Remember when your kids had homework in elementary school? Back then, it wasn’t just their homework, in reality, it was your homework too. Perhaps you treasured that time together working with your child, teaching him, helping him. He seemed so eager to learn. Fast forward to today. Now that your tween is in middle school the homework actually belongs to him; and well for many families, here in lies the problem. If your tween is less than excited about his academic responsibilities, you may just have a nightly battle on your hands.
The transition from elementary school to middle school can indeed be difficult. In middle school students are expected to step-up, get organized and become self-motivated. These are not easy tasks. In fact, it is very common for tweens who did well in elementary school, to initially lose some ground in middle school. Middle school is also often the time when your tweens begin to invest themselves more narrowly in their interests. Instead of playing every sport or engaging in every activity, your tween begins to hone in on the area he enjoys most. Quite often these are also the areas in which your tween feels most confident and competent. These interests take on a new importance in his life. The interest can take up a lot of time. This may have been fine in elementary school when you sought productive ways to keep her busy. In middle school however, the importance scale begins to tip in the direction of school, as academic performance becomes more essential.
What do you do however if your tween struggles academically? What if he is not the self-motivating type? What if it seems as if he would rather eat a plate of worms while doing the polka in his bathing suit than start his homework? What if you have tried every approach known to mankind to encourage him to take on the task? What if you are engaged in the ‘War of the Homework’ and you feel as if you are losing the battle?
Unfortunately there is no magic formula to make your tween take on his homework without a hassle. There are some important points to ponder however, that may just result in a cease fire and hopefully a truce.
1.) Diagnose the difficulty. It is important to be aware of where the resistance is coming from. In other words, is your tween struggling with specific academic subjects? Does she need additional support? Sometimes what looks like a lack of motivation is really a loss of understanding. Maybe, your tween is too tired from her other activities by the time she gets around to doing her homework. Maybe your tween’s affinity for chaos and disorganization is disorienting her. Regardless of the reason, it is important to identify the issues before you develop a strategy to support her.
2.) Contact collaterals. Talk to your tween’s teachers and guidance counselor. Often it is your tween’s favorite teacher that can provide the best insight because chances are your tween has built a rapport with this person.
3.) If you can’t offer support, find a way to have it provided. If for example, you don’t feel equipped to help her complete her homework, ask his teachers to suggest some good resources on the internet. Google the subject content yourself, or even better, encourage your tween to do so.
4.) New habits are hard to create without consistency. Maybe your tween’s lack of interest in homework is a new thing. Maybe in the past it was never a struggle, or his propensity for procrastination wasn’t really a problem because the volume of homework was less. In order to ensure that your tween gets with the program and takes enough time for his homework, you need to encourage consistency. Ask your tween to create a schedule for himself and make sure he sticks to it. As a parent this can take a lot of work, but in time it should become easier for both of you.
5.) If you are not the right person for the job, turn to someone who is. Let’s be honest, not everyone is equipped to do battle with their tween in the homework realm. If your approach with your tween is less than encouraging, don’t let frustration and even anger, get the best of you. Turn to your spouse, a grandparent (or other relative especially if she lives with you) his older sibling, or even a tutor to help him get the job done. No good can from coercion and controversy. If you have had a hard day, step back, take a break, cool down, before you try to entice your tween to complete his homework.
6.) Incentives work. Help your tween to create a homework completion schedule that motivates him to accomplish the task. Adding incentives into to plan can be quite productive. If for example, your tween has a favorite TV show, agree that he can watch once he completes a specific portion of his work. He must commit to completing the rest of his work once the show is over. For some tweens, frequent study breaks are beneficial. Other tweens are best served getting all the homework done in one sitting. Adding an incentive upon completion validates your tween’s efforts.
7.) Consequences for incompletion should be delivered swiftly, calmly, and consistently. Have your tween help predetermine appropriate consequences. This way she is less likely to argue once you enforce them.
8.) Refrain from becoming too involved in your tween’s specific assignment. Basically, you cannot do the work for him. Certainly there may be days when you believe this would be easier. How will he be able to learn the work on his own? After all, you can’t take his tests for him too. You may want to check the quality of his work upon completion. If he is too resistant to this idea, meet him halfway by simply agreeing to check that his work has been completed. If however, his progress reports from his teachers reflect a lack of quality and/or quantity of his homework, inform him that the procedure would have to change.
The ‘War of the homework’ is not an easy battle to wage. By working with your tween to address the problem you can at least find a peaceful solution which will hopefully help you formulate a treaty and call it a truce.