to check out our articles, blogs, and other resources on https://www.empoweringparents.com/article-categories/parenting-strategies-techniques/calm-parenting/. Please let us know if you have any additional questions. Take care.
I’m sorry to hear about the challenges you are experiencing with your
son.I also hear the different
approaches you and your ex are taking toward parenting your son.While it would be ideal if you were able to
find common ground, and present a consistent, united response to your son’s
choices, in the end, you can only https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/parenting-after-divorce-9-ways-to-parent-on-your-own-terms/.At
this point, it might be useful to meet with the school to discuss how you can
work together to hold your son accountable for his actions, such as receiving a
poor grade if he refuses to do his work.Janet Lehman discusses this more in https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/when-your-child-has-problems-at-school-6-tips-for-parents/.Take care.
It can be so challenging when your child is acting out at school, yet does
not act that way at home.One strategy I
recommend is talking with your son at home about his behavior at school.During this conversation, I encourage you to
address his choices, and come up with a specific plan for what he can do differently
to follow the rules.I also recommend
working with his teachers, and discussing how you can assist them in helping
your son to follow the rules.You might
find additional useful tips in our article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/acting-out-in-school-when-your-child-is-the-class-troublemaker/.Please be sure to write back and let us know
how things are going for you and your son.Take care.
I hear you.It can be so challenging
when your young child is having outbursts like this.A lot of young children tend to act out and
have tantrums when they are experiencing a big transition, such as starting a
new school or adjusting to having a younger sibling, so you are not alone.Something that can be helpful is to set up
clear structure and expectations around homework, as Janet Lehman points out in
https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-child-refuses-to-do-homework-heres-how-to-stop-the-struggle/.I also encourage you to set aside some time
for you to have https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/attention-seeking-behavior-in-young-children-dos-and-donts-for-parents/ with your daughter as well.Please be sure to write back and let us know
how things are going for you and your family.Take care.
JoJoSuma I am having the exact same problem with my 9 year old son. His grades are quickly falling and I have no idea why or where to begin with helping him turn things around. When he applies himself he receives score of 80% or higher, and when he doesn't it clearly shows and he receives failing scores. He, too, says that he doesn't do or want to do the work because it is boring, or that he "Forgot" or "lost it". He has started to become a disruption to the class and at this rate I am afraid that he will have to repeat 5th grade. I am also a single parent so my frustration is at an all time high. You are not alone and I wish you and your family the best.
Thank you so much for these tips RebeccaW_ParentalSupport because I SERIOUSLY had nowhere to turn and no clue where to begin. I have cried many nights feeling like I was losing control. I will try your tips and see where things go from here.
It’s not uncommon
for kids to avoid doing homework, chores or other similar tasks. After
all, homework can be boring or difficult, and most people (both kids and adults
alike) tend to prefer activities which are enjoyable or fun. This does
not mean that you cannot address this with your daughter, though.
Something which can be helpful for many families is to set up a structured
homework time, and to require that your daughter complete her homework in order
to earn a privilege later on that evening. You can read about this, and
other tips, in https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/end-the-nightly-homework-struggle-5-homework-strategies-that-work-for-kids/.
Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and
your daughter. Take care.
Thestruggleisreal I'm just now signing up for these articles, I'm struggling with my 12 year and school work, she just doesn't want to do it, she has no care I'm world to do, she is driving me crazy over not doing, I hate to see her More fail, but I don't know what to do
I can hear how much your
daughter’s education means to you, and the additional difficulties you are
facing as a result of her learning disabilities. You make a great point
that you cannot force her to do her work, or get additional help, and I also
understand your concern that getting her teachers to “make” her do these things
at school might create more conflict there as well. As James Lehman
points out in his article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/stop-the-blame-game-how-to-teach-your-child-to-stop-making-excuses-and-start-taking-responsibility/, lowering your expectations for your daughter due to her
diagnosis is probably not going to be effective either. Instead, what you
might try is involving her in the https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/the-surprising-reason-for-bad-child-behavior-i-cant-solve-problems/, and asking her what she thinks she needs, and what she will do
differently, to meet classroom expectations. Please be sure to write back
and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.
tvllpit Very effective to kids age of 5, 7, and 11 years old. Thank you for sharing your idea.
Thank you for
your question. You are correct that we recommend setting up a structured
time for kids to do homework, yet not getting into a power struggle with them
if they refuse to do their work during that time. It could be useful to
talk with your 11 year old about what makes it difficult to follow through with
doing homework at that time, and perhaps experimenting with doing homework at
another time to see if that works more effectively. In the end, though,
if your child is simply refusing to do the work, then we recommend giving a
consequence and avoiding a power struggle. Megan Devine details this
process more in her article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/end-the-nightly-homework-struggle-5-homework-strategies-that-work-for-kids/.
Please let us know if you have any additional questions. Take care.
jovi916 I'm a mother to a 10 year old 5th grader. Since 3rd grade I've been struggling with homework. That first year, I thought it was just lack of consistency since my children go between mine and dad's house. I tried setting some sort of system up with More the teacher to get back on track, but the teacher said it was the child's responsibility to get the hw done. This year has been esp. Difficult. He stopped doing hw, got an F, so I got on him. He stared turning half done work, but same grades so I still got on him. Grades went up, I loosened up, then he stopped with in school work. Now it's back to not turning anything in, even big projects and presentations. He had never really been allowed to watch tv, but now it's a definite no, I took his Legos away, took him out of sports. Nothing is working. He's basically sitting at the table every night, and all weekend long in order to get caught up with missing assignments. I'm worried, and next year he'll be in middle school. I try setting an example by studying in front of him. My daughter just does her homework and gets good grades. Idk what to do.
I can hear your concern. Academic achievement is important
to most parents and when your children seem to be struggling to complete their
work and get good grades, it can be distressing. Ultimately, your childrens’
school work and grades are their responsibility. You shouldn’t have to quit
your own studies in order to help them improve theirs. The above article gives
some great tips for helping motivate your children to complete their homework.
We do have a couple other articles you may also find useful: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/10-ways-to-motivate-your-child-to-do-better-in-school/ & https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/sinking-fast-at-school-how-to-help-your-child-stay-afloat/. We appreciate you
writing in and hope you find the information useful. Take care.
RNM I have the exact same issues with my 8 year old. It makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong. He's a smart kid, he just doesn't seem to care to do his homework let alone if he gets a bad grade as a result. He hates reading, but does More very well in spelling and science. Homework is an issue nightly and the teacher pulled me aside today to tell me again how much he talks in class and that now he isn't writing down his assignments and is missing 3 assignments this week. SMH, I don't know what to do anymore other than to coach him (some more) and take away basketball if he doesn't do his homework.
What? "Let homework stay where it belongs—between the teacher and the student. Refuse to get pulled in by the school.." I do not see the logic or benefit of this advice. Homework, by definition, is the responsibility of the student and parent (NOT the teacher). The teacher does not live at the student's home or run the house.
In my opinion, the lack of parental involvement with academics often causes the low student performance evident across the U.S. I do not agree with advocating for even LESS parental involvement.
I completely agree with you. Parental, or adult, engagement at home can be a deal-maker/breaker when it comes to student performance. I subscribe to theories that differ from the author's.
First, if an adult is involved with the child and his activities, then the child will commonly react with "hey, somebody cares about me" leading to an increased sense of self-worth. A sense of caring about one's-self leads to caring about grades and other socially acceptable behaviors (Maslow).
Secondly, I am a FIRM believer in the techniques of behavior modification through positive reinforcement (Karen Pryor). It's up to an invested adult to determine what motivates the student and use those motivators to shape and reinforce desirable behavior such as daily homework completion. A classroom teacher has too many students and too little time to apply this theory.
Letting a child sink or swim by himself is a bad idea. Children have only one childhood; there are no do-overs.
And yes, children are work.
Many experience similar feelings of being at fault when
their child fails, so, you’re not alone. Truth of the matter is, allowing your
child to experience natural consequences of their actions by allowing them to
fail gives them the opportunity to look at themselves and change their
behavior. We have a couple articles I think you may find helpful: When You Should Let Your Child Fail: The Benefits of Natural Consequences & 5 Natural Consequences You Should Let Your Child Face . Good luck to you and
your family moving forward. Take care.
hao hao It is so true, we can't control our children's home. It is their responsibility. But they don't care it. What can we do it?
How great it is that you want to help your brother be more
productive with his homework. He’s lucky to have a sibling who cares about him
and wants him to be successful. Because we are a website aimed at helping
parents develop better ways of managing acting out behavior, we are limited in
the advice we can offer you as his sibling. There is a website that may be able
to offer you some suggestions. http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/
is a website aimed at helping teens and young adults figure out ways of dealing
with challenges they may be facing in their lives. They offer several ways of
getting support, such as by e-mail or text, through an online forum and chat,
and also a call in helpline. You can check out what they have to offer at http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/. Good luck
to you and your family moving forward. Take care.
Thank you so much for your humble support....
It sounds like you have done a lot
of work to try to help your daughter achieve her educational goals, and it’s
normal to feel frustrated when she does not seem to be putting in the same
amount of effort. It can be useful to keep your focus on whether your
daughter is doing her work, and to keep that separate from whether she “cares”
about doing her work. Ultimately, it is up to your daughter to do her
work, regardless of how she appears to feel about it. To that end, we
recommend working with the various local supports you have in place, such as
her therapists and others on her IEP team, to talk about what could be useful
to motivate your daughter to do her school work. Because individuals with
autism can vary greatly with their abilities, it’s going to be more effective
to work closely with the professionals who are familiar with your daughter’s
strengths and level of functioning in order to develop a plan to address this
issue. Thank you so much for writing in; we wish you and your daughter
all the best as you continue to address her difficulties with school.
is there a blog for parents that went to Therapeutic boarding schooling for their adolescent?
Responses to questions posted on EmpoweringParents.com are not intended to replace qualified medical or mental health assessments. We cannot diagnose disorders or offer recommendations on which treatment plan is best for your family. Please seek the support of local resources as needed. If you need immediate assistance, or if you and your family are in crisis, please contact a qualified mental health provider in your area, or contact your statewide crisis hotline.
We value your opinions and encourage you to add your comments to this discussion. We ask that you refrain from discussing topics of a political or religious nature. Unfortunately, it's not possible for us to respond to every question posted on our website.
- 1. "My Child Refuses to Do Homework" — How to Stop the Nightly Struggle Over Schoolwork
- 2. What to Do When Your Child or Teen is Suspended or Expelled From School
- 3. Acting Out in School: When Your Child is the Class Troublemaker
- 4. Young Kids in School: Help for the Top 4 Behavior Problems
- 5. When Your Child Has Problems at School: 6 Tips for Parents
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Defiant children who refuse to do homework: 30 tips for parents.
- Your child doesn’t understand the work and needs some extra help. It’s possible that your youngster doesn’t want to do his homework because he really needs help. Also, it can be challenging for moms and dads to accept that their youngster might need help with homework, because there is often a stigma attached to kids who need tutoring.
- Your child is addicted to TV and video games. Moms and dads often find it very difficult to limit these activities. But, understand that playing video games and watching TV doesn’t relax a youngster’s brain. In fact, it actually over-stimulates the brain and makes it harder for him to learn and retain information. Too much of watching TV and playing video games contributes to your youngster struggling with school and homework in more ways than one.
- Your child is exhausted from a long day at school. In the last 10 to 20 years, the needs of kids have not changed, however the pace of life has. Most moms and dads are busy and have very little down time, which inevitably means that the youngster ends up with less down time too. He is going to be less likely to be motivated to work when there is chaos all around him.
- Your child is not sleeping enough. Sleep is one of the most under-appreciated needs in our society today. When a child doesn’t get enough sleep, it can cause him to be sick more often, lose focus, and have more emotional issues. Kids often need a great deal more sleep than they usually get.
- Your child is over-booked with other activities. Moms and dads want their youngster to develop skills other than academics. Because of this, they often sign-up their youngster for extracurricular activities (e.g., sports or arts).
- Your child is overwhelmed by your expectations. Moms and dads want their youngster to be well-rounded and to get ahead in life. Along with this comes getting good grades. All these expectations can put a lot of pressure on your youngster and may cause him to become burned-out and want to find an escape.
- instructions are unclear
- neither you nor your youngster can understand the purpose of assignments
- the assignments are often too hard or too easy
- the homework is assigned in uneven amounts
- you can't provide needed supplies or materials
- you can't seem to help your youngster get organized to finish the assignments
- your youngster has missed school and needs to make up assignments
- your youngster refuses to do her assignments, even though you've tried hard to get her to do them
- Do you understand what you're supposed to do?
- What do you need to do to finish the assignment?
- Do you need help in understanding how to do your work?
- Have you ever done any problems like the ones you're supposed to do right now?
- Do you have everything you need to do the assignment?
- Does your answer make sense to you?
- Are you still having problems? Maybe it would help to take a break or have a snack.
- Do you need to review your notes (or reread a chapter in your textbook) before you do the assignment?
- How far have you gotten on the assignment? Let's try to figure out where you're having a problem.
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How To Motivate Child To Do Homework (7 Practical Tips)
By: Author Pamela Li Pamela Li is an author, Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Parenting For Brain. Her educational background is in Electrical Engineering (MS, Stanford University) and Business Management (MBA, Harvard University). Learn more
Posted on Last updated: Jan 31, 2023 Evidence Based
“How to motivate a child to do homework” is on almost every parent’s mind right now. Getting kids to do homework is not always painful. In fact, it can be outright fun!
In this article, I will share the secret on motivating your child to not only do homework but also love homework. Yes, you read it right. It is possible to love doing school work. No yelling, screaming, threatening or crying required.
Why Do Kids Hate Homework
Let’s start with kindergarteners.
For many children, kindergarten is their first formal experience in school.
Kindergarten has changed a lot over the last decade.
Once a place for socialization and play, kindergartens now emphasize the importance of learning to read, to count, to sit still and to listen to the teachers.
Going from playing all day at home to behaving or sitting still in a structured environment for hours at a time is a tough transition.
To add to that, many kindergartens also assign homework to these little children, further reducing their available play time.
It’s no wonder that some kindergarteners are not motivated to do homework.
Remember when your child was still a toddler, he/she would get into anything and everything?
They were curious and they were eager to learn about everything around them.
They were passionate learners .
Children naturally love learning, if we provide the right environment and motivate them appropriately.
Here’s the problem…
When you hear the word “motivate”, what do you think of it?
If you’re thinking about toys, money, iPad time, points, stickers, etc., you’re not alone.
Rewards (and sometimes punishments) are many parents’ go-to motivators.
Parents love them because they work almost instantly.
You present the prize and the child complies to get it. Problem solved.
Simple and effective.
But very soon, you will notice some unintended results.
Here is an example.
Some years ago, after a lecture, Professor Mark Lepper was approached by a couple who told him about a system of rewards they had set up for their son, which had produced much improved behavior at the dinner table. “He sits up straight and eats his peas and the Brussels sprouts and he is really very well behaved,” they reported. Until, that is, the first time the family dined at a nice restaurant. The child looked around, picked up a crystal glass from the table and asked, “How many points not to drop this?” A fine example, says Dr. Lepper, of the detrimental effects of over-reliance on rewards to shape children’s behavior. Mark Lepper: Intrinsic Motivation, Extrinsic Motivation and the Process of Learning By Christine VanDeVelde Luskin, Bing Nursery School at Stanford University
This example is far from rare.
In fact, it is very common when a child is motivated purely by an external reward.
Once the reward is removed, the child will no longer be interested in continuing the behavior.
What’s the right way to motivate our children?
The answer is intrinsic motivation .
Intrinsic motivation refers to engaging in an activity for its pure enjoyment.
This enjoyment comes from within an individual and is a psychological satisfaction derived from performing the task, not from an extrinsic outcome.
In other words, to get your kid to do homework, first help them enjoy doing it .
It is not as crazy as it sounds.
It’s unfortunate that homework is called “work”.
We like to separate work from play.
So naturally, we feel that homework is drudgery.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Homework is a tool for children to learn and get familiar with the knowledge taught in class.
To enjoy homework, the child has to enjoy learning .
How To Motivate a Child To Do Homework
To motivate kids , we first change our mindset, from a working mindset to a learning mindset .
The goal of going to school is not about getting into college, finding a good job, earning a stable income, etc.
Of course, all of those are wonderful, but that’s a working mindset – you’re doing all that work for reasons other than enjoying the learning itself.
Going to school is about learning , acquiring knowledge, exploring new subjects and growing as a person.
In the US, the average expected years of schooling is 16.7 years 1 .
If a child doesn’t like school, that will be 16.7 years of misery.
You don’t want that for your child.
But here’s the good news.
If you can intervene early, like in kindergarten or even before kindergarten, your child will be getting off to a good start.
So, convince yourself to change from the working mindset to the learning mindset.
It sounds abstract, but here are 7 tangible steps for moving toward that goal.
1. Stop referring to kid doing homework as your child’s “job”
When you call it a “job”, you are implying that it will be all work and no fun.
Doing that is setting up a child to feel bad even when it’s not.
2. Don’t tell your child, “you cannot play until you finish your homework”
Again, by putting homework in a category separate from play, you are saying that it cannot be enjoyable.
The importance of play cannot be overstated. So make it count 2 .
Tell your child that they can do both (of course, only healthy physical play like basketball or biking, but not watching iPad).
They can decide the order of doing them as long as they do both by the end of the day.
You’d be surprised – giving a child autonomy over their homework schedule is one of the biggest motivators.
3. Don’t use “no homework” as rewards
I once heard that some teachers would give students with good behavior “no homework tonight” as a reward.
I was horrified.
Homework is for practicing what we’ve learned in school.
It helps us understand and remember better.
It’s not a punishment or torture that you need a “break” to feel better.
Don’t give your child the impression that homework is something you want to get away from.
4. Do not nag, bribe or force
Do not nag and do not force your kid to do homework, whether through rewards or punishment.
“But then, how to make kids do homework?” parents wonder.
Don’t make your child do homework. Period.
Forcing or bribing will only backfire and reduce your child’s intrinsic motivation 3 .
The motivation to do homework needs to come from within the child themselves.
5. Let your child face the natural consequences
“But what to do when my child refuses to do homework?” many frustrated parents ask.
When your child refuses to do school work, let them… after you explain why doing homework is important for learning and what may happen in school if they don’t.
Walk them through the natural consequences for not doing homework – they won’t retain the information well and they will need to accept whatever natural consequences in school. They will have to explain to the teacher why the homework was not done and they may lose some recess time, etc (but first confirm that the school doesn’t use corporal or other types of cruel punishment).
You think I should let my child fail?
Well, not doing homework in lower grades is not the end of your child’s academic career.
Think about this, you cannot force or bribe your child through college.
Help them understand the purpose of learning and doing homework now .
You’re helping them make the right decision by letting them understand and face the natural consequences sooner rather than later.
6. Do homework with your child
Don’t tell your kid that homework is important, show them through your action.
Do the homework with them.
You are telling your child you value this so much that you are willing to take the time to do it together. Besides, parental involvement is associated with better school performance 4 .
7. Make doing homework fun and positive
There are many ways to make homework for kids fun.
Let’s take a look at two methods I’ve used and the results.
You can try them or invent your own.
Method 1: Use doing homework as a “reward” (younger kids like kindergarteners)
Wait, you said that using rewards wasn’t good a moment ago.
Now you say, “use homework as a reward”?
Well, I said rewards were bad because you would be implying the activity you’re trying to motivate your child to do was not as good as the reward.
But here, I am using homework as a reward.
I am signaling to my child that doing homework is so good that she needs to “earn it”.
How to earn it?
You can try different things.
We used “If you behave, you can do homework with me. If you don’t behave, you can’t do homework.”
We started at preschool and it worked very well.
Parents who have tried this report good results in motivating their children to do homework, too.
But some of them have concerns…
Some parents are uncomfortable with this idea because it feels manipulative.
That’s because these parents do not believe in the idea that homework can be fun.
So they feel like they’re lying to the child.
But I genuinely like homework! (Yes, I’m officially a nerd)
So I have no problem helping my child learn to love homework like me.
If you are not convinced yourself, you may not want to try this method. Or if your child is older and already hates homework, it won’t work.
However, although I don’t agree with using manipulative measures in general, I don’t see this particular one harmful to children even if the parents do not like homework themselves.
Method 2: Turn doing homework into a game and a bonding activity
When my daughter was in preschool, I bought colorful homework books and we did them together.
Sometimes we took turns – she did one problem and I did the next and so on.
Sometimes we raced to see who would finish the page faster.
Sometimes I did them wrong intentionally so that my daughter could point out the wrong answers.
It was actually very empowering and satisfying for her to be able to catch Mom’s mistakes!
We celebrated when we both finished or got the right answers.
It was a lot of fun and my kid enjoyed doing that so much.
By the time she started kindergarten, she already loved homework.
In kindergarten, I couldn’t do her homework because, well, that’s her homework.
So I bought homework books that were similar to the ones she brought from school. Then I did problems alongside her as she did hers.
We still raced, celebrated, and had fun doing it.
At the beginning of her kindergarten year, my daughter was given two homework books to take home. The teacher would assign homework from the books every week. They were supposed to be used for the entire school year. But my kindergartener liked doing homework so much that she finished them all in one month! No yelling, screaming, threatening, or crying is required.
Also See: How to Motivate Older Kids to Do Homework Using Reverse Psychology
Final Word On Motivating Your Kid To Do Homework
Getting your kid to do homework is only the first step in building a good learning habit. Finishing homework or getting good grades is not the purpose of going to school. Instill the love of learning in your child early on and your child will benefit for life.
- 1. et al. xpected duration of education for all students: Countries Compared. NationMaster. https://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Education/Expected-duration-of-education-for-all-students
- 2. Ginsburg KR. The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. PEDIATRICS . Published online January 1, 2007:182-191. doi: 10.1542/peds.2006-2697
- 3. Lepper MR, Greene D. Turning play into work: Effects of adult surveillance and extrinsic rewards on children’s intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology . Published online 1975:479-486. doi: 10.1037/h0076484
- 4. Nye C, Turner H, Schwartz J. Approaches to Parent Involvement for Improving the Academic Performance of Elementary School Age Children. Campbell Systematic Reviews . Published online 2006:1-49. doi: 10.4073/csr.2006.4
* All information on parentingforbrain.com is for educational purposes only. Parenting For Brain does not provide medical advice. If you suspect medical problems or need professional advice, please consult a physician. *
Blog Post > “My Child Refuses to Do Homework” Here’s How to Stop the Struggle
- “My Child Refuses to Do Homework” Here’s How to Stop the Struggle
Over the past few weeks I have had many frustrated parents in my office discussing issues that they were having with their child refusing to do homework. Most of the parents I talked to described homework taking hours and ending with everyone frustrated and upset. This is a nightly occurrence and both the child and parent struggle with a solution. The following article from www.empoweringparents.com by Janet Lehman, MSW has some helpful hints that might just end this nightly struggle. — Megan Yaraschuk, M.Ed., PCC
“My Child Refuses to Do Homework” Here’s How to Stop the Struggle by Janet Lehman, MSW
Do you get sucked into a fight over homework with your child every night? So many parents tell me that this is one of their top struggles with their kids. If you’re dealing with this now, you probably dread saying the words, “Okay, time to do your homework,” because you know what’s coming next — screaming, stomping, book-throwing and slammed doors. Or it might simply be hours of dealing with your complaining, whining or non-compliant child or teen who just hates to do the work. Even though you reason, lecture, nag and yell, nothing seems to change — and each night turns into a battle with no victors.
Trust me, I get it. I have to admit that dealing with my son’s homework was one of my least favorite experiences as a parent. It felt overwhelming to me; often, I just wasn’t equipped to offer the help he needed. Our son struggled with a learning disability, which made the work and the amount of time required feel unending at times — both to him and to us. My husband James was much better at helping him, so he took on this responsibility — but even with this division of labor, we had to make adjustments to our schedules, our lives and our expectations to make sure our son turned it in on time.
They Don’t Call It “Homework” for Nothing
Here’s something I learned along the way: homework is work, and there’s no getting around that fact. It’s a chore for both the child and parent. It’s important to understand that schoolwork is often the most difficult part of your child’s busy schedule. Helping your kids manage it despite all the other activities they would rather be doing can be challenging at best. Remember that it’s your child’s job to go to school and learn (including getting homework completed) and your job to provide for your kids, run the house and offer love and guidance to your children.
I know from experience how easy it is to get caught up in power struggles over homework. These struggles begin for several reasons, but the most common one is because your child would rather be relaxing, playing, texting with friends, or doing almost anything else. Know that if you deal with their frustration by losing it and getting mad out of your own frustration, it will be a losing battle. Some kids are even able to manipulate parents this way, because they know the battle over homework may result in your giving up on expectations to get it done.
Here’s the truth: letting your child off the hook for their work will ultimately create problems in their lives. Instead, focus on the fact that as a parent, you need to teach your child how to follow through on expectations and be accountable. All the more reason to take control and make homework just another part of your child’s daily responsibilities.
Here’s my advice for reducing homework hassles in your home:
- Try to stay calm : Try to avoid losing your cool and yelling and screaming, arguing about the right answer for the math problem or the right way to do the geography quiz, ignoring the homework altogether or being inconsistent with what you expect, being overly critical, or giving up and just doing the work for your child. The first step is to try to stay as calm as you can. If you get frustrated and start yelling and screaming at your child, this sets a negative tone and is likely not going to help them get the work done.
- Set clear expectation around homework time and responsibilities. Let your children know that you expect them to get the work done on time and to the best of their abilities; the most important thing is that they try their best. Set aside the same time each afternoon or evening for them to do their work. Understand that kids are all different in how they feel about and approach homework. Some may find English easy, but get really frustrated with math. Another may be a science whiz, but have no patience when it comes to writing. It’s important to know your child: their strengths and struggles, and how they learn. Some kids need small breaks throughout a session, while others may need the task to be broken down into smaller pieces and then varied. While there are some children and teens who are self-directed and able to complete homework without assistance, most require some type of guidance and/or monitoring, depending on their age. This makes it especially challenging for parents, because it means you need to perform different functions with each child you have, depending on their needs.
- Have a relationship with your child’s teacher. Try your best to build a good relationship with your child’s teacher. Start off at the beginning of the school year and stay in touch as the year progresses. Your relationship with your child’s teachers will pay off during the good times as well as the challenging times.
- Play the parental role most useful to your child. Some kids need a coach; others need a “monitor,” while others need more hands-on guidance to complete tasks. Try to match your help with what is most needed. Remember also that your child is doing the homework as a school assignment. The teacher will ultimately be the judge of how good or bad, correct or incorrect the work is. You’re not responsible for the work itself, your responsibility is to guide your child. You can always make suggestions, but ultimately it’s your child’s responsibility to do his or her assignments, and the teacher’s job to grade them.
- Keep activities similar with all your kids. If you have several kids, have them all do similar activities during homework time. Even if one child has less homework or finishes more quickly, they need to be respectful of their siblings by doing quiet, non-disruptive activities.
- Set up a structured time and place for homework. Choose a time and place and stick to a routine as much as possible. Consider adding in break times for kids with shorter attention spans. They might work on their spelling words for 15 minutes, and then take a 5 minute break, for example. Offer snacks to keep kids “fueled” for the work. Keep the house generally quiet for everyone during homework time—turn off the TV (or at least keep the volume down). Make sure your kids have a “space” for doing their work. For some kids this will mean a large work space like a kitchen table to spread out their papers and books, and for others it may mean a small quiet area in their room.
- Start early: Start early with your young children setting up “homework” time, even if it’s just some quiet reading time each night. This helps get them used to the expectation of doing some “homework” each night and will pay off as the actual work gets harder and more time-consuming.
- Offer “Hurdle Help”: Some kids need what we call “hurdle help.” Let’s say your child has big test to study for, but can’t seem to get started. You can help out by running through the first few problems, for example, until he gets the hang of it. Or you might brainstorm with your teen to help her choose a topic for the big paper she has to write. You’re not doing the work for them, rather, you’re helping them get going so the task doesn’t seem so daunting.
- Choose the best person for the job: If you are part of a couple, consider that one of you might be better at “teaching” and then let that person take on the homework monitoring responsibilities. It will likely help the routine become more consistent and effective for your child. If you are a single parent, you might have a friend or family member (an older cousin who’s good at math, or a neighbor who’s a writer, for example) who would consider helping your child from time to time.
- Offer empathy and support. If your child is really struggling, give them some support and guidance and show some empathy. Kids are expected to do some difficult work, and your child may sincerely be struggling with it. If you have a child who is really having a hard time, it’s important to have communication with the teacher to see if this is typical for all kids, or if it’s unique to your child. If your child also has these problems in class, know that there are different approaches to helping them learn that can be useful. The teacher may recommend some testing to see if there are learning problems. While this can be hard to hear as a parent – as if something is wrong with your child – it’s important to find out how your child learns best and what your teacher and you can do to support their learning style.
- Use positive reinforcement and incentives: It’s always important to reinforce positive behavior, and that may mean offering some kind of incentive for completing homework or getting good grades. Most kids get personal satisfaction out of getting good grades and completing their work, and that’s what we’re aiming for. But, it’s also helpful to offer some incentives to encourage them. Rather than money, I would recommend offering rewarding activities for your child’s academic successes. This could include going shopping for some “goodie” the child has really wanted, renting their favorite movie and having “movie night” at home, or other ways of spending special time with a parent. These things can become more meaningful than money for most kids and they get to experience their parent in a loving, supportive and reinforcing role.
Most kids will never really “enjoy” homework, and for some it will always be a struggle. Our children all have different strengths and abilities, and while some may never be excellent students, they might be great workers, talented artists, or thoughtful builders. While it would be easier if all children were self-motivated students who came home, sat down and dug into their homework, this just isn’t going to be the case with most kids. As James often said to parents, “We need to learn to parent the child we have – not the child we’d like them to be.” Our role is to guide our children, support them through the challenging tasks, and teach them about personal responsibility.
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School refusal: What it means when kids won’t do schoolwork
By Amanda Morin
Quick tips to cope with school refusal, quick tip 1, interrupt the “what if” cycle..
Talk about what kids are stuck on and the difference between “what if” and “what is.” For example, a child might say, “What if everybody in class is mean to me?” You can say, “What we do know is that two friends from last year are in your class.”
Quick tip 2
Find out what’s worrying them..
Is there anything about today in particular that’s causing stress? Some kids refuse to go to school on certain days or to do certain kinds of work. Or they may be anxious about a change in routine or worried about something going on at home.
Quick tip 3
Be patient and clear..
Use short and concrete sentences to manage the moment. For example, “You’re safe, and I’m here to help. We’ll find a way to make school OK.”
Quick tip 4
Manage your expectations..
Going to school isn’t optional. But things like going in pajamas might be. You may need to make decisions like: Is it more important for them to participate in school or to get dressed?
As many as 1 in 4 kids show signs of school refusal at some point. They won’t go to school, whether it’s outside of the house or at home. And they won’t budge about doing schoolwork at all.
Unlike with kids who are complaining or avoiding schoolwork, you can’t talk them into doing it. They may literally make themselves sick over it. Kids may be clingy, complain of stomachaches or headaches, and fall apart when it’s time to do schoolwork. You might also notice that kids:
- Worry about school during downtime or on weekends
- Have frequent tantrums or meltdowns about going to school or doing schoolwork
- “Fight” morning routines so much that it gets in the way of other people’s schedules
True school refusal isn’t temporary. It’s an ongoing situation that’s often related to anxiety. It’s not just complaining about or avoiding work. Kids are so stressed and overwhelmed that refusing school is the only option.
Listen to the story of one family’s experience with school refusal.
If your child is refusing school, remember that you’re not alone. And know that there are things you can do to help your child cope .
Complaining, avoiding, or refusing.
Complaining: Kids who complain about schoolwork don’t want to do it because they don’t like it or want to do something else. But when you hold your ground, they’ll sit down and start the work.
Avoiding: Kids may avoid work if it’s hard for them. But with some planning, negotiation, and a little help, they’ll sit down and put in the effort.
Refusing: With kids who refuse school, you can’t get them to do any schoolwork at all. They have an extreme emotional reaction, often caused by anxiety and fear.
Find out how to manage school refusal in different situations.
How to tell if school refusal is temporary
Many kids are having trouble focusing during distance learning . And lots of kids are worried, lonely, and anxious, which can make it harder to learn.
School refusal is a way of telling you that they’re not ready to learn right now. Some kids may stop refusing school once routines get back to normal. Others may gradually get more comfortable once they’re back at school and are confident that everyone is safe and healthy.
One of the most important things you can do is to create a safe space for kids to talk. Learn more about how to get kids to open up about school .
Try to set things up to make it as easy as possible for kids who are still learning from home. This can reduce some stress, especially for kids who struggle with focus.
If you’re a parent or caregiver, share what you’re seeing with teachers and ask if they’ve seen similar reactions. Talk with your child, too. Here are ways to start that conversation:
“Let’s talk about what’s happening when it’s time for you to go to school….”
“Let’s talk about what’s going to make you feel better about going to school.”
Keep in mind that school refusal is often tied to anxiety. Explore signs of anxiety in younger kids and older kids , and reach out to a health care provider if you have concerns.
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Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.
Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.
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5 ways to end the homework battle for good
By Alison Masemann
Photo: @cloisteredaway on Instagram
F or the past two hours, you’ve been sitting with your kid, speaking only in soothing tones (while contemplating what bribes might work), desperately hoping he’ll miraculously plow through three more pages of math problems without another meltdown. Or perhaps you’ve just received yet another email from the teacher, who’s sorry to have to get in touch again, but your son has forgotten to hand in the reading response due last Friday. Or maybe you’re still hunched over in the basement, well past bedtime, as you and your daughter painstakingly construct a model of a Mohawk longhouse, one toothpick at a time.
Unless you happen to be blessed with a hyper-organized, methodical, consistently motivated kid (we’re not jealous at all), you are keenly familiar with the pain and frustration of homework. Is there any way to sidestep all the drama?
“Figure out what makes them tick,” says Ruth Rumack, a former teacher and founder of Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space , an academic support centre in Toronto. Does your kid leave things to the last minute or have a hard time keeping track of assignments? Your kid’s personality, temperament and learning style are huge factors in how she deals with homework and how you deal with her. “If you can identify the roadblock for your child,” Rumack says, “you have a better chance of setting up a situation that creates success.”
Here, a cheatsheet on the most common “homework personalities” that crop up in kids and how to handle each one of them.
1. The p rocrastinator
Your child has known about the solar system project for three weeks now. But so far there’s only a half-painted Styrofoam sun abandoned in the basement. As parents, we know all too well the temptation to put work off, and it’s no different for many kids.
The first thing to investigate is whether your child understands the material or is struggling with a learning exceptionality. Once those are ruled out, it’s good to remember that kids are going to find pretty much everything vastly more interesting than homework. And, as registered psychologist and parenting educator Vanessa Lapointe explains, one of the parts of the brain that helps manage self-control doesn’t necessarily become functional until the child is well into elementary school, sometimes as late as age 12. So the urge to organize Pokémon cards will win out, and the understanding that science homework needs to be done will completely disappear.
On top of that, most kids don’t yet have a clear concept of how long a task takes. “Why should I start gluing this longhouse now? It won’t take that long!” (Which is how you find yourself huddled in the basement at 10:30 p.m., nowhere near finished.)
What to do: Insist the fun stuff can’t happen until the homework is completed. Royan Lee, a Toronto-area teacher and father of three , takes a strict approach. “All of our kids have a to-do list they must accomplish every day,” he says. “Things like playing video games cannot be done until homework is clearly done.” It also helps to break the work down into manageable parts. So if your kid has five pages of addition due next week, have him tackle one page a day.
Tech Support: Create to-do lists and sync them with your own schedule using digital calendars and reminder apps (like Google Calendar). Any “to do” items that don’t get done, can automatically get shifted to the next day. Or set a timer on your phone to prevent your kid from getting overwhelmed. (“Let’s see how much you can get done in the next 10 minutes!”)
2. The perfectionist
Beyond the pull of Pokémon, there may a deeper reason your kid is putting off homework. If he can’t bear the thought of not doing it perfectly , he just won’t do it.
Kids who are sensitive or who are identified as gifted are especially prone to perfectionism, Lapointe says. The parents she sees at her practice in Vancouver often tell her they know their kids are capable of the work, but as she says, “they don’t want to venture into that vulnerable state of doing homework.” Perfectionists, she adds, see it as “an opportunity for someone to shine a spotlight on the fact that they have no idea what they’re doing or feel that what they’re doing is not living up to their ideal.” Sometimes they’ll start a project many times—they keep rejecting their own ideas, hoping the next one will be perfect.
What to do: Overcoming perfectionism is anything but easy. In fact, your kid may always have anxiety around getting things right, and it might take longer for her to get through work than you might expect.
Try to keep the focus on process rather than outcome. As Lapointe says, “the learn ing journey should be about how to approach this, how we problem solve.” For instance, instead of asking what mark he got, she suggests parents say, “Did you try your hardest? Then whatever happens now is not important.”
To ensure your kid doesn’t get stuck, say, at the brainstorming stage, Rumack recommends placing time limits on tasks. Or if your child can’t abide the idea of spelling anything incorrectly, a “spelling doesn’t count” rule—not worrying about or fixing spelling until the task is done—is worth trying; it can also help them avoid the perfectionist tendency to play it safe for fear of getting something wrong.
Tech Support: Dictation tools, such as Google Voice Typing or built-in Mac transcription, can help kids get ideas down without having to worry about spelling or penmanship, which can hold many perfectionists back.
3. The speed demon
With some kids, the faster they can get their homework done, the better. They’ll come home, whip out the assignment sheet, write a few rudimentary sentences and then holler, “Done!” They might feel that it’s silly to write about a book they’ve already read and they want to spend as little time as possible rehashing it. Those two-digit multiplication problems were a piece of cake in class—why do a whole extra page of them at home? They have better things to do.
What to do: Going over homework with your kids and double-checking that it’s up to snuff can help them understand why it’s important to be thorough, Lapointe says. For written work, Rumack has her tutors use the COPS checklist: Kids review their work and look for capitalization, order and organization, punctuation and spelling. You can also create checklists based on the criteria set out in the assignment sheet to help break tasks down.
Tech Support: Rumack recommends using tablet apps or software that encourage preplanning of written work, such as Google Drawings or Inspiration. If it’s the process of writing ideas out that your child finds arduous, dictation software can help record ideas as quickly as they are produced.
4. The rebel
Maybe your kid is starting to see the world with a more critical eye, or maybe she has other interests that fall outside what’s being delivered in the school curriculum. In any case, she just doesn’t see the point of that geometry worksheet and has absolutely no interest in exploring the history of French-Canadian folk music. Rebels will second-guess and question the purpose of almost everything.
This, of course, can be a good trait. As Lee says, there’s more and more evidence that in the future the recipe for adult success will be about “divergent thinking, creative thinking, thinking outside the box and not waiting for someone to tell you what to do.” But if this attitude is starting to become problematic for the teacher and marks are suffering, it might be time to go back to basics.
What to do: Keep the emphasis on learning . Help your kids discover what new ideas, concepts or skills they can master. See if there’s a way to draw connections between their passions and the work they’re doing at school. If, for instance, you can persuade them that learning about area, perimeter and volume might help them design and build their own Millennium Falcon, you may make some progress.
Resist the urge, however, to offer rewards or bribes, says Lapointe. Even if you’re just rewarding effort, it sets up a bad dynamic in which the kid’s goal—whether it’s ice cream or more screentime—becomes the prize, not the learning experience. But as Lee says, sometimes it comes down to this message: “Whatever homework you’re getting, you just need to get it done, you don’t necessarily have to put your heart and soul into it.”
Tech Support: The novelty of a tech device or app can jump-start a rebel’s interest. Motivational tools like digital timers can help get them into the groove of sitting down and working. And if your child is particularly resistant to reading, Rumack finds audiobooks can be quite helpful, although she strongly recommends that a physical copy of the book remain part of the reading process, too.
5. The forgetter
Did he write in his agenda today? “Oh no, I forgot.” When is the diorama project due? “I can’t remember.” Where did he put that assignment sheet for the family tree project? “I don’t know.”
Part of our role as parents is to help kids develop organizational skills , Lapointe says, but with some kids, that’s going to require a lot of monitoring, reminding and cajoling. “For many children, remembering and organization simply are ‘can’t dos’ rather than ‘won’t dos,’ because of immaturity,” she says.
What to do: Start out with a lot of structure, repetition and reminders. At first, don’t rely on your child to drive the process, as she may not yet have the skills or the maturity to deal with the consequences of her actions. Help her develop good habits by attaching a tag to her backpack with a list of everything she needs to remember to bring home and by checking her agenda together at the end of the day. Once her organizational skills begin to develop, it’s important to back off, Lapointe says, so that you’re not just perpetuating a situation in which the child is depending on you to remember everything for her. (You don’t want to end up being your kid’s permanent personal assistant.)
Tech Support: Many tech tools are tailor-made for the forgetter. If the school allows devices in the classroom, taking a picture of the homework board can help students who have a hard time using a physical agenda. The same goes for assignment sheets: A digital photo is much harder to lose than a crumpled piece of paper in the bottom of a backpack. Digital calendars, where parents and kids can sync reminders, can also be invaluable.
Make it a habit
As parents, we quickly learn that no matter what the parenting challenge, one of our most effective tools is helping kids develop a routine. That applies to homework, too. Experts recommend kids sit down at the same time, in the same place every evening so that starting homework becomes as automatic as putting on a seat belt.
When to back off
There’s no doubt kids benefit when you get involved in monitoring homework and help them establish good habits. But you don’t want to get over-involved. If you help too much, you might be masking a larger problem. As teacher Royan Lee says, if a child is assigned work she just doesn’t have the skills, knowledge or understanding to complete, there’s really no value in having a parent fill in the blanks. After all, kids learn the most when they themselves figure out how to overcome hurdles. And teachers need to know when a child is having trouble with the work or just isn’t developmentally ready to tackle it. Parenting educator Vanessa Lapointe says parents need to consider when to rescue their children and when to let them fail. If you believe your child has the maturity and the tools to deal with failure, sometimes the decision not to intervene might be the right one, and once in a while a reprimand from a teacher might go way further than more nagging from you. The message that occasionally we need to back off can be a difficult one for some parents to hear. Lee’s advice? “Teachers assign homework because we want students to practise something. We know not everyone’s going to get it done.” And remember, if your child is struggling every night to complete assignments, it could be that either her homework is too difficult or she’s getting too much. That’s definitely the right time to talk to the teacher about what’s going on.
This article was originally published online in August 2016.
A Fine Parent
A Life Skills Blog Exclusively For Parents
Child Not Doing Homework? Read This Before You Try Anything Else
by Tanith Carey . (This article is part of the Be Positive series. Get free article updates here .)
Instead, Lily had just scribbled all over her homework worksheet, thrown her pencil on the floor and was now yelling at the top of her voice: “ I hate Math! I suck at it!”
With my younger daughter to put to bed, Lily in a melt down and me exhausted after a day at work, the tension was rapidly rising.
But even if I could calm ourselves down , there was no end in sight. Even if I could persuade her to finish her math homework, Lily still had the whole book reading to do.
So I was facing two choices –
Should I stand over her and insist that not doing homework was NOT an option?
Or should I tell her to put the books away, write a note to her teacher and just let her unwind and play in the lead up to bedtime?
Have you been there? What choice would you make?
The choice I would make now is very different to what my choice would have been a few years back.
Back then, I’d try to push through with a mixture of cajoling and prompting and assurances that she did know how to do her Math really .
If that didn’t work then maybe in despair and frustration that she didn’t seem to want to try, I would have gotten angry and tried to explain how serious I was about this.
A Game of One-Upmanship
After all, what choice did I have? From the very early days in the private nursery she attended, I found myself surrounded by lots of other mothers locked into the same race to make their children the brightest and the best.
As Lily got older, I came to learn how insidiously contagious pushy parenting is.
If one of the mothers spotted another parent with a Kumon Math folder, we all rushed to sign up too – for fear our children would get left behind.
Neurosis underpinned every conversation at the school gates – particularly as all of us were aiming to get our children into a small handful of selective private schools in the area.
Bit by bit, the parenting journey which had started off being so exciting and rewarding, was turning into a stressful game of one-upmanship .
But children are not products to be developed and put on show to reflect well on us.
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Depending on what happens on the night, every child is conceived with a unique combination of genes which also maps out their strengths, weaknesses and personality traits before they are even born.
Lily may have been bred into a competitive hotbed. But as an innately modest and sensitive child, she decided she did not want to play.
The alarm bells started ringing in Grade Three when, after I personally made sure she turned in the best Space project, she won the prize. While I applauded uproariously from the sidelines, Lily, then seven, fled the room in tears and refused to accept the book token from the Head.
When she calmed down, she explained she hated us making a fuss. But what is just as likely is that she disliked the fact that her successes had become as much ours as hers. Even at that young age, no doubt she also realized that the more she succeeded, the more pressure she would be under to keep it up.
Over the next few years, the issues only deepened.
The Problem of Not Doing Homework
The increasing amounts of homework sent home by the school gradually turned our house into a war zone – with me as the drill sergeant.
Homework is one of the most common flash points between kids and parents – the crossroads at which academic endeavors meet parental expectations at close quarters – and behind closed doors.
Surveys have found that homework is the single biggest source of friction between children and parents. One survey found that forty percent of kids say they have cried during rows over it. Even that figure seems like a dramatic underestimate.
Yet more and more, it is recognized that homework undermines family time and eats into hours that should be spent on play or leisure.
A straightforward piece of work that would take a child twenty minutes at school can easily take four times as long at home with all the distractions and delaying tactics that go with it.
As a result, children get less sleep , go to bed later and feel more stressed .
Homework has even started to take over summer vacations.
Once, the long break was seen as a chance for children to have adventures, discover themselves and explore nature. Now the summer months are viewed as an extension of the academic year – a chance for kids to catch up or get ahead with workbooks and tutoring.
But ultimately homework abides by the law of diminishing returns.
Researchers at Duke University found that after a maximum of two hours of homework, any learning benefits rapidly start to drop off for high school students.
While some children will do everything to avoid doing it, at the extreme others will become perfectionists who have to be persuaded to go to bed. Some moms I spoke to had to bribe their children to do less!
Given the cloud of anxiety hovering over them, no wonder some of these children perceive education as stressful .
Pushed to the Brink
While all of us would say we love our children no matter what, unfortunately that’s not the message our kids hear. Instead, children become angry when they feel we are turning them into passive projects. Rather than feel like they are disappointing us, they disconnect. Early signs may be they become uncommunicative after school, stop looking parents in the eye, become secretive or avoidant.
But we need to remember that unhappy, stressed kids don’t learn.
Over the next few years, Lily’s insistence on not doing homework kept getting worse. To try and get to the bottom of it, my husband Anthony and I took her to see educational psychologist who found strong cognitive scores and no signs of learning difficulties.
But what the report did identify was how profoundly Lily’s self-worth had been affected . Even though I had never once told her she should be top of the class, she still felt she had to be good at everything. If she couldn’t be, she didn’t think there was any point trying at all.
It was clear despite our best efforts to support her, Lily constantly felt criticized . She was becoming defensive and resentful.
Most serious of all, by claiming she couldn’t do her homework – when she could – she was testing if my love for her was conditional on her success.
I had to face up to the painful truth that unless I took immediate action – and killed off my inner Tiger Mom – my child and I were growing apart.
So for the sake of my daughter, I realized I had to change direction and take my foot off the gas .
When her tutor rang to tell me Lily needed a break, I was delighted to agree. Since then, I have let her focus on the subjects that really matter to her – art and music – and have let her decide what direction to take them in.
I also made a deliberate effort to spend time with Lily – just the two of us – so we can simply “be” together. Now instead of trips to the museums and classical concerts, we go for walks in the park and hot chocolates.
The Difficult Journey Back
To help her recognize and dismiss the voice that was bringing her down, I took her to see a Neuro-Linguistic Programming coach who teaches children strategies to untangle the persistent negative thoughts that undermine their self-belief – and replace them with positive ones.
Before we began, Jenny explained that Lily’s issues are not uncommon. As a teacher with 30 years’ experience, Jenny believes the growing pressure on children to perform from an early age is contributing to a general rise in learning anxiety. The youngest child she has helped was six .
It’s children like Lily, who don’t relish a contest, who are among the biggest casualties.
At home, some have been made to feel they are not good enough by parents or are intimidated by more academic sisters and brothers. Some may develop an inferiority complex simply because they are born into high-achieving families.
Once established, failure can also become self-reinforcing. Even when they get good marks, children like Lily still dwell on the pupil who got the higher one to support their negative views of their abilities, making it a self-perpetuating downward spiral.
It’s when children start to see this self-criticism as fact that the negative self-talk can start.
As she sat on the sofa, Jenny asked Lily if she had ever heard a nagging voice in her head that put her down. Lily looked surprised but answered that yes, she had. Asked who it was, my daughter replied: “It’s me, but the mean me.”
Asked to draw this character, Lily depicted an angry, disapproving female figure with her hands on her hips, with a mouth spouting the words “blah, blah, blah.” When asked to name her, Lily thought for a moment before coming up with the name Miss Trunch-Lily, so-called because the figure is half herself – and half the hectoring teacher from Roald Dahl’s Matilda.
Now that Miss Trunch-Lily had been nailed, Jenny and Lily agreed an easy way to deal with her would be to talk back and tell her “Stop it, you meanie” one hundred times.
But that would take a long time, so Lily and Jenny came up with a quicker solution; imagining a canon which would instantly send a shower of 60 candies into her mouth so she couldn’t say another word.
Next time Lily heard her nagging voice, all she had to do was press an imaginary button and her nemesis would be silenced.
In the months that followed, Lily seemed to relax. Gradually the procrastination about homework started to vanish – and Lily was much more likely to open her books after school and quietly get on with her homework.
A Fresh New Start
Instead my husband, my daughters and I went on long walks with our dog. We examined different types of seaweed and examined crabs in rock pools.
Back in the cottage, we sat around and read books that interested us. I let the children play upstairs for hours, not on their phones, but in long elaborate role-plays, without feeling the need to interrupt once.
I would wager that Lily and Clio learnt more about themselves – and what they are capable of – in a single week than in a whole semester at their schools where they hardly get a moment to stop and think.
Of course, for the child born with a go-getting personality, teaming up with turbo-charged parents can be a winning combination – to start with at least.
But as adults, we have to start asking – how high we can raise the bar before it’s too high for our children to jump?
After all, a bigger picture is also emerging : a rise in anxiety disorders, depression and self-harm among children who have grown up with this continual pressure – and the emergence of a generation who believe they are losers if they fail, they’ve never done enough if they win.
Even among children who succeed in this environment, educationalists are finding pushy parenting creates a drive towards perfectionism which can turn into self-criticism when these young people can’t live up to such high standards.
I’m happy that in the midst of this arms race to push our kids more and more, there are changes afoot. Around the world, parents and educators are drawing up a blue-print for an alternative.
Whether it’s slow parenting , minimalist parenting , free-range parenting – or the more bluntly named Calm the F*** Down parenting , there is recognition that we need to resist the impulse to constantly push and micro-manage.
As a mother to Lily, as well as my younger daughter, Clio, I’ve decided I don’t want to be a part of all those crushing burdens of expectations. I want to provide a relief from it.
Apart from the fact it makes children happier, it’s also so much more fun.
Now I love the fact that when Lily messes around in the kitchen making cupcakes, I no longer have to fight the urge to tell her to hurry up – and badger her to finish her homework.
Of course, not doing homework is not an option – but these days in our house the aim is to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. If a concept is not understood, I don’t pull my hair out trying to be the teacher and trying to play ‘catch-up’. If Lily, now 12, genuinely does not understand it, I write a note to the member of the staff to explain that it may need further explanation. It’s a simple system and is working perfectly fine for us.
I like it that when she comes home from school, and I ask her, ‘How are you?’ I really mean it. It’s no longer code for: ‘What marks did you get today, darling?’ and I’m not thinking ‘Hurry up with your answer, so we can get on with your homework.’
Most of all I love the fact that I can finally appreciate Lily for the person she is now: a 12-year-old girl with an acerbic sense of humor who likes Snoopy, play-dates and kittens – and not for the person I once wanted her to be.
The 2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents
For our quick contemplation questions today –
- Imagine meeting your child in 20 years times. Ask them to describe their childhood. Do they describe it as magical? Or do they look back on it as a race from one after school activity and homework project to the next?
- Ask yourself what do you want for your children? When you say you want your children to be happy, what has that come to mean to you? If you really analyze it, has it drifted into being interpreted as professional success and financial acumen? Furthermore, have you come to judge success by a very narrow definition of traditional career achievement and earning power?
- Now check again. If you look around you, what do the happiest people you know have in common? Is it material goods, high-flying jobs and academic qualifications? Or is it emotional balance? If you approach the question another way, are the wealthiest people you know also the most satisfied with life?
The Ongoing Action Plan for Fine Parents
Spend some time sorting through any conflicts related to your kids not doing homework.
To start with, train your children in good habits and place time limits on how long homework should take from the start.
Ask the school how long a child should spend on each subject at night. Then you can help keep those limits in place by telling kids they can’t spend a minute more – or a minute less – than the allotted time.
Find the time of the day after school that works best for your child – either straight after arriving home or after a short break. Agree a start time every day so that the rule turns into a routine and there is less room for resistance and negotiation.
Don’t finish their homework for kids because you are desperate to get it off the evening’s to-do list. That will just mask the problem and get you dragged into a nightly conflict. Help them instead to take responsibility for their homework, while you provide guidance from the sidelines on an on-need basis.
About Tanith Carey
Award-winning parenting writer Tanith Carey is a mother-of-two who writes books which aim to address the most pressing issues for modern families – and how to build strong, resilient kids in today’s challenging world. Her latest book Taming the Tiger Parent: How to put your child's well-being first in a competitive world has been called a big picture book to ‘re-orientate our parenting’, ‘highly readable’ ‘well-researched’ and ‘ beautifully written’ by teachers, parents and professionals. The book has received global coverage from outlets ranging from the NBC Today Show to the New York Post to yahooparenting, the Guardian and dailymail.online. Her seventh book 'Girls Uninterrupted - A manual for raising courageous daughters' - will be published in February 2015.
December 22, 2014 at 9:14 am
This is interesting to me because it doesn’t match our experience at all. We are struggling with my daughter doing homework, but it’s more of an adolescent rebellion/lethargy thing.
My kids attend a Montessori school which generally does not assign homework. What homework they tend to get in the elementary levels is a packet of assorted reading and math that they have an entire week to do at whatever pace works for them. My son’s homework is optional and he always opts out. (He’s very busy at home drawing and playing piano and he’s already reading at a high school level in second grade, so we never worry about academics with him anyway.) But my oldest is in seventh grade and they are trying to transition the kids into what will happen in high school, and my daughter has balked at all the homework.
But we have never approached our kids’ homework as our responsibility. We are always available to help and answer questions, but I explain that I passed whatever grade they are in already, and this is their turn to learn and show what they know. It’s been much harder clamping down on my oldest and making sure she knows what the homework is and has it ready. I explained to her recently that I remember those rebellious feelings, but the only person she’s hurting is herself. She’s limiting her choices later by not doing homework. Her teachers care, but in the end it doesn’t impact them, either. It’s all on her. I also told her the worst case scenario is she ends up at the local high school by default instead of following her friends to better places, but that the local high school is good too, so it’s not the end of the world.
I actually worry when I read about other parents monitoring elements of their kids’ lives so much more closely than I do that I’m not doing enough, but my kids are smart and happy and kind and I think they will do fine in the world, so I suppose we will stick with what we are doing. Because all of us are getting some part of it wrong, regardless.
December 22, 2014 at 11:07 am
Thanks so much for sharing that perspective, Korinthia. I love your calm and collected approach to everything parenting, so I’m not entirely surprised with the way you approach home work 🙂 That said, in the circles I hang out, very few parents (if any) would be as calm about this as you are! I don’t know if it has anything to do with the fact that most of us are first generation immigrants and are quite fanatic about education…
Even among our friends, we are a bit of an extreme case. Our daughter goes to a private school. She’s had to do daily homework on weekdays (Mon – Thu) since Kinder. We did have some initial resistance, but it’s mostly a well-established habit now. When she comes home, we take a short break, and then she sits down for homework while I get dinner ready.
Most of the days, it happens without any issues. Some days, she tries to change the rules by wanting to play before homework. I understand her want to do that, but having come from a middle class family in a developing country, my perspective on this is very different. We are where we are, quite literally, due to the discipline we had in regards to education. That discipline is a very powerful thing and like many things the earlier you get it instilled the easier it is. I see it as my job to instill that discipline in my daughter. What she wants to do with it when she grows up is up to her. (In my own case, I’ve shelved a Ph.D to be a stay-at-home mom now and pursue what I really want to do. But that’s been possible only because my degree allowed me to get a high-paying job where I was able to save enough that I don’t have to worry about money for a few years. In those years, if I can find a way to earn a modest income from this site without selling my soul, great. If not, I’ll go back to my old job and repeat the cycle. It’s an amazing freedom to have!)
Anyway, so to me, it boils down to this: this is another case of the intricate balance we parents have to strike — we need to nudge our kids to reach their full potential, but without making it stressful and hopefully in a way that they actually enjoy the process. It’s not easy, and like you I wonder sometimes if I’m making the right choice. And here, I’ll defer to your wise words, because I can’t say it any better — my [daughter is] smart and happy and kind and I think will do fine in the world, so I suppose we will stick with what we are doing. Because all of us are getting some part of it wrong, regardless. 🙂
December 22, 2014 at 3:36 pm
I’m endlessly fascinated with how many ways there are to do things as a family. And it’s always interesting to know what others think of as normal.
I guess for us it comes down to the idea that learning is important, but grades are not. I had a horribly unfair incident in college concerning a grade, and I remember my grandmother smiling and saying, “No one ever asks me what my GPA was.” And it’s true. MIT was threatening to withhold my brother’s Master’s Degree over a deadline on a signature he had nothing to do with, and he just shrugged it off and said, “They can’t take back what I learned.” (They did finally give him his degree, but he really didn’t care.) Grades don’t really mean much. A “B” for one student may be a mark of a lot of effort, and evidence of slacking off for another. I’m more interested in what my kids actually know.
I think that’s why Montessori has been such a good fit for us. They teach to the individual, they don’t give letter grades, and there is no sense of competition, only striving to learn more about the world. We know by comparison to other schools around the city that ours is one of the highest performing, so we feel confident that they are getting a good education, but it’s their education, not mine.
Maybe because I grew up in a family of artists? We were always busy, always making things and learning something new. That’s what I want for my kids. I like that they are never bored, and that they LOVE school. They love it. They pretend not to be sick when they have a cold just so they can go. I guess in my mind that’s what school should be. Someplace to be excited about.
December 22, 2014 at 4:54 pm
It is fascinating, isn’t it? I think the way we grow up, and what we have experienced, colors the lens through which we see the world.
I agree with you that at the end of the day, learning, and the love of learning, are more important than everything else.
I think differently about grades though. Grades to me, are a reflection of how well you can apply that learning. Knowledge by itself isn’t enough. You need to be able to apply it in some way – either to earn a living, or help make the world a better place, or whatever. For kids, getting good grades are a way to practice applying/expressing their knowledge… it’s a very narrow and imperfect way to do it, but it’s what we have, nevertheless.
And, I look at absolute grades… not relative ones. In other words, I don’t care how many other kids did better or worse than her in any given test… I’m interested mainly in what she did or didn’t do well.
Just like us, she will sometimes be successful in applying that knowledge. Sometimes, not as much. The question then is, what can I do to help her better retain what she has learnt and apply it more effectively?
Now, if her grades aren’t good because of something outside her control, she is off the hook. If not, we hold her accountable, and work on it together to try and figure out what she can change/improve to do better next time.
So far, this seems to have worked and I haven’t beat the joy of learning out of her, yet 🙂 But, we’re still at the beginning of her learning journey… we’ll have to see what happens as we go along and things get more demanding and more complex…
PS: This is one of the more interesting discussions I’ve had on this blog in a while — Thank you! 🙂
December 23, 2014 at 4:10 am
Thanks for the very considered and calm discussion of this issue that is happening here. This piece is not about Lily so much as it is about how great it can be when we parents discard our baggage and come to our children afresh. My book Taming the Tiger Parent has been called ‘a book to re-orientate’ parenting – and really it is about one thing: Finding empathy and connection with our children without letting the world (which does not always want the best for our kids) to get in the way. Please share so that we get other parents have the confidence to do the same – and enjoy their parenting more..(and that’s just the adults!)
December 23, 2014 at 12:25 pm
Sumitha, I’m probably biased about grades because my own history with them has been so unrepresentative, and I think people place too much stock in them. In my kids’ school they work on preparing a portfolio of all kinds of work rather than relying on letter grades, and that works better for us. But as far as using grades simply as a barometer of whether a child is taking care of responsibilities that seems completely reasonable.
That’s one of the discussions I’m continually having with my daughter at the moment, that she needs to provide evidence for her teachers that she’s done the work. She feels the magic of a book, for instance, is marred by her picking it apart for an analysis. She’ll read the book, and she’s a good writer, but she resents the type of work assigned about it and sometimes won’t do it. (I used to do the same thing, so I get it.) I tell her she just has to pick her consequence. She can either suck it up and do the work, challenge the work by coming up with a different assignment that maybe meets the same criteria the teachers are interested in, or not do it. The first two improve her report card, and the third hurts it. The report card is a means to more choices about her future. (As her mom, I’m actually just happy she read and loved the book.)
In the end, I’m not worried. For her, bad grades at a good school are probably worth more than good grades at a bad school, and she will still have more choices than the average child. Wherever she ends up she will make it work, but that’s up to her.
I acknowledge we are in a privileged position, because she’s got enough talent and charm and resources and family that she will not starve, she will not be homeless, regardless of grades. I think the real key to success is figuring out your passion if you can, so you know what you’re working toward. As soon as she figures that out I’m convinced she has the skills and discipline to build a good life for herself. I did. (And my report cards would have given you a panic attack!)
December 23, 2014 at 9:24 pm
I have to agree with you and your daughter about the book reports — we did our first one a few weeks back, and it was decidedly much more unpleasant compared to just reading and enjoying the book!
Good luck convincing your daughter to pick one of the first two consequences. But it is clear that even if she picks the third you’ll take it in your stride — which is what I find so admirable about you 🙂
December 25, 2014 at 8:11 am
Such an interesting discussion, thank you!
One more piece to toss in there if you have time for it: http://www.thestrad.com/cpt-latests/bribery-used-motivation-practice/
I know it’s an article about practicing music, but it’s the same idea about grades as a reward, and how that backfires.
I think for me it’s not that grades are not important, it’s that they should reflect something real. If my kids are learning and working hard, the grades will follow. But their focus should always be on their education, not their grades.
December 25, 2014 at 5:04 pm
That is particularly true in music where racing from one music grade to the next, as kids do here, can destroy enjoyment of music for its own sake – and that is a very sad. It just becomes about teaching to the test. In my view children should have music as another language – and another outlet for emotion, not just as a way to build CVs
December 25, 2014 at 11:04 pm
Well said. Couldn’t agree more.
December 26, 2014 at 8:37 am
@Korinthia, sorry for the late reply — busy with the holidays.
Love that article you pointed to. Some time back, I came across several articles by Alfie Kohn and got very confused about this whole rewards thingie. At that point I was just starting to move away from threats, punishment and screaming, and thought I was doing good by using rewards and positive reinforcement instead, and Kohn’s articles turned that notion on it’s head.
Things eventually started to fall in place when I read the “Power of Habits” by Charles Duhigg.
My very unsubstantiated, unproven, non-scientific conclusion (which I wrote about here ) is based on this observation mentioned in that article — Kohn and his colleagues would admit that rewards, bribes and praise do indeed work in the short term — and Chales Duhigg’s observations that once a habit is formed, you can remove the reward completely from the habit loop and the habit will continue.
So in my opinion, if you use rewards as a way to establish a habit and not as the end result, they still have a place.
In the case of grades for instance, grades are a way to get into a consistent study habit which is — pay attention in class, learn what the teacher is teaching, review at home if necessary, let’s talk about it as much as you want or you can look things up in books/Net, apply in a test. At 1st grade it’s very hard to make learning *all* subjects fun, but a habit like this will apply to all subjects universally. Grades are a great way to get that habit started initially — they are tangible and there is recognition. As we go on, we focus the message on the learning — for instance, like me, grammar was not my daughters favorite subject. By looking at the test results and saying “Hey, you did well in your grammar test. You’re learning a lot for a first grader! What is this you’ve done here? Diagramming? We never did that in India. Will you teach me how to diagram a sentence?” implicitly acknowledges the grade on that test, but the grade isn’t the focus. When she draws on her white board and teaches me how to diagram a sentence, there is pride and joy in her and now she is a lot more interested in grammar.
I am not a music person (I know, sorry :)) but I would think that using a reward to get a child to practice until the child’s first performance isn’t a bad idea. Once the child performs in front of an audience, and enjoys that sense of accomplishment, the practice habit will likely carry through, even if you remove whatever temporary reward you used. If the child has an inclination towards music, they will learn to enjoy the practicing part of it too as they go along — it’s just a matter of getting them to do it for long enough to recognize that.
December 26, 2014 at 8:54 am
@Korinthia, I’m still thinking about it 🙂
The latest discussion reminded me about the marble jar experiment you shared on your blog some time back ( here ). At first your kids may have done the chores to earn those marbles to get the screen time or other things (rewards). But once the system (habit) was established, the marbles (or the things they could buy) is not necessarily a motivator to do the chores… it is “just how things are done” — a simple habit/system that removes the need for verbal negotiation, arguing, reminders, cajoling, power struggles etc from the picture and hence makes what needs to be done tolerable/fun for everyone involved.
December 27, 2014 at 3:48 am
To be honest on music, I think you also know your child is playing the right instrument when they do want to practice. I know that sounds idealistic but they will be much drawn towards that instrument if it’s the one that lights their ‘spark.’ Lily and Clio both do play the violin to a very high level – but as I explain in my book, that doesn’t mean I have had been to be an Amy Chau tiger parent to get to them point. Also music has become a way of life in our house, and they play music together, which helps.
January 2, 2015 at 9:19 am
(Sorry to keep this discussion dragging on forever, but it’s the kind of thing I really enjoy!)
Sumitha, I agree about using some rewards for forming habits. When my kids first started violin we got into a routine of combining practice with dessert. We don’t often have dessert, but to get them in a habit of practicing after dinner they would get marshmallows for each little thing they played. Then just at the end of the practicing. Then not at all and they didn’t notice. They were four and six at the time and that helped because it was easier to catch their attention with marshmallows than with some abstract sense of musical improvement, which on violin is painfully slow.
The hardest part about teaching beginning violin is to keep students essentially distracted from the fact that they don’t sound like anything for a long, long time, while they put in the necessary work that will improve how they sound. I used to use small stickers with my students to mark when songs were done, but it wasn’t much of a reward. My kids’ violin teacher uses toys and candy as incentives week to week, and I can see how it backfires. It takes the focus off the work and onto the treat, and not getting the treat feels like punishment. My son’s piano teacher doesn’t even use stickers–just checks things off so he knows not to keep working on them, and that’s working much better, but there is a lot more instant gratification to piano than there is to violin.
In terms of grades, we just view them differently. They tell such an incomplete story that they don’t interest me much. You know a little something if a kid gets all good grades vs. all bad grades, but beyond that, nothing useful. When I was in 7th grade I had a notoriously sexist shop teacher who would NOT give a girl an A in mechanical drawing. I know my first drawing in that class was better than the boy’s sitting next to me, but he got all A’s. I complained to my mom who told me when she was in college absolutely no woman could get an A in her advertising class, and she was far and away the best artist there. (Also, some agencies flat out did not hire women, which still blows my mind.) I got alternating A’s and failing grades in reading in 6th grade based purely on whether I handed in the assignments. The quality of the writing didn’t matter to the teacher. Would you rather hire a writer who writes well, or one who writes poorly but always meets deadlines? Depends on the need.
When I think about grades I always think about the valedictorian from my brothers’ high school class. One of my brothers spent his senior year at USC. He was second in his class because he got a B in one of those college courses. Number one? A girl who spent all of her high school experience striving for perfect grades. Her brother was the valedictorian of my class, and she felt she had to match that. It was expected. So she took courses purely based on what she could get an A in. She did not risk taking physics, or calculus. She avoided English and History classes taught by the more challenging teachers. She wasted her chance at an interesting education so she could say she was valedictorian. For myself as a parent, that would not make me proud at all. If as a family we were disadvantaged and that status would provide important opportunities my child wouldn’t otherwise get, then sure, that would be a worthy (if distorted) goal. It’s all relative, and again, every family is different.
Tanith, I agree that kids have to play an instrument that speaks to them. I wish more parents knew that. I had a sample lesson once with a really hostile boy who had a ton of talent and ability, and his mom was making him play. I asked him what he would rather do, and he wanted to play guitar. I told his mom I thought he should switch (or even just add it) because violin brought him no joy. At it’s core, music should be about joy. His mom had a sense of “violin is better” and it was a status thing for her. She was shocked I suggest he be allowed to play guitar and said, “You think guitar is okay?” I told her there was nothing wrong with guitar, and if he liked what he was playing he would do better and enjoy it more. Glad your children like playing violin! One of my projects for the new year is to start building a full size one for my oldest and have her help. (Not many kids get to play a violin they literally had a hand in making, so that should be fun!)
January 2, 2015 at 11:02 am
I love this discussion, too Korinthia! Thank you so much for it. Both writing about it, and reading your’s and Tanith’s points of view has been great for me for sorting through what I want/stand for, in terms of grades, homework etc. for my daughter. With our choice to send her to a private school, these are a part of our everyday life and being more clear about it sure helps!
Your words “If as a family we were disadvantaged and that status would provide important opportunities my child wouldn’t otherwise get, then sure, that would be a worthy (if distorted) goal.” — this describes my life quite literally. While I can see your perspective on grades and it makes a ton of sense, it is hard for me to actually be that cool about it, simply because I am where I am because of the grades, degrees etc (I had written a guest post a while ago that may provide some background here – on money and happiness ). Even though grades/degrees haven’t brought anything of real substance to my life, they nevertheless are the tickets that opened a lot of doors for us and so I simply can’t bring myself to totally break free from them — but I am happy that through these discussions, I am broadening my perspective a bit and hopefully my daughter will benefit from it!
About music, most Asian kids end up in piano classes by default, but my daughter didn’t quite show any interest in a play keyboard she had as a kid which I took as an indication that it’s not her “thing”. I’ve talked to her a couple of times about guitar classes — while she shows interest in it for the novelty of it, she didn’t pounce on it like when I mentioned art class. A lot of my friends argue that kids can doodle and paint at home and there’s no need to spend on classes, and that money is better spent on music so we can introduce something ‘new’ to our kids. I see that point, but I am a believer of the 10,000 hour rule and if she loves art, and doodling, I’d rather pay for her to just take classes in that and hone that craft. Again, no idea if that is a good choice or if it will come back to bite me in the future… we’ll see 🙂
December 23, 2014 at 6:54 am
I really like what you have to say. It converges well with what I have said in my book, The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers.
December 23, 2014 at 8:41 am
Thanks for sharing that, Dr. Goldberg. Sounds like an interesting book. I will try to grab a copy of it.
December 24, 2014 at 3:51 am
Thanks Dr Goldberg. I will be definitely checking out your book and sharing it. I think it’s so important that writers in this area band together so others can see there there’s a strong movement forming, questioning where the current educational ethos is leading us.
November 20, 2019 at 7:28 pm
January 2, 2018 at 10:44 am
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October 17, 2018 at 1:18 pm
So what was the title of this BOOK I didn’t read !?!? Guess I overlooked it !!! Just look for a few good pointers not a book to read !!!
May 15, 2020 at 9:36 pm
Thank you SO much for these words….
December 22, 2014 at 10:12 am
Ooh Tanith, excellent article, thank you for sharing this with Sumitha and the rest of us. It was more than I expected. At first I thought, “Well, my kid doesn’t really have issues too much with homework . . . but I’ll look it over.” Very glad I did, it’s much more than homework!
Yes, the delays and distractions, that’s what I have here with my 9 year old. Despite our questions to the school, we never got a complete answer as to how kids were “sorted” each year into what class. Turns out they did it by testing scores and not the “mix-up” of kids to juggle things up from year to year as I was originally told years ago. Of course this created a bit of hurt pride and friction about the subject with my husband and I towards the school as we of course thought our child should be in with the other kids. Even now, with a friend’s child being in the other class, there is a pressure for our own child to do better, push harder, get into that class. Luckily my husband is more level-headed about it than me and this article gave me a good wake-up call. The amount of work they had was more than her class and gave me some concern as to whether she was learning enough. Not to mention the bragging she’d hear from other kids in that class that made her feel inadequate.
Not every child is going to be the next Einstein and we know our daughter is a smart girl but has a stronger pull, like your Lily, toward art and other subjects. We have to enhance their skills and passions and not just push, push, push for the grades and I feel I was like you as well, nervous with the report card. I was proud of her but wanted her to do better but my husband would say, she’s done well, you can’t compare her to so and so and I couldn’t and shouldn’t have. It hit home quickly last year when at the end of the school year, she had two awards and was so happy and I saw a few grades and felt a bit disappointed. I could see it took the wind out of her little sails and I told myself to get my act together and stop it. There was the summer project already spread out on the last day of school, which is a bit discouraging as not all schools do it and it’s a yearly thing for us but we took it in stride.
It also made me wonder about kids that are pushed, some take it out in frustrations and others, it seems to us, do the opposite and just push themselves to the point that they even feel that’s what matters most and I feel sorry for them. I wonder if that bragging isn’t covering up insecurities or worries.
I was worried about her starting to read as a preschooler when I found out one of the teacher’s kids was particularly gifted and rolling along at a very fast rate. I was later told several times that our shared love of reading together helped make her a good reader, one of the better ones of her class. When I took the pressure off of making her read, when often she didn’t feel like it, other than sitting with me while I read, it was more enjoyable and her reading progressed along just fine. Last year it was math that was the issue and now she’s doing very well in math but her language/vocabulary aren’t what they were. A cycle of some kind, who knows but we work on what needs tending to and I try not to push her to where she feels there is nothing else. She still needs that down time, that play time, enough sleep for certain and a chance to be a kid still, she is one, after all.
We have an allotted time for homework and I contact her teacher if something is a problem. I don’t help her like I used to but guide her and she takes pride in her work and getting her corrections done in school with the teacher.
Parenting is an everyday learning course. Obviously this article hit home, thank you. I look forward to more of your work Tanith and thank you as always Sumitha. A blessed holiday season to you both and a break that’s filled with fun and not work!
December 22, 2014 at 12:06 pm
Thank you so much for sharing that, Bernadette. There’s nothing like listening to stories from other parents and finding that common thread to feel normal again 🙂
We have the opposite combination in our house – my husband’s really fanatic about how my daughter does in school, while I am a little more level-headed.
I think the biggest eye opener for me were these words from Tanith – “for the child born with a go-getting personality, teaming up with turbo-charged parents can be a winning combination – to start with at least. But as adults, we have to start asking – how high we can raise the bar before it’s too high for our children to jump?” Our daughter has a very competitive streak, and at first it did look like my husband pushing her to be the best was really a good combination. But then she messed up one test and the fall out was beyond ridiculous. I couldn’t believe my husband’s (over) reaction or that overnight, my daughter was turning into a liar right before our very eyes. Where she thrived on competition before, she started to make excuses and make up stories. I had to put my foot down and set some explicit house rules about what is acceptable and what is not, on both their parts. It took a while but we have a working system now. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that we can nourish her strong natural tendency to try to be the best and the joy she gets from accomplishing things, without letting it take over or be the only thing! Like Korinthia said above, it is almost guaranteed that we won’t get it all right all the time… the key is to do the best we can, and like you said, keep on learning!
December 23, 2014 at 4:17 am
Dear Bernadette. I think you hit on a very interesting point here. “It also made me wonder about kids that are pushed, some take it out in frustrations and others.” I have been exploring this point because I believe that one of the unacknowledged knock-on effects of competitive parenting is sibling rows and tension. The children don’t just compete to win in the outside world – they do it at home too, leading to many more squabbles and less happy home. My girls Lily and Clio, for example, have never got on better – they collaborate and help each other with music, homework etc Yet I hear other parents proudly trumpet how they have children dead set on beating each other as if they was making them excel further. Instead is sets up a template that I believe can ruin sibling relationships into adulthood Another reason to take the foot of the gas….
December 22, 2014 at 11:24 pm
Really liked the article. Parenting is like walking on a razor’s edge and very rightly said, ‘all of us are getting parts of it wrong’…. Regardless :)..
Stay happy, keep the kid happy and let them be!
December 23, 2014 at 4:18 am
Thanks Anshu. Please share if you can to give other parents the confidence to take their foot off the gas!
December 23, 2014 at 8:42 am
Thanks Dr. Anshu. Stay happy, keep the kid happy and let them be! — that’s a great mantra to live by 🙂
February 8, 2016 at 7:38 pm
This could not polbsisy have been more helpful!
February 21, 2016 at 6:54 pm
Great. I am so pleased you found it constructive.
February 21, 2016 at 6:47 pm
Encourage him to express his opinion, talk about his feelings, and make choices. Show enthusiasm for your child’s interests and encourage her to explore subjects that fascinate her. Provide him with play opportunities that support different kinds of learning styles — from listening and visual learning to sorting and sequencing. Ask about what he’s learning in school, not about his grades or test scores. Thanks!
February 21, 2016 at 6:53 pm
‘Ask about what he’s learning in school, not about his grades or test scores.’ Exactly
February 23, 2016 at 3:51 pm
Hi Tanith Carey,
I agree with you because it can be hurt child mind. Rest other motivation way very good from Evelyn W. Minnick. Also, I have written a blog for helping kids and it’s related to this article. “Best Ways to Get Your Kids to Do Homework Without All the Drama” To read this article visit at http://universityhomeworkhelp.com/best-ways-to-get-your-kids-to-do-homework-without-all-the-drama/
I hope my answer will help more readers of this article.
Thanks Nancie L Beckett
February 25, 2016 at 5:05 pm
This is a great article with lots of quality information about handling homework with kids. I’m a Tutor, you don’t believe “My kid Refuses to Do Homework Assignment.” After lots of research I got a solution, but it takes time. So I’m sharing with you.
Here’s How to Stop the Struggle:-
1. Try to stay calm 2. Set clear expectation around homework time and responsibilities. 3. Play the parental role most useful to your child. 4. Keep activities similar with all your kids. 5. Start early and Offer empathy and support. 6. Use positive reinforcement and incentives.
I used those. Meanwhile, I have written a blog about “How to Make Studying Less Stressful and More Fun?” visit at https://www.24x7homeworkhelp.com/blog/how-to-make-studies-less-stressful-and-more-fun/
Let me know if you have questions
Thanks Arlene B. Morgan
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August 2, 2016 at 3:46 am
The reality is that every kid is different and what works for one child may not work for another, even with kids in the same family. When our children were small, our goal was to make the actual work process and homework help as pleasant as possible. This was most commonly accomplished by placing a fuzzy, lazy cat on the lap of the student. Very few children (or adults for that matter) will rise from their chairs when there’s a cat sleeping on their lap. The cat also provides company without interfering with the actual thinking process.
September 21, 2016 at 2:47 pm
Very helpful information, my son who is 7 is not the biggest fan of homework. It does depend on the evening and last night was a doozy! He usually has Math every second day which is a review sheet from what they did in class. He acts out, lack of focus, complains that he is tired etc.
Last school year after Spring Break I had finally had enough, and decided homework would get done on my terms, I wanted my happy go lucky son back, so some nights we did not do homework, knowing that on nights that we did there would be more. That seemed to work.
This year my husband and I are working harder with our son, as he struggles with reading and writing. He is in Grade 2, but not at a Grade 2 level, we have support from his teacher, but last night when he was kicking up a fuss about Math, which he does well with I wondered if the subject he struggles with is the cause of the fuss. He even refused to read last night.
We know he feels like we are always working on learning, and we feel the same, but at the same time want to do what we can to support his learning development. I feel helpless at times, as I know he is aware that he struggles, especially when he says things like “I can’t read Mommy”. I try and keep it positive and that there are things that everyone struggles with, and we have to practice to get better.
I am always searching different ways to aid with his learning that will keep him engaged.
I know I rambled….
March 31, 2017 at 10:41 am
>>Of course, not doing homework is not an option – but these days in our house the aim is to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. Well, I have to disagree with you, kids in Finland do not do homework and their schools simply gave up giving their students homeworks and nothing happened, Finland is still on first levels of education ladders. So it’s optional for everyone , however if it is not optional for you child you can always ask other people for math homework help or chemistry homework help.
April 6, 2017 at 12:09 pm
This article was helpful. While I don’t push my kid to be perfect or ask how other kids did compared to her I constantly get push back from my child with anything she doesn’t want to do. It can be very frustrating. She doesn’t like my input on solving problems at all so I have to just back off or deal with her covering her ears and tuning me out.
She fortunately listens to her teacher, but if she gets tired of something, she loves to tune people out. She is 7 now and has been this way since she was about 4. Example, she got tired of listening to her swim instructor at age 4 and would submerge herself under water so she didn’t have to listen. She is a CHALLENGE and if you give her the option to slack off with work she will do it. Not quite sure how to even go about it. She could care less if she got no credit for missing work. To her, it’s no consequence so it’s been difficult to figure out a workaround with her. She isn’t a spoiled child and if you took the few things she does have away from her, she is fine with that. I don’t like threatening to take things away though. I feel it solves nothing. Challenging!
November 4, 2017 at 9:59 am
Any advice for people who aren’t wealthy? The amount of time and money required for your solutions are absolutely not available to the vast majority of Americans. Neuro linguistic training and private schools? Impossible for all but a few. Most of us are *not* in some insane competition with other parents to push our kids into Harvard by starting waiting lists for preschool. Most of us just want our kids to be able to take care of themselves someday and be successful enough to be happy. Not doing homework is a problem for most kids, rich or poor, competitive or not, regardless of personality, regardless of parenting. This advice is about your child at all. It’s about what you did to your child and then had to undo. Not all kids have been conditioned to internalize the overbearing voice of their type A parents. Some just don’t want to do homework.
November 6, 2017 at 2:42 am
Thank you for this article. Wow, I relate so much to this article. I struggle with my 11 yr old to do homework. She’s exactly like Lily, a soon as she starts doing homework she calls for my help that she doesn’t understand. She’s very bright and learns right away, but I do see she’s stressing. She feels that she’s too slow and takes to long to finish her homework. I know is me without realizing I am pressuring her too much. I must change.
I’m going to change our schedule. I just realized that I didn’t make enough quality time. I need to change that and not pressure my princess about homework.
Thank you so much.
December 23, 2017 at 11:14 pm
Hi folks! My son is older, in 10th grade, and thus it is a very delicate time. That said, up until recently, he was working hard but generally doing well in Honors classes, AP Biology, and AP US History. He is also in band and very intererested in Congressional Debate in Forensics Club. He’s developed a forceful personality, and pursues his goals fearlessly.
Then, it seems a single English research paper broke the camel’s back. It was a walk-thru project: Do basic step A, use A to do 3 days of research in the library, identify a list of relevant quotes, analyze the quotes, develop a rough draft, etc. During the first stages, he always had a reason why it wasn’t done. The grading structure required every step to be completed before the next step started. So, he sat. Supposedly, he had a paper step written in Google Docs…but now he doesn’t remember the “dashed off” name (“stuff2958749.doc”, for example) so he considers that..and the previous steps useless. Why do I need to do this stuff, when I can just write the paper? Why?
My wife is an experienced special educator, and the teacher is engaged and working with us to give our son more options. Still, he pushes back. We’ve done so far as to negotiate him just working on the rough draft, and accepting the zeros on the skipped stages. Somehow, that devolved into him retreating into his room, slamming his door. He has proposed that the teacher “simply” nullify the assignment without a set of grades. If we accept this multiple zero, it will possibly wreck his entire class, possibly causing him to fail 10th grade English. In NJ, that means you don’t move forward to 11th grade.
I’ve had a couple of long discussions with him, away from his mother. He mentions a desire for a more intense structure. He references his stay at an advanced debate camp, where he engaged with other students…who were attending very expensive private schools. “One you see the outside world, you can never be satisfied with being trapped indoors”…he has restated this concept in multiple ways. These schools are beyond our reach financially, and in any case, they aren’t an option in the middle of a school year. And it is unlikely that he’d be accepted, if he wrecks his class grades.
Part of this scenario seems to be a desire to force us to engage with him, in an attempt to work around the school structure. He does have an IEP and 504, which in middle school once allowed him to work independently. Somehow, he thinks that is an option in 10th grade honors English.
Engaging is a real challenge. He’s confident in his ability to argue, and is fully willing to ignore our facts and predictions of fallout. He even discredits his mother’s deep educational knowledge and experience, and then criticizes my perceived lack of business success as ad hominem attacks. (I’m doing fine, but it forces me to defend, and thus is successful distraction.) So far, laying out consequences has been entirely ineffectual. He requires an answer to his “Why?”, but disregards the answers as inadequate. He demands an academic answer to why the teaching technique (the walk-thru research paper) is required or effectual, then derides it as “not a real answer”.
It ends up with a closed door.
The teacher is running out of patience, and we’re running out of ideas. I don’t think the teacher is even allowed to give more that she’s allowing, and might be bending the rules as-is. Our son spent 2 hours with counselors….not guidance counselors…counselors…giving them the same run-around. I think they (2 of them at the same time) gave their best, but they fell back to asking what he wanted: more time maybe?
I’ve read other sources. I see that a full-on psych eval was recommended. At this point, I’m fine with that if it helps. I suspect we’d need to get our son to buy into it. But would that still result in his English grade cratering? Are we risking a cascade failure into other classes?
It’s a very delicate time, and this scenario is not an easy one. I’d like to have simple, pat answer: he’s looking for attention; he’s stressed out over the sheer amount of work; he’s frustrated at the forced slowness of the curriculum; the class is group and can’t move at an accelerated speed (ans: it’s Honors.). But I’m guessing it’s more complex that 1 root-cause.
Given this, I’d not mind some considered advice. Thanks!
May 28, 2018 at 9:19 pm
O my, I do get this. My son pushes back a lot these days, partly the teen and hormones? Right now we are working with setting boundaries, coping with meltdowns and spending time each day bonding over something other than work. It’s horrible to have to walk on eggshells and think you cannot just talk to your kid and resolve something…so simple. My heart goes out to you. A lot of listening is required, and prayers. And in the end, we let him slow things down by an entire year. Take care!
March 17, 2018 at 3:48 pm
Oh my land, thank you for this. I found it today when my kid dissolved into tears after she dragged her homework on for 4 hours on a Saturday, while I nagged her and then snapped at her.
I left the room, googled “child won’t do homework”, found this and read it, went back into the room, hugged her and asked her if trying to make her homework perfect was slowing her down. She said yes, then we talked about that, and her inner critic, and what she could do about that awful little critical voice in her head.
Amazing – thank you.
May 28, 2018 at 5:06 pm
Just found your comment. So pleased it helped.
July 13, 2018 at 8:57 am
I think that if the child does not want to do homework, then everything is fine. I still do not know a single child who would like to do homework. I read the article that homework kills creativity, and I quite agree with that. After all, the child instead of spending time for something really interesting, should do boring homework. When I have a son, I will allow him not to do homework, but in exchange I will tell him that he must be interested in something that really will benefit him in development. Thank you for this article!
October 31, 2018 at 1:07 am
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November 12, 2018 at 3:23 am
I am brother of a 12 year old boy studying in seventh grade.I find him not getting interested in studying or doing homework after coming home from school.He is worried more about video games and TV.He get to do his home works only after continuous pressure from parents.He is very attentive,obedient and performs well in school.But at home , he says he need to rest from studies. I hope this tips will help him to get more involved in studies!
December 7, 2018 at 3:16 pm
The issue is process vs. results. By letting your daughter skimp on her homework, she’s going to pick up bad habits … such as doing what she wants to do instead of taking care of her responsibilities. We teach “Work hard, then play hard” in our home. Our goals are process-oriented, like show up for class and turn in your homework, rather than results-oriented, like why don’t you have an A in this class. By teaching our children to work, even when they don’t feel like it sometimes, they can build a foundation of responsibility that will “result” in a more successful, well-rounded experience. Some kids may be different … they may be given all the freedom you are preaching turn that into tremendous happiness. But I’ll build my foundation on discipline, and my children will earn their self-worth by taking care of their responsibilities … not throwing a fit until an authority finally gives in.
April 18, 2019 at 6:22 am
This is good
April 25, 2019 at 3:11 am
Thank you for sharing this article, you are very interesting to write, your blog is really interesting to read!
June 24, 2019 at 6:44 pm
This is really good and helpful. Thanks for sharing this article. 🙏
August 10, 2019 at 1:57 am
I think that the real reasons why the child does not do their homework can be very many of them all of their parents will never know. The main thing is to be able to find a common language in your child!
October 16, 2019 at 6:37 am
I have to agree with you and your daughter about the book reports — we did our first one a few weeks back, and it was decidedly much more unpleasant compared to just reading and enjoying the book!
October 20, 2019 at 1:04 pm
Children do not do their homework because they watch a lot of TV shows and play on the phone.
October 23, 2019 at 3:35 am
All parents want their children to be successful, successful and happy. Schooling is one of the important components of a child’s life. The school will be the main part of its reality for 8-10 years. Therefore, the baby needs to help adapt, feel comfortable and learn how to succeed
February 22, 2020 at 1:00 pm
nice tips, I hope it will help
February 22, 2020 at 11:50 pm
April 8, 2020 at 3:15 am
Anaerobic exercise, on the other hand, is where that max effort comes into play. It’s another form of cardio in which you should only be able to sustain activity for about 30 seconds before you need a break. It should feel pretty difficult for you to catch your breath while you’re doing this type of training (anaerobic meaning “the absence of oxygen”). Explosive exercises like plyometrics, sprinting, and even heavy weightlifting are all examples of anaerobic exercise. “The body uses phosphocreatine and carbohydrates as fuel [for anaerobic exercise] because they can be broken down rapidly,” Olson explains. “Fats take too long to break down as an energy source.”
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November 7, 2020 at 12:07 pm
January 29, 2021 at 6:04 am
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February 25, 2021 at 6:06 am
Thank you for the article. This is a really powerful method. I don’t know what I would do without him. Homework and children are created in different universes, I think. Thank you for the blog, I will follow you.
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ADHD And Refusal To Complete Assignments
- September 29, 2020
Instead Of Punishing, We Should Be Asking “Why”
A few days ago, I saw a post on a different group than the one I moderate for ADHD parent support. The post was from a parent asking for advice about how to punish a child for refusal to complete assignments in virtual school. The mom said she didn’t want to take recess away, as their pediatrician said that exercise is important for children with ADHD. (I can agree with that!) What followed were a lot of comments about other punishments that she could enact, like having the child walk or run the school yard instead of recess, or have them do extra work, or lose privileges for electronics.
It was at this point that I had to jump in.
Look at lists of symptoms for ADHD , and you will find all of the executive functions listed as possibly affected. At it’s core, ADHD is weakness in executive functioning. The child’s refusal to complete assignments is coming from a lagging skill in one or more areas. It is not just a behavioral problem.
No type or amount of punishment is going to change underlying executive functioning. It’s like punishing a child for not being able to ride a bike when they haven’t learned yet. So instead of asking how to punish, what we should be asking is “why did my child not do their work?” There is most definitely a reason. Making them run the school field won’t address that reason. Taking away a toy or privilege won’t address that reason. A punishment might gain short term compliance, but it is not going to solve this problem in the future. Most important in the asking of this question: it reframes the issue from one of blame to one of compassion.
Common Reasons For “Refusal” To Complete Assignments
The most common reasons that I am finding for kids and teens not completing their schoolwork are listed below. A new set of issues has cropped up with virtual and hybrid learning, but these refusals existed even before, when all school was conducted in-person. Don’t be fooled into thinking the “new way of learning” is causing these refusals!
- Don’t know what the assignment is and/or when it’s due
- Don’t know how to prioritize the order to begin assignments
- Forgot about an assignment because it wasn’t listed with the others
- Don’t understand how to do it (subject material, or confusing directions)
- It’s going to take too long, it’s uninteresting or perceived as irrelevant, and child or teen would rather engage in leisure activity than schoolwork
How To Find The “Why”
In order to provide the right amount of support your child needs so that they can succeed, you may need to engage in a little detective work. We want to ask specific questions to get to the answer. Instead of “why didn’t you do it?” (blaming), you can ask “what was difficult about it?” or “how can I help you understand this?” (showing compassion).
I’ll give you a real example. I have a client who has fallen behind in a few of his classes. He is staying current with the classes that are more concrete and that he is better at – math, science, and Spanish. He is weeks behind in English.
I sat down with him and assessed his learning style, executive functioning skills, and future goals. We looked at strengths, weaknesses, and what barriers he was encountering. I found that he has difficulty writing, researching, and organizing his thoughts. He struggles with decision making as well. He would land on a research topic, then change his mind repeatedly. He perceives the stakes as high in any decision involving school, as he truly does care and is quite a perfectionist. The assignments were multi-step, high school English that, in his mind, looked like they were going to take forever. He couldn’t even get started, so he didn’t.
Taking the time to address the underlying issues allowed me, and his parents, to come up with a plan to get back on track. He needed to see how to to break big assignments down into more manageable pieces, to schedule time for reading and research, and to figure out the best way to organize. It took some time, but he was eventually able to get caught up in all classes.
What would have happened if his mom had taken away his video games as punishment for the refusal to complete assignments? The assignments most likely wouldn’t have been done independently, as he truly did not know how to get started with organization, prioritizing, and time demands.
I have another, younger, client who is in elementary school full time in-person class instruction. He is not able to do his homework without me or one of his parents sitting next to him. He rushes ahead to complete his work as quickly as possible, and thus he struggles with making his writing legible, and reading for comprehension. Without the accountability of someone right next to him, he gets off task, he daydreams and fidgets, his writing is illegible, and he ends up having to re-do the work, which leads to frustration and further avoidance. When I sat next to him and reminded him of the three keys for neater writing, and tapped the table to help him re-focus, and asked him to take a breath, slow down, and think before writing any answer, I was teaching him how to become more disciplined and what strategies he needed in order to make homework time smoother. He is a smart boy, so pointing out that while this process seemed like it was taking longer, he was actually going to save time in the end by not having to re-write and re-read things he missed.
What would happen if mom had taken away his playtime on the trampoline in the backyard, or his nightly bike ride with the family around the neighborhood? Would that have helped him slow down, write neatly, use active reading techniques, and stay focused? Not even close!
I don’t have a checklist of questions to ask, as I let the conversation unfold naturally, but here are a few questions that come to mind:
- Do you know what you have to do? If the answer is yes, I ask them to explain it to me, so I can be sure that they understand. If the answer is no, I help them figure it out, then repeat it back.
- Do you know how to do it? If the answer is yes, I ask them to go ahead and start. If the answer is no, I ask how they can find out. Do they need to read the directions, look online, contact the teacher, call a friend, attend tutoring? I encourage kids and teens to solve their own problems. If it is a long project, they may know how to do it in general, but not how to break it down into smaller bits.
- Do you have everything you need? I am referring to materials as well as having any research or other work done that will be needed.
- Is there something about this (homework, assignment, etc) that is too hard or confusing for you? This is a similar question to do you know how, but it’s different in that they may know how, but it’s just too hard or will take too long. Sometimes I ask them to scale it from 1 – 5, 1 being “super easy” to 5 being “really hard”.
- What do you think about this (homework, assignment, topic, class subject, etc)? Sometimes we don’t want to do things simply because we don’t care, or don’t see the point, already understand it and resist repetition, or find the subject boring. This question gets to their thoughts and feelings about the actual task.
Less Obvious Reasons For Refusal To Complete Assignments
As an occupational therapist, I treat my clients holistically. This means that I look at the whole person. My clients are not a diagnosis or a deficit – they are complex human beings who have past influences and future goals. This is why I reject the “ABC” model of behavior therapy (antecedent- behavior – consequence) as the antecedent could have occurred hours (or even days) before the behavior. If we only look at what happened immediately prior to a behavior (the refusal to complete assignments, in this case) we are often missing the bigger picture!
A recent example is another high school student. She is in honors classes and has been staying current with all class and homework – until a creative writing paper was assigned that was to be graded by a peer. She did most of the work, but when she found out that it was going to be peer-graded, she completely shut down. She admitted to me that she did not want anything to do with it, because she was afraid of what this peer might think of her, reading her personal stories. In this case, there was not an executive functioning deficit, but there still was a clear reason behind the refusal.
What If There Is No Reason?
You can go through the entire process, and you still may not get a real answer. Alternatively, the answer may be “I don’t want to” or “I hate school” or something similar, which you may perceive as defiant. At this point of continued refusal to complete assignments, you have a few choices. You can use immediate rewards, you can develop a contingency plan, or you can enact a behavioral contract.
- Immediate rewards are most effective with young children. Remember potty training when your kiddo got an M & M or skittle for sitting on the potty, one for using it, etc? This is the same. Immediate, tangible rewards are offered in exchange for a word written, a page completed – whatever you choose. They will eventually need to be faded so your child does not learn to only work for rewards. (I usually caution against food rewards for this reason. A sticker chart or marble jar is preferred, with a bigger reward earned).
- Contingency plan, or “first/then”. With a contingency plan, your child is basically in lockdown until they complete what you want or need them to. Their freedom to engage in desirable activities depends upon finishing homework, studying, a project, etc. First you finish the work, then you get to (play, go out with friends, watch TV, etc). There is a clear goal/task that needs to be completed before the child can do what they want. It may change from day to day. The contingency has higher stakes and is more demanding than an immediate reward. It helps children overcome short term motivation problems by increasing the value of what they need to do (the homework or chore) beyond a sticker or toy as a currency.
- Behavioral contract. This is a step above the contingency. It spells out specifically desired behaviors AND consequences if they do not occur. Whereas in a contingency, the child would not get to play, in a behavioral contract, the “then” part will occur if an only if the child completes the criteria set for earning the enjoyable activity. Ideally, you get your child or teen to “buy-in” by signing and thus, agreeing to, the contract.
Obviously, we parents would love for our children to have the self-motivation to want to succeed. That is not always the case. I am speaking from personal experience when I say that no amount of logic, or punishment, will make this child or teen motivated. You, as the parent, can use a contingency or behavioral plan to get back on track. Once you begin to see results, you can back off and allow more autonomy. Build this into the written plan, so your child or teen knows exactly what outcomes will get him or her more freedom.
Finding they “why” and addressing any other underlying issues, will ultimately solve the problem of refusal to complete assignments. By doing this as soon as possible, you are setting your child or teen up for future success – and with that, everyone wins!
For much more on executive functioning skill building, motivation, and parenting help, check out my self-paced online courses for parents of elementary aged kids with ADHD and parents of teens with ADHD . For more 1:1 help, fill out my ADHD Questionnaire to see if we are a good fit to work together.
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What To Do When a Student Refuses to Work
October 15, 2018 by pathway2success 47 Comments
- Facebook 2.9K
Throughout my years teaching middle school, I have had the experience of seeing many “work refusals”. These are the situations when kids, for a variety of reasons, just refuse to start the work you give them. They might shut down and rest their head on their desk or lash out in anger, shouting about how they just will not complete your assignment. This can be extremely frustrating for educators, especially when teaching a well-designed lesson that you thought would go so well! Let me say that sometimes our lessons themselves can have little or no impact on whether or not a student refuses to work. There are quite often bigger challenges at play that we’ll delve into. Quite honestly, even with a special education background, my college and training did not really prepare me for what to do when students refuse to work. These are skills and strategies I had to develop on the ground running while working with young adults. It’s an area I’m especially passionate about because all kids deserve to learn and feel good about themselves. It’s always important to remember that kids who are refusing are reaching out for help in some way, and you CAN be the one to help them.
Let me say that we ALL have bad days here and there! If a student puts their head down during a lesson and won’t finish an assignment because of a headache, it doesn’t mean you need to sound the alarm. This article specifically focuses on the students who repeatedly refuse to complete work and need specific targeted strategies to help them overcome these challenges.
What does work refusal look like? Really, it can be different for every student. Some students put their heads down and don’t pick them up, despite encouragement and prompting. Other students will look you straight in the eyes and say, “I’m NOT doing it!” while they are clearly expecting a response from you! Other kids might just ignore your directions completely and continue doing what they want to do, whether that is coloring, reading, or any other activity they are engaged in. All of these behaviors are work refusals because they are avoiding doing the tasks that the adult is expecting.
What are the reasons for work refusal? If a student is outwardly refusing to do work in the classroom, there is always a reason. Quite often, we don’t know the individual reasons. Some students have had a history of trauma. Again, we may or may not know about the potential trauma. Other students might be dealing with social or emotional challenges at home or in their personal life. Some examples might include a family divorce, a new baby at home, the death of a family member, and feelings of loneliness with a parent working increased hours. Those truly are just a few small examples. Sometimes, when the challenges in a child’s life become so difficult for them, they can have a need to control parts of their life that they can control (like doing work in school or not). Some learners might be diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, while others aren’t. Other times, a child or teen may truly be bored and not interested in the topics. Regardless of the actual reason, it’s important to take a step back and recognize that the child or young adult is struggling with SOMETHING, whether or not we can see it. Thinking in this way encourages educators to be solution-focused, which is what really matters anyway.
Important note: This entire article is intended to be a bank or toolbox of strategies for teachers to consider when kids are struggling. I know that classroom teachers cannot do it all, and they shouldn’t be expected to. Schools need to support educators in these tough situations, and that includes support from admin and other support staff. Additionally, the biggest changes are made when the teachers, families, and the student work together. Please know that if you are dealing with these very challenging classroom situations, I want to have your back, not put more on your plate.
Strategies are meant as supports. They’re interventions and techniques you can put in place to try and work towards your goal of helping the student get back on track. However, strategies are not a magic wand. They might take time to work or some won’t work for your particular learner. And even the most perfect classroom management and support strategies won’t fix every problem or challenge. With all that said, strategies can make a difference for your struggling learner. When you’re not sure what direction to go, they’re worth a try. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so it is about finding what works for you and your learners. With all that said, I hope you can find some of these strategies and ideas helpful.
Here are some simple do’s and don’ts for kids who refuse to do work:
- Don’t just punish. If a child or young adult is struggling with some social or emotional challenges at the moment, a punishment is only going to push them away further. Your punishment will appear as harsh, mean, and uncaring. I know that educators do not intend for punishments to feel that way, but for many students, they do, including those with trauma in their past. This isn’t to say you should “let the student get away” with any behavior. Instead, you can use logical consequences, which I explain below.
- Don’t send the student out of the room. I can’t stress this enough! As an educator, I know this is sometimes a preferred option because it deals with the situation swiftly. It does not fix the problem, though. In fact, it will most likely make it worse in the long-term. The student might feel anger and resentment towards you. The message you are sending is that you can’t deal with the situation and you need to send the student out to another teacher or the principal. If a student is just sitting at their desk and refusing to work, it should not be a reason to send them out of class. Kids and young adults are getting much more education being in your room and hearing the discussions than being in the principal’s office.
- Don’t get in a power struggle. No one ever wins in a power struggle! So much energy is wasted is wasted and even if the student eventually complies, it will be filled with resentment. Read up on more ways to avoid power struggles .
- Don’t just assume the child is lazy. So many times, it is often actually easier for the child to comply and do their work and refuse. So, it’s clear that there is something else in play. Reframe your thinking to remember that the child is struggling and needs your support.
- Don’t act out of frustration or anger. When you start to feel frustrated due to a child’s behavior, remember this phrase: “He’s not giving me a hard time, he’s having a hard time.” There is no shame in taking a deep breath and walking away from a situation. As adults, it’s important we are calm and collected so we can make the best choices in each situation. It’s okay to feel frustrated with a situation, just don’t act on that frustration.
- Don’t use threats. You might be tempted to say things like, “If you don’t do your work, I’m going to call your parents,” or “Finish this or you can’t go to gym.” Sometimes, these threats can only make a student dig their heels in deeper and you might regret what you’ve said later on. Instead, be mindful about what you say and make sure your consequences fit the crime.
- Don’t embarrass the student. Again, publicly calling the student out might result in a power struggle or escalating the situation. Instead, consider ways to privately support the student to help both of you get what you need.
- Keep teaching. Just because a student doesn’t lift their pencil up, doesn’t mean they’re not listening and learning. Continue teaching, talking, and even involving that student if they want to participate. Remember that the ultimate goal is to educate the student, not force them to work. If they are in the classroom, keep teaching them!
- Give wait time. When a student refuses work at first, sometimes all they need is a little wait time. It’s okay to let them have their head down or keep their arms crossed. Give some time and wait to see if they come around within 5 minutes or so.
- Ignore the small behaviors. If the student crumples up the paper, breaks their pencil, or scribbles all over it, avoid the impulse to tell the student they shouldn’t do that or give any further instructions. When things like this happen, the student is either agitated or attention-seeking. One intervention that will help in this instance is just giving space.
- Be reflective. Consider what you could be doing that might be triggering the student to refuse to work. For example, are you using a harsh tone? Did you embarrass the student by calling them out for something right before? Sometimes, there isn’t anything apparent, but it’s always worth considering first!
- Focus on the relationship. For many kids, relationship is everything. Put the work aside for a bit. Spend time with your student during lunch, talk with them after class, and really just get to know them. Teach them about you as a person, too! Once a relationship is built, many times your students will have a much easier time working for you because they know you care. This isn’t a quick process, but it’s always important and worth it. Read up on more ways to build relationships with kids and young adults .
- Consider learning challenges. Sometimes students refuse work due to social and emotional challenges, but other times it might be because they think the work is just too hard for them. Consider if the student needs interventions with reading, writing, or math. Sometimes learners might even need direction instruction with executive functioning skills to help them get started and work through challenges. If you are a regular educator, consider discussing the student with the special education teacher or interventionist to get some ideas and strategies.
- Meet with the student privately. It’s important that this is seen as supportive and not punitive. Talk to the student, ask them what’s going on, and problem-solve about how you could help. You might say, “I noticed your morning work isn’t being finished, what is going on with that?” When meeting with a student who is struggling to complete work, the most important thing is to just listen! Try to avoid interjecting your own thoughts about what’s happening or giving your point of view. Let the student talk and sometimes you might be amazed at what you learn. Perhaps the student shares that they hate where they sit because someone keeps talking to them, or that they haven’t been getting any sleep at night due to a crying baby. Be open-minded, listen, and be prepared to problem-solve with the student to help them.
- Use logical consequences (and consider them ahead of time). Logical consequences are outcomes from behavior that make sense. For example, if a student is refusing to finish their morning work, a logical consequence would be using some break time later in the day to finish at least 5 problems or sending it home as homework to be done later.
- Discuss those consequences with the student. Consequences shouldn’t be a surprise to your student. Let them know ahead of time in a positive way. For example, you might say to the whole class, “Everyone needs to finish their work so we can finish watching the rest of the movie.”
- Use de-escalation strategies to help calm the situation. In the moment, it can quickly become a power struggle when a student outwardly tells you they are not doing the work. It is critical to know how to de-escalate a situation. My favorite strategy has always been saying, “Let’s talk about this later.” It gives you the perfect way out of a heated situation with a student while letting other students around know you’re not ignoring the behavior, you’re just dealing with it later. Read up on more de-escalation strategies and use this free printable de-escalation strategy worksheet .
- Give choices. For students who struggle with work completion, consider giving limited choices for assignments. Limiting the number to two is usually best so that it’s not overwhelming, but it still gives control and choice. You might say, “Would you rather write about this prompt in your journal or draw a scene from the text and write a sentence about it?”
- Consider reducing work. Another one of my favorite ways to give choice is to allow the student to choose which 10 problems they will finish. Similarly, you might ask the student to complete only 1 of the 3 essay questions. Sometimes educators have argued that this is making it too easy on the student. Of course, the ultimate goal is to get the student back to completing all the work, without a doubt. However, when a student is outright refusing to do work, completing just one item over none is a success. We all have to start somewhere.
- Use student interests. Find out topics the student enjoys doing and learning about. That might be anything: soccer, dirt bikes, drawing, animals, dance, or even a certain television show. The topics and ideas are endless. Then, use bits of those topics in your instruction to hook the learner and help them feel more interested.
- Provide accommodations. Giving accommodations doesn’t necessarily make an assignment easier, it just gives more options for how the student approaches the task. Allow a student struggling with reading to listen to audio books. If a student isn’t writing, allow them access to a laptop. Give out a calculator to a student who gets fatigued with math problems (provided the math skill isn’t calculations themselves). Give a word bank, provide multiple choices, let the student use manipulatives, and so on.
- Take turns. In line with accommodations, one simple strategy to try (when you can) is to take turns writing and completing problems with the student. For example, you can complete the first problem and write it down on the student’s paper. It helps to think aloud while you’re solving the problem, as this models the behaviors you want to see. Then, have the student complete the second problem. Next, you would complete the third and so on. This is a more collaborative approach that sometimes eases kids and teens into working and finishing their assignments.
- Think about trends. Is the work refusal only happening during math? Or maybe during partner work? Maybe it’s only in the morning or in the afternoon? Think about these trends and really delving into the data can help inform your judgements about what’s really going on.
- Plan breaks. All kids and teens need a break sometimes. Consider adding a preferred activity right after the assignment you want your student to complete. Another option is to schedule meaningful brain breaks .
- Provide different writing utensils. This idea seems crazy, but sometimes it works! Give options for writing such as gel pens or colored pencils instead of just a plain old pencil. Sometimes, the freshness of a new tool can help kids get over that road block of starting. It’s worth a try.
- Consider interventions for task initiation. Our skills for task initiation are like the motor that starts us up. When kids and young adults lack these skills to get started, it can be extremely frustrating for everyone involved. Sometimes, kids don’t actually know HOW to start a challenging task or assignment. It’s important to consider if these skills are lacking when a child or young adult isn’t completing work, because they can be taught. Read up more on this blog post focused on interventions for task initiation skills .
- Create an incentive plan, if needed. Sometimes educators are opposed to incentives plans, and I agree they shouldn’t always be a first strategy. However, there is a time when they can a struggling student work towards their goals. You might develop a contract that outlines what the student is responsible for and what incentives the student will get by completing work. A contract sets the tone that you will stick to your word so you expect that the student makes an effort to do the same. Find out what the student would like to work for, remembering that each individual student is motivated by different things (I’ve had some students who want silent drawing time and others who want to help the custodian, for example). My favorite way to find this out is by using a reward inventory. You can visit here to see more about my reward inventories, behavior plans, and contracts.
- Collaborate with families. It’s important to note that the first time you call the family shouldn’t be to mention that the student isn’t working. I’m a huge believer in always calling to share something positive first. With that said, it is important to share concerns about students who are struggling to work in class. Be mindful of how you communicate this with families, too. Rather than saying the child is “refusing to work,” share that they are “struggling with getting started even on assignments that are at their level.” Collaborate to discuss if anything is going on outside of home with the child and if there are any other strategies you as the educator can try. Often, parents are more than willing to talk with their child and sometimes (definitely not always) this even fixes the issue from the start.
- Focus on your own self-care. This is definitely not stressed enough in the world of education. Working with students who are refusing to work can be emotionally draining. Take time to focus on yourself when you can. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
October 16, 2018 at 9:50 pm
I am a special education teacher as well. I agree with everything in this article! Very well articulated, thank you for sharing!
October 17, 2018 at 6:07 am
I’m so glad this is helpful. For many years, these were my kids that I loved SO much! I seriously believe that all educators need a lot more training in the area of social emotional needs. It’s just something we didn’t get a lot of training or PD on in college or even beyond. So glad to share this information and hope it helps some teachers and students!
November 14, 2018 at 5:05 pm
Great article! So far your suggestions are working on all but one student ( grade 6). Whenever I give the class short answer questions, she just writes ” I don’t know” on the line but has no problem explaining the correct answer to the class. At first I figured she just didn’t know how to word her answers in writing so I broke down her spoken answer and told her exactly what could write/ type. Yet she still refuses to write anything other than the words “I don’t know” and turn that in. She has been diagnosed with ADD but she does know how to write and spell. She is also pretty well behaved. Do you have any suggestions on how to convince her to write out her answers?
November 23, 2018 at 8:38 pm
How does she do with typing? Is there a computer, laptop, or tablet she could use to record her answers instead? Another suggestion would be let her pick one of the short answers instead of having her write “I don’t know” for all of them. You might say, “Hey, I have an idea. I noticed you’re having trouble with the short answers. What about if I let you pick just ONE to write your ideas for and you can tell me the others out loud and that will count for your grade?”. I have also taken turns writing with students, but I know that can be more challenging in a regular ed environment without a paraeducator available. Does it help if she has a vocabulary bank or sentence starters? What about if it was a paragraph already written with some words missing and she had to fill in the blanks? Please let me know how it goes! -Kris
April 4, 2019 at 9:26 pm
It might be hard for her to hold onto her thinking. Long enough to write it out. Try letting her record it on a device. You could also use speech to text software so she can print it out and turn it in like everyone else.
November 18, 2018 at 5:21 pm
I mean no disrespect to anyone when I ask this, but if such a child is in your classroom, how do you balance this with the needs of the other students?
November 23, 2018 at 8:35 pm
Hi Kathy- Thanks for this question! I don’t take offense to this at all! It’s definitely difficult. I would say the number one thing is to keep teaching and ignore if the student isn’t disruptive. Even though it might be stressful in the moment (because we all want our kids to be actually working), it doesn’t actually need to impact you. Other than that, a lot of the other steps have to happen during downtime, when other students are working, during advisory periods, study halls, lunch, or any other time you can meet privately with the student to help them. Sometimes really small things can make a big difference, like just asking them about their basketball game or how their dog is. The vast majority of times when kids don’t work, it can be improved when the relationship improves. I 100% know that’s not an easy task for regular ed teachers teaching a full class, but it should always be a work in progress.
July 14, 2019 at 6:18 pm
What do you recommend when the refusal is disruptive or the more you accommodate, the more the behavior increases? I had a second grade student last year who I was directed to give breaks and allow him to play with putty. He would pound and talk the whole time and constantly want to show me or other students his creations. Then other students started acting out and wanting “breaks” as well. I do give PAT at the end of each day and try to incorporate a lot of talk time and hands on or whole body activities.
July 21, 2019 at 1:14 pm
Hi Holly! Could that student have used another less distracting calming activity like listening to music or coloring? Or maybe he could have used the putty in the back of the room? I would also say it’s important to teach kids how to use the strategies. Sometimes, we tell them to use putty to calm down but don’t practice and show the “right” way to use it. You sound like you are doing an amazing job just by trying to implement some strategies right in your classroom. Hope you have a great year!
November 29, 2018 at 6:45 am
Wow, great post. It came at a time when I really needed it. Question: What to do when the refusal to not work spreads like a little wildfire? I had that happen yesterday in my class. One boy on the table refused to participate because he wanted to draw instead. Promptly the whole table group decided that they were not going to participate in the game.
December 2, 2018 at 1:50 pm
This is such a good question! A couple things to try: Make the activity even more engaging and fun than doing nothing, split that group up, include more positive role models, give simple praise to those who are doing what they are supposed to do, and maybe some incentives for those completing the work. For a couple of years, I did a “Fun Friday” where students had to finish their regular work assigned first and then they could participate in an activity of their choice for part of Friday. We normally did a movie (didn’t finish the whole thing but part of it) and other kids could color or listen to music. Those who didn’t finish their work had to do that first before getting to the activity. I would also talk with the other students who are “following along” privately and discuss what you expect of them. If they say, “Well why does so-and-so get to do nothing???!”, I would always say, “I’m talking about you right now. This is what I expect from you and sometimes we all need different things in the moment.” If all else fails, I would stop the lesson and do something else! If you can’t beat them, join them, rather than getting upset. Maybe you could turn the lights off and just have time to practice some mindfulness or a discussion about social skills. Good luck to you!
January 27, 2019 at 5:36 pm
i,m wondering about when the child takes it further, without any intervention concerning his refusal and starts making noises, and moving his chair, desk and basically anything while I,m still circulating or returning to the whole class lesson?
January 28, 2019 at 10:08 am
Hi Ginette, great questions and thoughts. I am a big fan of planned ignoring, but you can only ignore so much if it’s impacting the learning of others. I would consider thinking about why the child is behaving in that way. Why are they trying to communicate? Is the work too hard? Do they hate the topic? Could you provide modifications to reduce the level of the assignment? I’d also consider a contract with specific guidelines and incentives. It’s important to make that WITH the child so they have input and buy-in. Brainstorm ideas with the child. Sometimes you can find out a lot from them. I’d think about what they want to earn and help them earn it. Start small! Give them control over the situation as much as you can. If they tell you the class is too loud, let them work where it’s quiet. If they say it’s too hard, let them choose 5 to complete instead of 10. So often, refusal to work can be a way for a child to control their environment. I often say that sometimes it’s actually MORE work for them to avoid the work than actually just do it.. so there is usually somewhat of a reason, even if it doesn’t make sense to us. My final suggestion would be to have a calm down area. If the student is agitated or dysregulated, they might need to place to chill out. Now, this is different from just a “fun” space. Activities like coloring, laying in a bean bag, or squeezing a stress ball might be in this calm down area. After they take some time there, they can return back to completing work when they are ready. Even though they aren’t completing academics in that space, they are learning to self-regulate and they are not distracting others. It’s a much more positive option. Hope that helps! -Kris
January 28, 2019 at 2:38 am
Thanks for the tips. I will be teaching a very challenging year 5 boy this year and, as I am a beginning teacher in my second year, am feeling a little anxious about how i will deal with him. Your article is very helpful and I will print it and keep it in my draw at school to read when I need to.
January 28, 2019 at 10:02 am
Hi Shelley! Good luck to you. I actually think the 2nd year of teaching is the hardest, so I’m sending you lots of love and encouragement! You’re doing the right thing by seeking out other strategies and ideas. The best teachers aren’t the ones who know everything, but the ones who are reflective and willing to learn. I’m so glad this article is helpful! -Kris
February 1, 2019 at 2:18 pm
My son is in second grade and is refusing to do his work. He has a great environment at home, both mom and dad are available to help with things. He has no diagnosis of add, but we are quite certain he has focusing issues. We are trying noise canceling headphones because he says it’s too loud, his teacher is offering s prize if he completes his classwork, and she moved his desk where he can’t face the other students. He isn’t disruptive or disrespectful, but just won’t work. His teacher has help him with her during lunch and recess numerous times. She said it is because it is quiet during that time, so she is hoping to complete the work. He is now being carried to another counselors office several days a week to do work. I applaud the school for trying to help…gosh, it must be distracting to others, but it is just making him feel that his teacher doesn’t like him. I just don’t know what to do. He has low grades, but his testing is high enough that he doesn’t qualify for additional help. When we ask him why he won’t do the work he says it’s just to hard. I really believe him. Any ideas on how I can talk to the teacher? She is doing so much already, but it just might be clashing with what he really needs. I spoke to a mental health counselor that said he needs a more nurturing teacher. It is too late in the year for a change, and no other teacher would likely want him. ?My hands are tied. Ideas?
February 5, 2019 at 6:47 am
Thanks so much for writing in. I’m so sorry your son is having trouble. To me, it sounds like he’s having a lot of trouble with task initiation and attention skills, both of which can be taught and discussed explicitly with him. It sounds like he’s a smart kid who is struggling and needs intervention in this area. Our skills for task initiation are basically the motor inside of us that helps us to get started. I actually JUST wrote a whole blog post on this topic with interventions, strategies, and supports. You can find it here: https://www.thepathway2success.com/interventions-for-executive-functioning-challenges-task-initiation/ And I’ll link to it within the article so others can easily find it, too! I’m planning to add another post about strategies for kids who struggle with attention, too.
I’d also question if he needs more support in confidence-building. Does he do the work when he leaves the class and works with an adult? What about when the work is reduced or modified a little? If so, I would build on that. I’d also incorporate things he likes or does well into the classroom- make him the star in some way.
Finally, I’d encourage looking into outside counseling. Once a relationship is build, sometimes kids can open up more to someone who isn’t involved in their school and home life about what’s going on. Maybe that counselor can think of new strategies with him, help him build his mental toughness, and then collaborate with the school to provide strategies and supports.
March 29, 2019 at 4:22 pm
I wanted to ask what do I do with students that do not do their work as a 7th grade teacher. I’m in my second year as a teacher and struggled with this in my first year. I let my students know that it is their choice that they don’t do their work and that I am disappointed by the decision they are making, but they shrug it off and don’t seem to care. I don’t want to give them a zero on the assignment, but I don’t see any other option. Any advice on what I can do?
April 1, 2019 at 1:38 pm
Hi Steven- I know from experience it can feel frustrating when kids don’t do their work. There are so many reasons why they struggle or outright refuse to do it, but there is a lot you can do. The number one thing is to focus on strong relationships (with all of your learners that’s important, but especially these students who don’t do their work). Have lunch with them, talk with them before/after class, visit them at their basketball game, etc. It doesn’t always make magic happen right away but I truly feel that kids will push themselves a little bit more if they know you are one of the good ones. Besides that, I’d meet with that student and just talk with them. See if they are feeling overwhelmed, if the work is hard for them, and brainstorm solutions. Another option is giving them more choice in assignments. Instead of writing an essay, can some students elect to write a poem or draw a scene from the novel? There are a ton of options but most importantly you have to try and think outside the box. Finally, find out what they are interested in earning and make a plan to help them get there! Maybe they want to get an extra period of gym or bring a friend to study hall. Make a point system or something to help them achieve that goal. You might want to reach out to the school counselor or another support staff to help brainstorm ideas, too. Wishing you all the luck!
April 24, 2019 at 1:20 am
Dang my teachers should read this…
May 11, 2019 at 6:47 pm
Work refusal is very common in children struggling with PAN/PANDAS. Often in the area of writing and math. 1/200 children suffer from this nightmare. These approaches would be helpful especially the stay calm and work on building the relationship. It’s best to think of refusal as anxiety and stay positive while reducing demands.
May 22, 2019 at 3:38 pm
I have a son with ADHD and a mood aggression disorder. He is in 4th grade this year and towards the end of the school decided any subject that contains reading or writing he wasn’t going to do it. Since he has the mood aggression the teacher just said fine then I will send it home for you to do or makes him go home.
So now my son knows if he says the right thing he can get out of work, which I find so wrong for the school to allow. This is basically teaching my son how to be a bully and get what he wants.
I have been trying to work with the school but it is a battle every step. He on a 504 plan but I am yet to see this school follow it in full and have tried to find outside help so my son can learn. When I question anything about the school and if there is anyone else available to help teach my son I get this defense response.
June 24, 2019 at 1:03 pm
Hi Cindy- I can’t give specific advice for your son since I don’t know him personally. I would 100% encourage you to continue working with the school in a positive way as much as possible. Regular meetings might be a good idea. Does your son do the work when he is at home (even if he chooses to not do it at school)? Maybe you should share some strategies about how/why your son works better at home if that is the case. For example, maybe he does better in a private area or while listening to music (just examples). These are strategies that the school could try if they work at home for him. As an educator, I would say it’s extremely important for your son to see you and the school as a unified team. If it isn’t working, I would encourage you to seek a parent advocate in your area to help you work on those issues with the school team! Good luck to you!
September 27, 2019 at 12:49 pm
My wife just received a call from my son’s teacher that he is refusing to do art work. He instead is choosing to read. My wife called me and she wants to ground him and take away video games. I’m not sure what the teacher has attempted to get my son to do his work. I don’t think grounding him and taking away privileges is the right strategy. Not sure what to do.
September 27, 2019 at 5:21 pm
Great question! I would first talk with your son and figure out what’s going on. Be inquisitive first. Then, problem solve together and help him understand the expectations. I’m more of a fan of incentives than punishments. Also, just to put things into perspective, reading isn’t the worst thing to do instead of art work! Still, I would want to find out what is going on and what is causing your son to not do his art work. You might also want to call the teacher or have a conference to find out what else is going on in the class from her perspective. Most importantly, it’s critical that your son sees you, your wife, and the teacher as a united front. This often makes a huge difference! Feel free to send the teacher this link or share some of the suggestions as well. Good luck to you!
October 10, 2019 at 4:02 pm
What do you do when you co teach in a middle school class with 25+ students and 6 have diagnosed behavior disorders, those plus 5 more have learning disabilities and everyone “feeds off each other”? At any given time, 2 are shouting at each other, 1 is spinning in circles or rolling on the floor, 3 are blurting random things across the room at each other trying to “one up” the other. Suffice it to say, no one is learning anything about anything, except maybe some different inappropriate behaviors they hadn’t thought of before. It’s like “whack a mole” with exploding moles. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
October 10, 2019 at 4:42 pm
Hi Barbara, I hear you. That is extremely frustrating. Something that has helped me in the past is “sometimes you have to go backwards before you can move forwards.” Perhaps you can spend some time on relationship-building and social skills in the classroom. If you are a general education teacher, I recognize this seems counter-productive since you should be able to focus on your content. Sometimes, though, the other skills need to come first. I’d also take some time to be reflective about your class structure, routines, and activities. The more routine, the better. Keep it simple if possible. For example, maybe you have a 5 minute warm up that kids silently do at their desks while coming in, then a 10 minute mini-lesson, and then an activity. I’d also do something to encourage kids to do their best. Many years, I had a “Fun Friday” where kids could watch a movie and/or color at the desks during our resource time if they were caught up on work. It might look different for you depending on your structure but incentives can be a powerful tool if used right. I would also encourage you to reach out to the special education teacher, school counselor, and any other support staff. Have them come visit your room and ask for suggestions! I think sometimes, as teachers, we get stuck in our own rooms and forget that we can reach out for help from others. Wishing you lots of luck for the rest of the school year!
November 21, 2019 at 10:51 am
Thank you so much for this article. My son is in 6th grade and he has Autism(ASD level 2). He is high functioning so he is in regular classroom setting, but he is constantly getting in trouble for refusing to do his work. I am going to pass some of these suggestions on to his teachers and maybe he won’t stay in trouble so much. Thank you for all you do as an educator.
November 26, 2019 at 6:53 pm
I’m so glad this article was helpful. That’s a great idea to pass the information along. Still too often, kids with autism are really misunderstood. If you continue to have trouble, it’s always a good idea to call an IEP meeting to go over the supports in place and make sure the plan is working for him. Good luck to you and your son! -Kris
November 22, 2019 at 10:33 am
Do you have any suggestions for a 15 year old that just won’t get motivated? But she will help her friends with the same homework she refuses to complete herself. She does have ADD, anxiety, and Depression. She tends to deflect work, lack organizational skills, would rather sleep or watch Netflix . I would also appreciate a suggestion on some of your products that could possibly help. Any ideas would greatly be appreciated. Thank you for your time.
November 26, 2019 at 6:50 pm
Hi Nicole- I do have a motivation workbook I created to help young adults improve some of these skills. You can find that here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Motivation-Workbook-2725265
I’d investigate a bit more as to why she won’t complete it on her own. Could it be a writing issue? Is writing challenging for her, either academically or physically? Could she try using speech to text for some assignments? I would also start really small and build her up. Sometimes, kids and young adults develop a sense of learned helplessness when there is too much homework that they can’t realistically complete. I’d also look into what time she could complete the work in school, maybe with adult or partner support. For example, maybe there is a resource room or guided study hall time where she could get it done and not have any homework for home. I’m also a huge fan of choice: You can complete ___ or ____ for homework. Even when we feel kids are not motivated by anything, it’s important to remember that they are often motivated by something. Just sometimes we haven’t found that something yet. Continue building a relationship with her and try to find what she’s interested in. If there is any way you can allow her to earn it with a little bit of extra work, that’s a good thing. Finally, last thoughts would be to make sure she has the academic skills to succeed. If not, teach them separately in a study skills class. Good luck to you! -Kris
April 7, 2020 at 8:46 am
What a truly amazing article! I stumbled upon it as I am currently writing an article about my blog, http://www.languageproject.gr . I am a foreign language teacher, located in Athens, Greece. The whole country has been under quarantine for more than a month as a means of prevention for covid-19 virus and all teachers are having Skype lessons. I have organised everything right, however I see one by one my students underperforming and being in denial to study. Usually, I am a demanding teacher but I have become more understanding, highly more encouraging and motivating teacher than ever before. Your article provides excellent advice on how to deal with our students now that circumstances are indeed unprecedented.
Thank you and please continue your amazing work!
P.S. I am also studying arabic and as a student myself I have been falling behind on my studying with no excuse. So, the psychological implications have an impact on everyone, regardless of age.
September 8, 2020 at 6:25 pm
Any tips for a parent or ideas when we should be contacting teachers over incomplete work? My now 6th grader has consistently came home with over half of her classwork assignments still to complete, on top of the normal homework assignments since we started school 4 weeks ago. I thought just give her some adjustment time to adapt to the higher demand that 6th grade brings at first.. It’s 2-4 hours more at home and some times we are still on school work past bedtime still this far in.. I’m running on empty at this point because I don’t know how to motivate her to complete classwork during class time. She has admitted to getting “bored” sometimes and just reading a book instead of doing her assignments. Won’t tell anyone if she is struggling with something until specifically asked. It’s all gone to online, and now with the books requiring multiple reference pages its gotten more complicated.
September 26, 2020 at 3:24 am
Why would a student even think this is an option? In school in the 60s, I had classmates who were poor, some from single-parent households and one with a disability. Never ever did any student ever pull an, ” I’m just not going to do this work “attitude” because it would not have been tolerated. It was literally unthinkable. Thankfully there was no tolerance for such behavior. It made us better students and better people. So how did it become acceptable? I have never seen such coddling and excuses made for bad behavior. This is why teachers are burnt out and learning is diminished. This idea that discipline is cruel, or unkind or “mean” is destroying education.
September 29, 2020 at 2:55 pm
Hi, This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this criticism and it certainly won’t be the last so I’m happy to try and respond. I think there are a couple things at play here. One is we live in a very different world from 10, 20, or 30 years ago. We can go along pretending everything is the same or adjust. I think, from an education standpoint, adjusting is critical to meet kids and teens where they are. The second consideration is that we know a lot more about trauma and challenges kids and teens face. Just because we tell a kid to work doesn’t mean they will. Just because we tell them they have to do something doesn’t make them listen. These strategies are all about problem-solving. Problems don’t get fixed on their own or because we tell kids to do the work. There’s no magic wand here. A lot of this is really rooted in relationships from the start. And if you follow me, you might know already I’m a huge advocate for meaningful and logical consequences. I couldn’t agree more that kids and teens need to be responsible for their behaviors. I actually highlight that in the article as well. I can definitely add it to my to do list to create an article just on logical consequences and how they are different from punishments. It’s worth of attention for sure. And finally, I agree with you about educators being burnt out. I have been there and have the most amount of empathy for that. That’s why the last point in the article is to focus on self-care. I’m a huge advocate for educator self-care in general. Thanks for your feedback. If you have other suggestions on how to help kids and teens when they refuse work feel free to share! I’m always open to hear suggestions and I’m always learning. Feel free to reach out anytime. -Kris
October 6, 2020 at 12:29 pm
I had this behaviour as a kid and well I still have it actually even as an adult. But I have learned to swallow it as best as I can and produce a good work (I’m at uni now, masters degree in environmental science soon). In my case it has been due to one of or several of these factors, ever since I was a 6 years old:
1- I got super anxious because I did not wanna fail. I wanted it to be a great work and if I fared I would fail, I would not wanna start. But I was not aware this was one of the reasons before I became an adult. A child most probably does not know what blocks them or makes them scared/anxious.
2- I felt the teacher was unhelpful and not even seing me or validating me. I would find the teacher unfair for giving me tasks and it would turn into resentment and anger. If the teacher was walking aruond attending other classmates I would percieve it as her/him helping them but not me. Even if the teacher was spending the same time on everyone, I would not percieve it that way when I was amped up with anxiety and anger. Oh I can remember the EXACT feelings I would have during those moments.
3- There would be instances where I would feel I was in disadvantage and that it was unfair. I was not good with math for example. I knew I was not stupid. I just had a harder time with for example math and I remember I would refuse doing math assigments bc I felt I did not get the help I needed. I was very good with all the other subjects. I also had good memory and loved reading/writing. But math was my nemesis.
4- Instances where I did not understand the point of the assignment. this would automatically make me feel the teacher was incompetent. And I just did not wanna participate because I felt it was a pointless assignment and the teacher clearly did not know what she/he was doing. Believe me, even a middle school child is able to assess the quality of an assigment or the teacher, I know I did.
5- Or if the child has it rough at home or have a lot of anxiety and feels depressed etc, they will act it out with anger and frustration!
I believe I could go on and on about this lol
Reflecting back on it, whenever I felt above things about an assignment I would have been able to get over it if The teacher was warm and affectionat, showed me real care and that he/she understood me. And made it clear that he/she just wants me to “do my best”. That would take the pressure out of it. Perfectionist kids puts so much pressure on themselves that they literally get a mental block. Relieving that pressure is key and some simple words and attention would most often suffice.
Make sure the assignment is interesting and as fun as possible. Also don’t dumb it down. Make sure the child really understands how to do it, what steps to take and what the expected outcomes are. And why, why should the student invest her/his time and energy on this? Whats in it for him/her? And please don’t mention negative consequenses as it most certainly will fuel the students anxieties even more. Relieve the pressure and anxiety for the child.
I have no clue about teaching and the teacher profession, but these are my own personal experiences as that rebelling, assignment refusing nay saying child lol
October 9, 2020 at 2:25 pm
This made me so happy and definitely worked! So wonderful to see someone so dedicated to helping others realize that yelling is rarely the best solution :) Your tips saved my behind in class today and I couldn’t be more thankful. Hoping this year is treating you well!
February 6, 2021 at 4:22 am
My grandson was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 5. He is in the 5th grade this year. In the past few years he was an A & B student. This year he is refusing to do his work and is making Fs in 2 subjects. He basically started this behavior after Christmas break. His mom had a stroke in May of 2020 and doesn’t spend a lot of time with him. She is not a hands on mom because of the stroke. As of recently she has been spending less time with him due to her symptoms getting worse from her illness. He now has to do things for himself…such as picking out his clothes for school packing his bag and going to the bus stop by himself. He also puts himself to bed at night because she goes to bed around 7:00 pm every evening. Do you think the behavior he is exhibiting is due to his home life? His school is working to try and find a solution to his problems. Thanks
March 23, 2021 at 8:38 am
Hi Peggy, I can’t give specific advice about your grandson but happy to give some general insight. First off, I’m so sorry for all he’s going through. All those changes and then a crazy pandemic year on top of it all. It’s a lot for any kid to deal with. I’m glad the school is working towards a solution. Giving kids grace during a tough time is seriously important. Feel free to share this article with them (if you want) to give some ideas in a supportive way. Sending love and support your way. -Kris
February 8, 2021 at 4:40 pm
Hi! Just wondering if you had any advice for a kindergarten who is very smart but is refusing to do work at school on a regular basis. Unfortunately I am a single mom that works a full time job. But still trying to keep a consistent schedule and work with him.
March 23, 2021 at 8:35 am
Hi Lisa, A lot of what I’d suggest is right in the article. I’d start small with routines and rewards. I would also suggest trying taking turns with work (I do 1, you do 1). I hope one of the ideas helps – and it’s important to mention that change happens slowly over time! Thanks for all you do! -Kris
May 19, 2021 at 9:21 am
November 30, 2021 at 9:07 am
I have a Middle School new student who (after seemingly testing the waters since the beginning of school) is at the point where he does little or nothing in most classes and readily admits it’s because there are literally no consequences.
December 20, 2021 at 4:23 pm
The number one thing is to build a relationship. I know that takes time. Find out what he likes, what he’s good at, what inspires him. And make a plan together to help him learn and do his best.
February 13, 2022 at 11:27 am
Nice article! I had a bright first grader consistently refuse to do his fact sheet of 20 math problems. I used movement to help him complete the task. I told him to just complete the first row of 5 facts. He was shocked! Once he completed that row, I told him he could walk around the room. Once he returned to his seat, he completed the next row. He continued working a little and walking until he finished the assignment. He appreciated breaking the assignment into smaller parts and permission to move about the room.
September 24, 2022 at 5:40 pm
I just found your awesome site and this article is just great! I can’t wait to explore your resources as well. I am a student teacher supervisor and have one class that has had so many behavioral issues from follow them from little up to now in an upper elementary grade. It’s the kind of class that teachers have ‘tried everything’ with. I think that this article will be so helpful to my student teacher and maybe even her cooperating teacher. Our student teachers have not been able to put any of these types of strategies into play/observe as they have not been able to be in classrooms prior to student teaching due to COVID restrictions. I plan to get them on your website and share as much as possible. They need all the tools in their toolboxes as they go out into the classrooms! Thanks so much for provide these resources!
October 2, 2022 at 10:41 pm
Great article, great lovable ways to manage when students refuses to work. I complete agree with this article because one must not fight with a student, instead walk a mile in his her shoes since no one knows what is on their heads and one can’t assume laziness or other adjectives to describe the student.
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What if My Child Refuses to Do School Work?
What if my child refuses to do school work?
“What can I do if my son refuses to do his school work?”
“I don’t know how to get my daughter to do her assignments. She just sits there for hours and doesn’t get it done!”
I often hear questions like these from tired and frustrated homeschooling moms who simply don’t know how to get their children to do their school work!
(And lest you think this is just a homeschool problem, I hear the same questions from many public and private school teachers too! Unfortunately, though, those teachers have much less control over their students’ environments than homeschooling parents, so it may be harder to remedy the situation.)
I understand how difficult it can be to get children to do their school work (I have two homeschool graduates and an 11th grader.). I have also discovered that there may be a variety of causes for this problem. It’s extremely important for parents to carefully search out the reasons for the child’s refusal to work, though, in order to apply the best solution .
Is there any possibility that the child might have a learning problem, eyesight issue, or learning problem that hasn’t been discovered?
One thing that is important to consider is that a child’s refusal to do schoolwork might not always stem from a behavioral issue. Sometimes there’s a reason that certain children may really feel that they can’t do it.
I’ve known of several children who had undiscovered eye problems, physical problems, or learning difficulties that caused them to have trouble doing their school work. But children usually have no idea that schoolwork is harder for them than it is for others, so they get discouraged. They decide that, since school is so hard, yet everyone else seems to be able to do it, they must not be as smart or capable as others. They simply don’t know that schoolwork isn’t that hard for other students who don’t have the same problems to overcome.
Below are some common issues that might be causing the problem:
Vision, Eyesight, and Hearing Problems
If your child is refusing to do his schoolwork, you might want to begin by having his vision, eyesight, and hearing tested. I’ve known several students who had vision problems that made it very hard for them to learn to read. Once the vision problems were found and addressed, the children were able to learn to read much more easily!
The same thing is true for eyesight and hearing. Children who can’t receive and process information correctly will have trouble doing their work and may refuse to work because of frustration and because they have no idea why learning is so hard and no idea how to express that to you.
Or you may suspect that your child has a learning problem. If that’s the case, you can check with your *local school district to find out if they provide educational testing, or you can go to your pediatrician or family doctor to find out how and where to get testing done. It can be hard to admit to ourselves when our children have learning differences, but it’s very important to admit it and get the necessary help! If not, schoolwork and learning will be extremely difficult for your child. (I’ve been through this myself, so I do understand how hard it can be! But getting the necessary help makes a huge difference!)
*If you go through your local school district, be prepared to deal with school administrators who may try to talk you into putting your child into public school! Not all school districts behave that way, but some do! If you have trouble dealing with that kind of situation, have a friend or relative go with you to the school or help you make phone calls.
What if it’s an attitude problem?
Talk to your child about it.
If you are certain your child doesn’t have any physical problems or undiagnosed learning problems, you may be dealing with an attitude problem. If this is the case, it may be helpful to sit down with your child at a time when you’re NOT trying to get school word done–preferably a time when both of you are calm and in a good mood–to talk with him or her about it.
Younger children may not be able to express why they refuse to do their work. Even older children may have difficulty putting into words the reasons for their attitudes. But it’s a good idea to give your child the opportunity to express himself/herself anyway. At least the child will know you care and that you want to help.
Older children may be able to explain their troubles, so it’s worth taking the time to ask.
Ask for the Help of Another Trusted Adult
If your child is unwilling to talk with you about it, you may have a trusted friend, pastor, or counselor who could help. Sometimes children of all ages find it easier to confide in an adult who is unbiased and not likely to get upset upon hearing the child’s answers.
Our children may be afraid to tell us about their difficulties–especially if something we are saying or doing contributes to the problem. It’s absolutely worth taking the time to have your child talk with another adult who might be able to listen objectively.
When my son (who has graduated from our homeschool and is now 20 years old) went through a stage when he refused to do his school work, I had to take action. I had his eyesight, hearing, and vision tested. I also had educational testing done. I had already suspected that he was mildly autistic and therefore knew he might have a harder time learning than other students. (Although many children on the autism spectrum are very smart, it can be very hard for them to pay attention, process information, ignore distractions, etc.)
Once I learned how to deal with my son’s learning differences, I explained to him that school would be different and that we were going to make some changes that would help him. You have to make the changes that are right for your own child–which may be different from those that my child required.
In my son’s case, he needed:
- to be as free of distraction as possible.
- to be free to work at his own pace.
- to know at the beginning of each school day what he would be required to do for that day.
- to work as independently as possible with me showing/telling/teaching him and then allowing him to do his work independently as much as possible. (He knew I was available to help and answer questions at any time, but he needed to be allowed to do his work in a different room than his siblings. Once his work was done, I checked it, reviewed any problems with him, and had him correct his work as needed.)
These changes made it easier for him to get his work done, but he still went through a stage during which he completely refused to do his work in spite of the changes we made. So what did I do then?
Take Stronger Action if Necessary
All children are different, so it can be very hard to make suggestions for children I don’t know personally. But I can tell you what I did when my son went through a stage during which he completely refused to do his school work. I must point out, though, that I was certain at this point that there weren’t any other reasons for his refusal except his attitude. He was testing the limits to see if he could get away with refusing to work. If he’d had undiagnosed issues, no amount of “being tough” would have caused him to get his work done. It is absolutely necessary to make sure there aren’t any underlying issues that are causing your child’s refusal to work before you take stronger action!
At one point my son realized that, once his schoolwork was done, he was free to play, take a break, go outside, read, play video games, or otherwise have fun and do what he wanted to do. Once he realized that, he decided he needed to just skip that pesky school work and get straight to the fun part! Another time when he was older, he tried it again. Both times I took basically the same approach to getting him to do his work. I’ll explain.
First, I began by simply explaining that his schoolwork must be done before he could play with friends, play video games, go on field trips or activities, or whatever else he enjoyed doing based on his age and interests at the time. I hoped, of course, that he would take me seriously and do his work, but I was prepared to take action if he didn’t. Unfortunately, he put me to the test right away.
The next day when it was time for school, he didn’t do his work. He either sat there and did nothing or doodled or worked extremely slowly so that not much was accomplished. When the time came that I had to straighten up the house and start cooking dinner (or whatever else I needed to get done that afternoon), I told him that school was over for the day.
When he got ready to play his video games, I calmly explained that he wasn’t allowed to play video games that day since his schoolwork didn’t get done and that he could try again tomorrow. He was very unhappy and upset, and I really did feel awful, but I had to stay calm and not give in. It was hard for both of us!
I’m sure he thought at that moment that he would do better the next day, but he didn’t. By the next day, he had renewed his efforts not to do his work in hopes that I would back down. I didn’t.
I (somehow!!) remained calm while he dawdled, whined, and did everything except his school work. Later that afternoon I let him know that school time was over and he was free to go.
That night there was an activity (probably a church activity or homeschool get-together) that he was looking forward to going to. I had to tell him that he wouldn’t be going since he didn’t get done with school that day. He didn’t take the news very well, but once again I did my best to remain calm and get through it. (P.S.–Lest you should think that was unfair, he had been warned ahead of time that he wouldn’t be allowed to go anywhere if his schoolwork wasn’t completed for the day.)
After a few days of this, he was finally convinced that it was better to do his work than to be denied the chance to have fun. There were still occasional days here and there that he goofed around or didn’t do his work well. On those days, I had to once again deny him the chance to do whatever fun activity he next wanted to do. I didn’t enjoy it, and he certainly didn’t like it, but eventually, he learned that doing his school work and doing his best on it was better than suffering the consequences.
There is something very important to make note of here, though. You should NEVER penalize a child for having trouble with a particular subject or assignment as long as the child is doing his or her best. Even if your child fails a test or misses all of the math problems, he should not be penalized if he truly doesn’t understand it. If he goofed around and refused to listen as you taught the math concept and therefore missed all of the math problems, that is a different story. But if he really was trying his best, he shouldn’t be penalized.
Was it easy to be kind, patient, and firm while my son learned that it was better to do his work than suffer the consequences? Not at all!! Was it worth it? Absolutely! Eventually, he learned that it was better to do his work well the first time so that he could have the freedoms and privileges he wanted to enjoy. There were times when he did well for a while and then tested me again to see if the rules still applied, but eventually, he learned to do his work, do it well, and do it in a timely manner.
Another Important Note:
If you have a child who rushes through schoolwork and (technically) gets it done but doesn’t do his/her best, I consider that to be the same as not having done the work at all. (This is NOT the same situation as I mentioned above about a child not understanding or not being able to do well in a subject or on an assignment.) In other words, when my son realized he really did have to get his work done, he began rushing through his work, doing everything halfway, and calling it done. But I didn’t count his work as having been done until I had checked it and he had corrected it.
What happened if he took so long to do his work that I ran out of time to check it and he ran out of time to correct it? He learned a difficult lesson. He had to start doing his work in a more timely manner in order to give me enough time to check and to give him time to correct it before the school day was over. Or, better yet, he had to start putting forth more effort the first time so fewer corrections needed to be made.
Dealing with Different Personalities
When my daughter went through a similar time of refusing to do her school work, the process was very different. When I first sat her down to talk with her about it and give her the chance to explain (if she could) why she wasn’t doing her work, it turned out that she simply needed a little more direction from me than my son had needed and wanted. She didn’t feel confident doing her work with the amount of freedom that my son loved and required, and she “shut down” and got nothing done because she felt overwhelmed.
This was a much easier situation to remedy, and I was glad I’d given her the chance to explain, without fear of being “in trouble,” why her work wasn’t getting done. In fact, my daughter is now in 11th grade, and she still likes more direction and explanation than my son did at her age. I am encouraging her to be more independent since she is older, but I’ve also let her know that I’ll be checking on her and that I’m here if she needs help.
Do What Works for Your Family
Each family is different, and what works for one family may not work for another. But it helps sometimes to learn how others have handled problems and then think about ways their solutions might be adapted to work for your family. Sometimes solutions don’t come right away. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out the problem and decide how to deal with it. Sometimes it takes more than one try. But don’t give up! The success is worth the time and effort you put into it!
You May Also Like:
10 Ways to Make Your Homeschool More Fun This Year
Worried About Finishing the School Year?
Elementary Book Reports Made Easy
Wendy is one of the owners of Hip Homeschool Moms, Only Passionate Curiosity, Homeschool Road Trips, Love These Recipes, and Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She married her high school sweetheart, Scott, 30 years ago, and they live in the South. Hannah, age 26, has autism and was the first homeschool graduate in the family. Noah, age 24, was the second homeschool graduate and the first to leave the nest. Mary Grace, age 18, is the most recent homeschool graduate. Wendy loves working out and teaching Training for Warriors classes at her local gym. She also enjoys learning along with her family, educational travel, reading, and writing, and she attempts to grow an herb garden every summer with limited success.
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I have been through this with a couple of my children. You are so right, figuring out the root cause is the first step, then be consistent. Wonderful advice, thank you. Shared on Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you for sharing!
This helps me to look at et things from every angle when my son is being difficult. Thanks for sharing.
Excellent advise!! I love that you said to start with making sure there is not a physical problem or learning issue before jumping to a behavior problem.
I’m struggling this with my 8 year old now and all of last year. I feel like I’m failing at this but need to try different approaches, when I ask her why she shuts down starts crying and just says I dont like reading.
I am going through the same problem. My 8 year old in ELA he hates it. He doesn’t know why he has to read two times the same paragraph to understand it while other kids seems they finished faster. I don’t know what to do but he refuses and cries like is the end of the world. All the time he spend in crying, he would have already finished! I am at my end…we have gone to counseling, we have been trying so many different approaches.
We use the “you don’t get to do fun things if your work isn’t done” route and that seems to work for us.
We use that as well.
Thank you for this article, I cam across it at the right time. I have a 14 year old that likes to pick and choose which subjects he will complete and which he will put off or not do entirely…fortunately he will complete after being told once or twice, but if I am not diligent about checking his progress throughout the day he will avoid some things as long as I don’t catch on. Kids will test their boundaries and as frustrating as it can be it is completely normal. This was a great reminder of that.
I am currently struggling with my nine year old- although this is our second year homeschooling, she still struggles to accept this change. She constantly talks about not having a friend and her stories always include about her classrooms and teachers. Then, towards the end of the year, she began to lie and using internet games instead doing her assignments without my knowledge. It has been a very frustrating journey as I try to keep her busy by signing her up in several activities such as swimming and karate.
It is definitely harder to homeschool children who came from a school environment and feel like that is the “normal” way to do school. You may want to read some articles about “deschooling” and work on some relationship-building things before you get back into her academic work this year. Here’s an article that may help you. https://hiphomeschoolmoms.com/deschooling-what-is-it-and-do-i-need-to-do-it/
My daughter has learning and behavioral problems. She has been diagnosed with autism, odd, and conduct disorder. She was in regular school, but the school never really followed the IEP and tried to remove autism off her file last year (against the law) had state involved in the fight and got it settled while she was in intensive outpatient therapy for anxiety and depression. These meetings started right after I found out she was going to nurse every day and I was not being notified for headaches and stomachaches. A child that suffers from chronic constipation, urinary problems, heartburn, and anxiety and no notification so I could ensure none of these were the cause and was not being evaluated to see if a trigger or avoidance. So, I stayed on top of it when she returned demanding a call with every nurse visit and every occurrence of avoidance. Once this was established she started to do a little better, but still had to do way to much schoolwork at home . (5 hours after the school day and 2 hour study hall after school and work would come home done but incorrect every answer). Then the pandemic happened, and I gave her a placement test and found she placed second grade (suppose to be fifth now sixth). So, me having some education in teaching, went to work using resources I could find and my own learning styles and by the end of school year had more improvement and than I have seen since first grade ( was almost like she was frozen in first grade classroom she was pulled out of and carried down the hall by 4 people holding a different limb and putting her in a seclusion room). So, my fiance finally agreed to let me homeschool especially since I did not feel like virtual would be effective for her. She is still behind but finished second grade math concepts that she did not understand today. So I consider that a win. They wanted her to multiply fluently but she didn’t understand place value. She didn’t understand simplifying fractions or making common denominators for adding fractions, but she never understand GCF or LCM first. She did not know Roman numerals even enough to read a clock, but now can use them to 100. So, enviroment is important. Also, I agree that consistence is important because alot of school was inconsistent because the teachers would give in, and she learned that if there was an answer on the paper even if wrong she would get credit for it. When given packets from school with pandemic stuff there were incorrect answers on answer sheet and incorrect information which was not first time I seen this last year, but definitely made my choice easier.
This was very helpful, thank you for sharing#
Hi Wendy, Thank you for your insight. My son(7th grade) is more along the lines of your son just refusing & losing free time. What I learned from your article is that I need to stay calm 😮 My son is a debater as to why it didn’t get done. I also need my husband and I on the same page, when I enforce “no free time” my husband does not at times. If we are on the same page, it will send a different message to our son. He’s in the public school system and I communicate often with his teachers as far as assignments/homework to make sure I understand and he can’t pull the wool over my eyes so to speak. (He’s done that many times-normally plays the victim.) I also do a break down of his work, meaning I break it up into smaller sections so it won’t seem so overwhelming because I notice on big projects/studying for tests is where it is extremely challenging. So I guess after typing this, he is a little of both of your children :-). Thank you!!
Wendy, I have two granddaughters that my husband and I have adopted. One is 12, and she has aspergers autism and bipolar disorder. Learning is very hard for her, but we are working thru that. The other daughter is 10, she also has aspergers autism and bipolar disorder. With her, she is very smart, and thinks that she knows everything. She says that since she knows so much, she doesn’t need to do schoolwork. She has been abusive to me when I’ve tried to be calm, and talk to her about it, but it doesn’t go over very well. I need help in knowing what to do. She is in counseling, but when she goes, she tries to tell her counselor that she doesn’t need to do school, because she is so smart. I’ve tried taking privileges away, and grounding her, but nothing seems to work. Any suggestions would be helpful.
Thank you Linda
First, I have to say that I don’t have any experience with adoption, and I know that brings with it a whole new set of issues and emotions that I’m not familiar with. But I’m very familiar with autism and Asperger’s (although each child with one of those conditions is often very different from another child with the same diagnosis). One thing you should absolutely do if you haven’t already is learn as much as you can about autism. That should help a lot. And something to keep in mind is that your daughter probably truly believes she’s right. She probably isn’t just trying to be a know-it-all. It may help to actually show her that she doesn’t know everything and that she does need to keep learning. You may want to do something like this: Have a talk with her and tell her that you need proof that she really does know so much that she doesn’t need to do school any more. But let her know that she’ll have to prove it by taking some tests. Then give her a very high-level math test, science test, English test, history test, etc. Make sure they’re so high-level that she can’t accidentally guess the answers and get them right. (Keep in mind that you aren’t doing this to be mean. You simply need to be very matter-of-fact about it.) After she’s taken the tests, you’ll have to show her that she didn’t do well at all and explain to her that she does need to keep learning so she’ll eventually know what she needs to know to finish high school and go on to college. I doubt that grounding her or taking away privileges will do much good because those aren’t really connected with her school work and have no correlation with why she does or doesn’t need to do her school work. I hope this helps!! Or at least maybe it will give you something to think about and try so you can work toward finding answers. Blessings!!
I appreciate your thoughts, and also your acknowledgement that adopted kiddos have a different set of circumstances to consider. I am the mom of an adopted son, who has RAD, who is currently sitting rather than playing. He’s got days where he MUST be in control rather than just accept he needs to do his school work. Tonight, it’s about reviewing the math work he completed earlier today. He’s actually good at math, but tends to struggle with new concepts, until he’s had several days of practice. He does his work, but if he gets one wrong, it’s the end of the world. For the most part, we’ve dealt with that part of the equation meaning… if it’s wrong, it just means you haven’t learned it yet, but tonight, he would rather not even have me correct his work, and he’s got a pretty disrespectful way of showing it.
It’s so incredibly frustrating to watch him be like this (deep breathing helps), but what it comes down to is this, because of his behavior, he’s choosing to sit on the couch AND DO NOTHING, rather than play with any electronics, or play up in his room. How long??? Well, that depends. For tonight, when I’m ready to try again, we’ll see how respectful he is and how high his effort level is. Throughout the years (homeschooling for 8) could go on for a couple of days, or could be over when I’m done with this website. Never know. But I do have a glass of wine waiting for me, either way.
Thanks again for reminding me I’m doing the right thing – hard as nails some days, but gotta do what I gotta do.
I follow a site called Asperger Experts. They have some articles and a book (and even a class, I think) on getting your child out of”defense mode” so you can have better cooperation and harmony at home. I highly recommend checking it out. I hope it helps! It helped me a whole lot with one of my kids.
Thank you for making a distinction between vision and eyesight problems. They are not the same thing! When my then 2nd grade daughter Serena was struggling to read at a 1st grade level, we found a developmental optometrist (not just optometrist) who diagnosed her vision disorder called convergence insufficiency. After a few months of vision therapy, she improved to easily reading one grade level ahead. By the 6th grade, she was reading at a 12th grade level. Her improvement was mentioned in an article at http://news.cision.com/college-of-optometrists-in-vision-development/r/struggling-students–a-global-problem-with-a-universal-solution-according-to-the-college-of-optometr,c9439423 The article has additional links that will be helpful to parents of children with the same or related vision disorders.
I appreciate your honest and helpful words! I have a 9th grader who is very independent but still needs a lot of accountability. We also use the same type of consequence system. It’s helpful to know I’m not alone in this!
Thank you for your sweet comment! You are definitely not alone! Blessings on you and your homeschool.
I just came across this today while searching for ideas to help my son. My son is actually in public school. His first year of high school. He has an IEP (which he has been classified as ADHD even though he is technically not. He struggles with testing and they classified him as this in middle school so he could get the extra time and quiet space for testing). I’ve never seen him struggle like he is this year. Currently failing every class. I can’t get the school to respond to me or help me out in any way. Instead of contacting me about him not turning things in, they just put zeros in. If I contact the teacher, there response is “he just didn’t turn it in.” Never anything about how they can help. His Dad and I are divorced and I’m really the only one that helps him with his homework. His Dad asks me each day what he has for homework. If I didn’t tell him, he would have no way of knowing. I feel like it’s all me and no one else. I’ve found that it’s become an obsession each day of watching the computer program that shows my sons grades. I’m beginning to wonder if I need to truly step back and let him do what he’s going to do and see if he gets it under control on his own. Maybe me not hovering so much will help. I’m at al loss.
Thank you so much, it’s really nice to know I’m not alone. My kids are 8 and 11. Homeschooled, My 8 year old is dyslexic and still requires a lot of help. My 11 year old (6th grade) refuses to do work. He wants the same attention as his 3rd grade brother. I feel as I’m letting my 6th grade down not teaching him. I dont want to send him to public middle school, and I cant keep going on this way.
I am so glad I am not alone in this. My kids are great but motivation to do their work is something that we struggle with. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom and helping us with some great advice. I will be applying some of these.
This is exactly what I am going thru with my step son. So glad to see I am not alone
Thank you!! Our youngest was recently diagnosed with anxiety and depression. She has had struggles with wanting to do school at times, but with the diagnosis, she seems to use that as a crutch. I know her emotions are real, but I believe she may be manipulating my momma heart to her advantage some days. This article has given me hope for helping her in different ways.
This has been my biggest fear as we begin 1st grade. Thank you for giving me some tools to have in my back pocket
I have this problem with one of my children. It is interest related a lot for him.
I am the mom of six, five of them currently schooling and a toddler in tow. My middle daughter has always been a different type of learner than my older children and I have had to “learn” how to teach in a different way. I have learned to begin each day with the subjects hardest for her in an effort to begin the day with a fresh start and hopefully not have distractions or frustrations begin before things are accomplished. Allow her to have small breaks for yoga and movement. I bought a lap desk that is portable and provides the flexibility to read or work on writing at a place maybe not in our classroom if it is noisy or distracting. She has taught me through many set backs and struggles how to not only be a better teacher but a better mom. How to reframe my thinking about what I thought our school day looks like. I’m so thankful to have different learners in all of my children as it provides me with insight and opportunity to see our school in so many different ways.
Seems like everytime there is a problem something else is the cause.. kids deflect instead of talk so I have definitely learned to talk it out more.
Thank you for sharing. This is our first time homeschooling and our grandson has ADHD he struggles and often doesn’t want to do his work we start on the 26th and I’m worrying about this
I go through this often with my son! It’s 100% an attitude problem. I believe he is bored because the work is to “easy” for him. When he is dragging and not doing work, we usually just stop and start again the next day😊
Sometimes it just comes with age and being consistent that they finally start doing better. Making a daily to do list has been a game changer for my distractible child though! When she knows what to expect she can get through it all more easily.
This is such a helpful article! I fell all kids go through this at some point as part of growing pains. I found that sometimes just switching curriculum can make all the difference. Thank you…🙏🏻
Thank you for these ideas! It was a good reminder to start with physiological issues that might be impeding learning. Sometimes I assume that issues like this must be attitude-based. Have a blessed day!
I have a struggling learner due to a disability and two others who just don’t want to do school. I try to mix in lots of hands on fun stuff now and that seems to help, just getting outside and discovering our world.
My daughter is incredible artistic and she behaves the same way! She will mess around and distract herself to enjoy what she’s doing or won’t do anything at all sometimes. When she was in public school, she would get her work down so quickly because she was so bored. With our first year homeschooling, she struggled a lot because she didn’t view home like real school and would waste time. Now I have implemented a similar strategy to remind her of the boundaries and decisions she’s actively making to show her accountability and critical thought about her own choices. Great article! 💗
Such an informative and helpful article, thank you! I’ll be saving this one to read again as needed during the school year 😊
I love this! Thanks for the great suggestions. Staying calm, listening, and sticking to the consequences.
This can be such a huge issue, in our home. Thanks for addressing some of the issues!
Encouraging! This is one of my fears as I begin our homeschool journey
great article! It’s important to remember workbooks and written work are not the only or even the best way for children to learn.
Such great advice and wisdom here! Thanks so much!
Good points. I’ve had to approach school very differently for my one boy that hates reading than my overachiever that spends all his free time reading. I’ve suspected dyslexia for years but don’t know where to check. Think I’ll try the school district like you mentioned. Thankfully, ours seems very homeschool-friendly.
This is a very good read! I have a strong willed child and sometimes we have a hard time getting schoolwork finished.
We go through this frequently. She is at the age now where we let her pick things she wants to study. It makes it a bit easier. Thanks for sharing.
Loved this article and sent it to my husband. Our 6 year old comes to our veterinary hospital everyday and sometimes it’s hard to get him to do anything. Other days he fantastically reads all day long. So important to keep everything in perspective!
I needed this! Thank you!
My son is 14, he struggles but if we let him work in his room away from his siblings he copes much better. Also to work at his pace. Yes i want my children to always try their hardest but i also want my children to be kind.
Every year it’s a struggle for us but each year I work to meet their needs a little better and it does get better.
Thank you for such a helpful article ❤️
So needed this today! Thank you.
I am going through this right now with my oldest. Selective subjects and tasks. Thank you for the advice. It helped reaffirm that I am on the right track. When starting homeschooling 3 years ago I did not anticipate the pressure and anxiety of realizing it’s all up to me. If they don’t succeed or do well it’s my fault, that is a very overwhelming feeling at times. Thank you for all of your helpful articles.
I see this come up all the time in parenting boards!
So helpful! I think my daughter is the same as yours, hoping i can help her and she can get back on track for this school year.
This is our first year and I appreciate the advice you share! Thank you
I am still learning how to deal with each child’s different personalities and learning styles. Why do they all have to be so different?!
Thank you for this article. We are at a point with my youngest that cognitive testing is being suggested and I am up in the air about it. He does his schoolwork but we are having trouble with retaining the info and so it makes for a very difficult schooling session. Thank you for sharing and I now know there is nothing wrong with testing and will help in the long run. I guess I just always felt that if he had some learning disability that it was somehow my fault and that I didn’t do something right when he was little. This article was a breath of fresh air for me to know that I am not alone and it is all going to be ok.
It is amazing how different each child can be. Two of mine were perfectionists and took lots of patience and understanding to help them.
Thank you for the article! I have a 8yr old that is like this. It is a struggle to get him to focus and do any of his work? He does seem to do better with dad, but dad works a lot. This article is great and definitely going to use some of the ideas.
My son is a reluctant learning. I’ve had his vision checked so my next step is talking to his doctor about testing. Sometimes it seems like his attitude is the problem but it does genuinely seem like he has a hard time.
Yes! Each child is so different. I had to take time to figure out each child’s “currency”… For some it was the activities, for some it was games. Finding ways to reward the productive behavior and keep my sanity.
This is a daily struggle with my 13 year old. He has diagnosed learning disabilities. I’ve been humbled and stretched out of my comfort zone so many times! It’s a hard road but I’ve learned so much. Hopefully he has too. 😉
We are just starting the homeschool journey……11th grade daughter…..this is my biggest fear……happy to have some tools in the arsenal, thanks
Thank you for sharing this! I am about to start my daughter in homeschooling this year (kindergarten) and trying to read up on all the things to get prepared! So helpful! Will be following your articles from here on out! ☺️
This was always the guys in trouble when there was not real honesty about skills that were lacking which presented as shame . Thankfully were working through all that
From my experience, when it’s an attitude problem, it xomes in phases and puberty has a lot to do with it! Just keep pushing though! And go get ice cream!
My son just doesn’t like to do it because he thinks it’s boring. He has gotten better which is good, we talked and I told him if he did it it would be done and gone and on to the next thing. 😁
Thank you so much for the encouragement. Last year was my first year homeschooling my daughter. This year I will take on her brother too, kindergarten and 1st grade. My daughter went through moments last year of not wanting to do her work. It was very hard on me and I am worried about them both protesting at the same time this year. But this article really helped remind me of way to handle the situation. It was very inspiring and such a good thing to read as we start up school next week! Thank you again!
I needed to read this before we start school again.
So many good things in this article and so helpful. I work full time and try to fit in school in bits and pieces here and there and sometimes can find the lack of cooperation so difficult as I don’t have the time I would like to work through the whining etc. Thanks for the reminders to keep calm and stay consistent and strong.
My son is a new reader. For the longest time, he’d cry any time we tried to sound out letters. He’d have a small panic attack. Many years were shed. So we stopped. We took the year off from reading and I just read to him almost every day. We played with play doh, molding and cutting letter shapes. I completely disregarded the “age” of when he should be reading. Fast forward to this year, it was like magic. He started to read! He just needed time. He simply wasn’t ready and I was pushing it. I’m so glad I listened to him.
Tears were shed. Not years. 😂
Great advice! My daughter doesn’t outright refuse, but she definitely needs me to be strict about doing school work or she gets too lazy! 🙂
This was great! I have a 7 year old boy who is just starting out with more assigned tasks and is struggling. (Activity book pages and age appropriate items) Definitely will be getting him in to get checked out! Thanks!
Thank you for this article. We are only in our second year of homeschooling, and this is my first year doing it with two students. They have very different personalities and learning styles so it’s a struggle sometimes to keep them both motivated and engaged. Thank you for the tips.
I so needed to read this today. My 12 yr old son is sitting in his room with his work in his lap doing absolutely nothing! We are scheduled for testing, but a lot of it is his attitude. He wants to do the fun stuff then do school “later” but later never comes. Then his attitude trickles down to the other kiddos and can quickly derail the whole day!
Great article! I have a very strong-willed 10 yo son. He is also VERY social and of course loves screen-time. The only thing that works for me is taking things away (social and screen). He can sit all day, but he won’t be doing anything else. I also like to mention that he has to go to school whether I do it or whether he gets on the bus everyday. This all seems to help. It’s so hard to be patient in these moments. A lot of prayer and self reflection. This is my first year homeschooling and I learn so much everyday. I love this opportunity to know my kids even more than I thought that I already did 😁. God Bless us all on this journey…it’s even more self-sacrifice than being a mom/housewife. I am blessed to get to do it, and so are all of you!
Thank you for this! With 5 kids there are often times when a kid doesnt want to work!
We had this same issue with our son. We battled with him for 2 years and tried so MANY things. It was definitely an attitude problem along with a power struggle of him wanting to control the situations. Eventually he realized we had his best interest in mind and it would benefit him to just do his work and get it done.
This was sometimes a struggle in our home. Schooling several at one time made it stressful for me to pinpoint the issues. This was a great article. I could have used this info years ago. But thankfully we made it.😊
Thank you for this, I needed it today!
Thank you for sharing! This was a great article!
First week of the new school year and I have already had to do this with my 9 year old daughter. We have a fact sheet of easy math questions for quick practice before a math lesson. We’ve done this for a few years now, and one day she just sat there and was slowwwwwww. She knew what she needed to have done while I started my kindergarten daughters math lesson. 30 min later she had done 3 problems. So I told her to get a drink, do some stretches and let’s get it done so we can move on. Nope… after my kindergarteners English lesson she did one more issue. This is a child who can do this worksheet in 1-2 min usually and move on. So I told her that if we couldn’t get school done there wouldn’t be free playtime at the end of the day or friends over. She finally realized I was serious. Got the rest done in 1 min. (Told her I had the timer on) and then expected to be done for the day. Nope haha I had to make sure she knew that it’s ok to take your time when you need it, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of school can just be pushed off to the next day. So we didn’t finish school till dinner time. The next day she got it all done at her normal speed. I just had to stay consistent and stick to my “schedule”. But she is strong willed and I love that. But some days it can be rough! I loved this article though, gave me some great ideas for if it happens again! It was nice to see that this happens to other parents as well and that it’s important to stay calm, find the root of the issue if it isn’t behavioral and to stay consistent.
One more problem**** not issue. Sorry my phone messed up while I was typing.
What great tools to use with my 5 kids as I’m getting resistance these days in different subjects! This helps a lot
This is so reassuring… thank you!
Ive learned a lot of it depends on the child, the subject, the day of the week, and even the time of day…..some days my youngest has a great day – gets everything done with no issues. The next day its like a totally different kid. ahhhhh. I have learned that I need to be VERY patient. Using the Charlotte Mason methods – put the books aside and take a breather rather than everyone going to pieces and getting too frustrated. We also initiated the no TV policy. If the day’s assignments are complete they can earn TV time, if not…no TV.
Thank you for sharing. I’m new to homeschooling and have been worried that my child(ren) may not want to listen to me when I’m only trying to help them. But you’re right, if it’s not any of the other issues we can at least focus on what we can do to fix it and help them learn. That’s one thing I love about homeschool.. the one on one.
Very helpful thanks
My kids sometimes drive me nuts not wanting to do school work. The only thing that has seem to work for me is giving them incentives. Challenging them or making it a game. My oldest loves because it challenges her to beat her time and is very effective. My youngest likes star fall because it’s fun.
Thank you for reminding me that it isn’t always about disobedience! My first child was easy peasy, and does everything asked if him, this second one challenges me every day. I appreciate the reminder!
Needed these suggestions and encouragement. Thank you for investing back into the homeschooling community.
This is a great article to come across. Thank you.
This is really interesting.
I try the same approach of no fun and games unless school work is done. Sometimes we have to tweak things but that is the beauty of homeschool. We do what works for our family.
I have a son who is very reluctant to complete his school work. It takes forever to get done for the day due to his time wasting… staring out the window, clipping toenails for 30 minutes….you name it. On the other hand I have a 15 year old daughter who is completely independent. My prayer is that it is a phase and this too shall pass.
Thank you for sharing this article. Very helpful
Excellent advice. Every child is different and may have different needs. Also, if you as the parent say they can /can’t go somewhere or do something unless work is finished….then stick with it. No matter how much they whine or complain. They’ll figure out you mean business!
My daughter is impossible. She is so easily distracted. I am hoping to try some of these tips.
A list and independence is a big thing for my middle not so cooperative son. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I went through this myself while I was in school. I hated doing the work, was easily confused by others teachings, distracted by others and easily frustrated. I am hoping to work smoothly with my two boys to help them with their individual needs and wants. If they decide to rebel and not want school I will try different ways to teach them the lessons and have help from some homeschooling mamas in my area to tackle the issues at hand. I am confident my oldest will be over the moon about school but may not want to have a set schedule and I’m preparing myself for that, as I myself do not like schedules.
These are some great things to think about as we come closer to the start of our school year. Great article!
Great article! Thanks for the tips!
I really enjoyed the tips in this article, over the years we’ve had to implement a few of these ideas and had success. Over the last year or so I found ambition dwindling and after talking with our teens found their biggest problem to be personal organization and individual study environments. We needed to assess what worked for them from time management to actual sitting arrangements. After a fresh start their locations of study now have a fresh new feel and have sparked their interest in studying. One child had been using their laptop on their bed and opted to switch to a desktop with a whole new desk setup. So far this minor change has made a huge difference in their attitude toward studying.
Some really great things to consider as another year begins. Thanks!
Such great tips!
Thank you! This was very helpful!
This was very interesting to read. We’ve only just really started homeschooling our daughter (kindergarten) and this can be helpful if when run into this issue in the future. I never thought it could be because of an underlying issue like vision. I feel a little more prepared for the future.
Thank you for this article. It is very informative. I have 4 boys, and the oldest one continually puts my patience to the test. I’m hoping the ideas in this article will help us.
First time homeschoolers this year! This article was a great read with a lot of useful information!
This is my current situation! I have 7 at home and 5 homeschooling. 2 have autism and we are having the hardest time finding ways to help each child learn in their own way. These tips were helpful and I will check into each. Homeschooling is so rewarding once it clicks for each child. Thank you for your page!!!
My oldest (7) def. Has the attitude problem..I never thought about waiting till we are both more chill to do it! It has to be done when my head wants it done. Trying this wait it out and being more patient thing today!
My oldest has struggled with this for awhile. I’ll definitely be trying something new with her. Thanks!
Some good suggestions in here
We have homeschooled our children from the very start, so out oldest is 21, with 6 to follow. Every.single.child has, is or will go through this phase. There are no disabilities here, just sheer laziness and distractions. Some is probably my fault as I can give in once in a while, they sure know how to work their mama! It’s a struggle, but through it all I have found grace and somewhat of a balance through the years. I pray for those struggling as well.
Being a mother of 7 we definately have days where at least one child is just not having it. It is taxing at times but this article is great in knowing its not just us that struggle and has some great ideas to re dirrect. Along with understanding other parts of it.
Very informational and helpful!
I am going through this with my boys! one is in 8th grade the other is in 2nd. thank you for the opportunity to win a Blessing box! 🤞hoping we can win one!
Excellent advice! Dealing with this right now with my twins when it comes to math. 🤪
I’ve been through this! I’ve noticed that I cant do the same thing for all my children. One will sit down and do worksheet after worksheet, but others need more interaction when they are learning. I love that I can tailor to how they learn!
Thank you for article. It was helpful.
Thank you for the advice. We are fairly new to homeschool with an 8th grader and 11th grader.
What a great and insightful article! I love having this page as a resource!!
Thank you for this. I am starting on the homeschool adventure and this is something I think about even though I have taught for 15 years. I know it is different teaching your own child. I am excited for this new step.
Thank you! Good advice.
Thank you for the encouragement! I am homeschooling my two girls for the first time this year, and have saved this post for when I have issues. And I’m sure I will!
Thankful that both my girls have a love of learning. Great read.
This is my fear, that my stubborn child won’t want to learn or do the work at homeschool. He is four now and we do a few activities and I have a few different preschool work books we use. Some days it’s good others not so much lol
Love this article! Been going through this with both of my children. I have switched from a block time table system to a notebooking system and so far it is working good. I think they (especially my son) will benefit more this way. My daughter may need a different system at some point and you provided some good examples and how to discuss it with her. Thank you!
Wonderful article. We will be homeschooling our 9th grader and our kindergarten this year.
This is my son. He looses focus so easily.
This is an awesome article and thanks for sharing!!
Great post with lots of info. I will definitely use this great info.
I am currently in fear of this happening all over again with my son who will now be in 2nd grade. This is a great article and will keep it in mind as I start this new year.
I was just thinking about this as we get ready to start our school year. My 4th grader is the toughest, but she is getting better every year.
I’ve been homeschooling my 9 yr old daughter for 3 years now and for the most part things have gone smoothly. She does the work and tries her best with minimal attitude. On the other hand, my 5 yr old son is the complete opposite. Very rambunctious and doesn’t want to do formal learning. I’ve had to accept that hes just a different learner and that’s okay. It’s nice to read that I’m not the only one dealing with issues like this…
Both my daughters, when we first started, were great about doing the work and learning. But then as the weeks went on, they became more reluctant. I found out my oldest needed glasses and the youngest needed to get up and move more. This is great information!
Great read!!!!thank you for posting!
Yes, after figuring out why you have to be consistent.
What a great article with great suggestions. Thank you!
We have been working on my daughter with this. Last year was a huge struggle to the point in almost put her in public school. And I know I threatened to at least a dozen times. Over summer we sat and spoke about the new year. We changed up the curriculum quite a bit. She admitted she hated the one we were using and she found it boring. so far this year we have much less struggles. She is more excited with her school.work
Flexibility and patience!! Two important things to remember!!!
Thank you for this article. I have been struggling with my boys. And while one did have a vision issue the other was just bored of repeating the same easy stuff over and over again.
What a timely article. Thank you!
I am finding my daughter has a learning disability so now I am working on getting her diagnosed.
Thank you so much for this article! Great advice that I’m going to start with.
Wonderful advise I can use and pass on – thanks!
Thank you for this encouragement! Yes! I have just gone through this with my 10 year old boy. It sure made me feel like my homeschool days were not going well every now and then. I felt like I was failing! He has tried me several times. Things are much better now. It helps so much to hear from another Mom about this!
My almost 7 year old goes through periods of not wanting to do it, whining and avoiding at all costs. Luckily (for us) he got in big trouble (with us) with a friend and got his screen time taken away for a rather long period of time (2 weeks). It was so surprising to see he really didn’t even miss it and was a completely different child by the next day. We let the ipad do some babysitting earlier in the year and we didn’t realize how out of control it had gotten. We’ve now instituted a whole system of earning screen time. Howeve, if we have tv on in the mornings it starts all over again. We’re making good strides toward a healthy relationship with screen time but it is very hard.
We’ve had this problem with my middle one. It took awhile to figure out it was a combination of attitude and him just not being ready for some of the material. We took another look at his schoolwork and altered it to better fit him and his unique needs. We have also implemented a point system where the can earn points and spend them on “rewards” (screen time, staying up late, etc.). It’s really helped and bonus: the points help them learn budgeting!
This sounds like a great way to handle it. Would you mind sharing more about how your points system works?
My son is 13 and there are days he just dreads doing his work and homeschooling is brand new to us this year so I tend to take those times to change it up either we go out for lunch or go make something fun in the kitchen or whatever. This is the greatest thing about homeschooling we now have the flexibility for our off days to do other things
I know my son has learning difficulties and this is our first year homeschooling. He is 12. Thank you for this article.
Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for sharing, I needed to see this!!
This is such a helpful article. My son is 9 and an Aspy. I’m excited to try some of the suggestions made here.
Thank you for this!
My son has dyslexia and that was the main problem behind his refusal. The curriculum was all wrong for him
Amazing advice, great article!!
We have not yet begun on our homeschool journey, but I so wanted to this year. This is one of the issues that concerns me – keeping their focus at home. There are so many distractions with younger siblings in the house who aren’t old enough to be doing school work and who need a lot of attention themselves, and my school aged children are the same age but on different levels, which makes it very difficult when trying to teach the same materials. My daughter has been having a really hard time learning to read and gets frustrated easily. I’ve been wondering if dyslexia may be an issue for her. I will definitely use your tip of getting her eyesight checked first though. This article gives me some good ideas on where to start.
I had the opposite problem where my accepted and knew that work had to be done before play, but it caused him to rush through his assignments causing them to be done poorly.
Unfortunately I had to eliminate “screens” from the school week altogether so he wasn’t rushing to finish in order to get to video games or tv.
This was a very helpful and informative article.
Good advice! It is important to remember to be patient. It may take a bit to figure out what each child’s needs, but so worth it. This article was a helpful reminder with perfect timing.
My oldest is struggling right now. I think she’s just ready to work and move on, but I keep explaining the importance of finishing school. She wants to go into fashion. I’ve been talking about a really great fashion program at a nearby college in hopes it’ll help her see that she needs to finish.
I needed this. Thank you!
Thanks for posting. I have a 14 year old son who sounds similar to Heidi’s post above. I find that he works harder if I tie his extracurricular activities to his schoolwork being completed. Distractions are a problem in our home because of our younger special needs son.
This is a very well written and informative piece. I will be starting to homeschool this Fall and it answered some questions I had.
This is a daily struggle. Thank you for this post of encouragement.
Love this advice!
Starting in this homeschool year this is a big worry of mine with my stubborn children! I’ll come back to this as I need it, thank you!
This is a good reminder! I need to get vision exams scheduled for my children!
Such a great article. This was so helpful to me at this part of my homeschooling journey!
My child loves to play games in his iPad but he absolutely doesn’t get to do that until we’ve done school. Somedays that reward works better than others.
When I had this issue with my son, to make a long story short, it was his way of asking for more structure from me! He is so different from my other kids. He wanted a more solid schedule and my fly by the seat of my pants teaching wasn’t working for him. We changed that aspect of our day and have had no more problems.
This was very helpful! I like the idea of ending the school day. We are new to home educating (8yo & 12yo) and we have schooled until bedtime many times in an attempt to correct attitude driven refusals to work. I think having a cut off time will be more effective. Then they will have down time without those extra privileges. My husband will be thrilled with having evenings back.
Being open minded and flexible is so important. Understanding and remembering your kids are people just like we are. If we find it difficult to do something we don’t always enjoy, we try to make it fun for ourselves or try figure the why behind it being difficult. Thank you for sharing!
Grat article, I think most of us , have dealt with this
I will definitely be trying some of these suggestions!
This article has been so helpful! I have a 9 yr old who this last year has been refusing to do his work. We have had all the testing done you talk about, and no issues there. So, I think I might have to try the calm approach you took with your son. Wish us luck!
Definitely a struggle at the beginning of a new year. Great article!
Great read !
So good to know we are not alone in this journey! Our son has autism and we’ve had to implement the same strategies with him. Our daughter also needs more direction at this stage. Hopefully she will require less direction as she gets to middle school age. Thanks for all you do to help others in this journey!
I am going through this with my 7 year old. Last year (k) he would sit at the table with me and tell me he wasn’t going to do his pages, etc. I’m still trying to figure out his preferred methods of learning, because nothing has been working so far…
Great info! Thank you
These are all very good tips! Thank you 😊
Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for your insight! I believe consistency is key to overcoming the attitude issues. My personal problem is in the carry through. I seem to be a distracted adult and have trouble myself staying on task. Sometimes I think our struggle is in separating being at home and relaxed, with being home and “doing school”! I truthfully believe screens are the base root of our problem. Screens rule the world with their information, social aspect and entertainment. I have a love hate relationship with screens.
We have just moved into a new house, in a new town. I’m hopeful for this new school year that we can all learn the rules and tools to a successful learning experience.
I love you guys and all the support you offer. ❤❤❤
My 9yr old would rather be doing anything other than school work. It’s a daily struggle. Thank you for sharing this, I am definitely going to try some of your ideas
I’m pretty much winging first grade, and need some support. But I fell this would help me out greatly.
I went through this last year with all 3 kids. Unfortunately I had to work and couldnt be the one to make them stick with it. It became a huge struggle and my husband didnt know what to do to make them get their work done. (They were very good at hiding in their rooms and looking like they were getting stuff done) I ended up having to quite my job and came home to try and catch them up as best I could. Our supervising teacher was threatening public school. We managed to get enough done for her before end of the year but I am still dreading this school year. I hope they have matured some over the summer. They are 15 and 13 and 11. The 2 older ones are the slackers. The 11 yr old LOVES school and keeps begging me to start soon. Lol
I love this. I really like that you stressed no punishment until you have checked for other issues and no punishment if they are doing their best. So often, I hear homeschool parents talk about punishing their kids for not doing work or having sloppy handwriting without having entertained the idea that they may need extra help. Thank you.
Great topic and guidance. My daughter was a rise and shine, get right to work so she could get it done and have the rest of the day to do things she loved to do. My son, however, is a stall and when he was younger even tried hiding his books and workso they couldn’t be found to do the work. Every child has such distinct, individual personalities.
This is a fear of mine with my oldest son. He has always been in public school and the system is failing him. I want to homeschool but he’s stubborn and can be difficult.
Thanks for these tips and encouragement. We have these days often
Yes my son is like this alot! But he has gotten better over time. He was diagnosed with ADHD his first year of kinder and we pulled this year to start homeschooling as he couldn’t take the public school system! I’m glad we did!
My oldest son struggles with school a lot because of Dyslexia and dysgraphia. Once I identified this and have been working with him on it, I’ve noticed a small improvement. Even small improvements should be celebrated!
Thanks for sharing this. Going through this with my son.
Great tips. It’s hard when you pour so much of yourself into their eduction to have them refuse to participate. But they are human too.
I used to have this problem in the past. Now. When he gets stuck. We try different way of learning the subject. It has worked.
This is one of my big fears as I tackle this for the first time! Thanks for the suggestions and support!
I’m fortunate enough that all my kids love school right now, buuutttt my oldest is only 8 so I’m keeping this in the back of my mind just incase for later!
Great article. Im not too proud to admit I bribe my son sometimes but positive reinforcement also works on him.
This is really great advice. It can be so easy to assume your child is being lazy or not trying. Being able to step back from your own frustration to evaluate the possible issue causing the situation can be very difficult.
Thankfully, my kids haven’t really had this problem. My son complains about having to do school and will try to get away with the bare minimum but he will do it.
Thanks so much for writing about this!
This is really helpful!! My oldest is doing 4th grade and has days where he is soooo lazy. But I know it’s nothing more than an attitude issue!
This is my first year homeschooling. My daughter started kindergarten this year. She did great the first week and now I’m experiencing an attitude when it comes time to put the work in. I’m going to explore different options for writing but it is what it is. Practice is necessary in that subject. I’m open to suggestions! Thank you for the insight in your own experience!
To be honest, you should probably not worry too much about writing right now if she’s fighting it. It could be that her motor skills aren’t sufficiently developed and it’s frustrating for her. In any case, I would set it aside and work on doing things that she enjoys for a while. Once she learns to love school, you can try again with writing and see if she does better.
Wow, good timing and placement on this one. I have a 14 yr old who is STILL working on 8th grade, because he just won’t do the work. He is doing it now as a way to earn privalages. Great ideas here and I will be coming back to read more. We also have a 3 yr old starting “preschool” and an 18 month old tagging along, luckily they don’t fight me yet.
Try attitude problem and ADHD… I am glad its not just us!
That is great advice! I really really need to get my oldest son’s eyes check again. They were checked recently but I have my doubts.
Thank you for this article! Good read!
What a great article! My son didn’t want to do his work for a while and we found out it was due to him not being challenged.
Sometimes I just don’t have it in me to push my child. ☹️
Doing pre-K with my twin girls and they can easily get distracted. Thanks for the insight!
Thank you for this article!
it takes a bit of time some days to find the right balance of work and play .. but when we get it right school work seems to fly by
I don’t have the “won’t do work” problem but I do have the “severe pokiness” problem. The promise of getting to do something fun after the work is completed does work really well for this issue as well!
Thanks for making me feel like I’m doing this right. I’ve told my sons from the beginning, if something isn’t working for you, tell me and we’ll figure out another way. We discovered virtual school a couple of years ago and they love it.
Thank you for sharing this. It can be a big problem.
Thanks for this! I want to be prepared if this situation happens with my kindergartener.
Great article. Many times my reaction is they go to public school if they won’t work for mom but this really opens the dialogue of what is right for the child.
I love this! My oldest daughter gets to this point every school year where she just starts dragging out all the work she does or will take the lazy way out with assignments simply because she doesn’t want to do it. I needed to read this article because I need to remember to stand firm with the consequences for not getting the work done in a timely manner or not doing the best that can be done on an assignment.
You know, it’s so great that you first made sure nothing was physically affecting his learning process. Rather than assume immediately that is an attitude type thing. Great eye opener. Thank you!
Thank you for this!! I’ve had some issues with my daughter not wanting to work on her lessons. This will help my mindset.
Great suggestions. Thanks!
I have been dealing with my grandson not wanting to do his homework. It doesn’t matter how fun I try to make it. It’s been going on for the last 2 yrs or so. I have held his grade back so he can catch up. I hope this helps this year
For my kiddos, we take break frequently.. it’s like scheduled recess. When the kids get to where they are lagging or so distracted they cant do their work we go outside and run off the energy.. It a 30min recess, sometimes p.e. to get them moving. Then when they come in they are ready to get back to work!! So far this has worked well for us!
This is our first year and we start week after next. This is one of my biggest fears!! I pray my kids are able to transition well and do what’s needed
My son has slight ADHD and has to take frequent breaks. I had no idea he had it until I noticed that he couldn’t focus more than 5-10 minutes without having to get energy out. So after the doctor confirmed he had it she told me that homeschooling is so good for him. I’m so glad we chose to homeschool
If school work isnt done we cant go play or do fun stuff. It works for us.
Great read, thanks!
Thank you for these insights! Right now I’m struggling to encourage my 6yo perfectionist son to try to hold a pencil. He has extreme anxiety, which goes into hyperdrive when he thinks he might make a “bump.” Ideas?
My daughter can be so hard!! She thinks she can refuse to do her work!! It makes the day so hard!
This was a great read! I homeschool two boys, 11 and 7, who have very different personalities. My oldest is more independent and can get how work done quickly, but my younger one is the complete opposite, to the point that he can be working on the same four math pages for six hours!!! I’ve tried so many things to “get him to do the work”, but what works the best sometimes is when I sit down beside him and show him compassion and give him my undivided attention.
These are excellent ideas and I appreciate the time you took to share them. Thank you!
Sometimes setting small goals throughout the day could help your kiddo get his or her work done. “Let’s get these two subjects done and we can take a break and go outside for20 minutes.” Setting these small goals gives them something to work towards.
My oldest daughter has autism, adhd, and a newly diagnosed slow processing disorder. Some days are better than others! And some days she doesn’t require any direction! Still trying to find her sweet spot!
I had this problem with my oldest son. Naturally, I made sure it wasn’t something other than laziness. But once I realized he just wasn’t doing it, I made him write “I will turn in my school work” a 100 times. Plus a few more other things over & over, he decided if he was going to do all that work, he might as well get a grade for it. My youngest was paying attention, so he did his work. lol
I’m struggling with this with my 10 year old and all of last year I thought maybe she just wanted more freedom to be a kid so I let her play more outside and do a lot of reading and just math thinking this year she would do better since she was gonna be a bit older but it’s not working. She whines all day and goes so slow. When I start talking to her about it she starts crying and plays the victim. She says she hates school and reading and that it’s so boring. She has asked me several times to put her in school. She says she wants friends and that there won’t be any little kids like her 4 year old sister bothering her. I don’t know what to do! I feel defeated. I home-schooled my 2 older daughter who are now in 12th and 9th grade and never had this problem with them. They try to tell her that this is the best place to be is home with me learning but she doesn’t care to listen. I want to give in and put her in a public school but then I feel like I am giving up on her. What do I do?
As a child who does this myself, I don’t really know why I do it myself, but I do know the reason isn’t merely just wanting to fun. I feel guilt from not doing work so I don’t have fun, or work, just sit depressed and watch time pass by.
When people are depressed, they often don’t feel like doing school work or even things they previously enjoyed. But there are ways to feel better, and it is VERY important that you reach out to a parent or another trusted adult to get help right away. I’m going to send you an email. Please be sure to look for it in case it goes to your spam folder.
There is a lot of good information in here. We also found that for our son having a clear outline that was a reasonable amount of work for him to get done helped with him getting caught up. He would shut down if he felt overwhelmed, more often on Fridays.
My 9 yo son (asd, adhd) is just like yours was with schoolwork refusal. “School is boring” and “nothing matters”. Its so sad but I know he needs to do the work. If I take away you tube though, it would be total chaos. I basically walk on eggshells because I dont want a meltdown.
Yes, ASD and ADHD kids have their own special challenges. If necessary, you may want to talk to a doctor or counselor who can help you and your son.
My kids are early elementary, and we have a policy of no lunch until school is done.
For some children, that is very motivational! 🙂 For others, that might not work at all. It’s a good thing to be able to do what works best for our own children.
Thank you so much for sharing this! I absolutely appreciate you taking the time to do so. ❤️
You are very welcome! I hope it was helpful!
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