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Teenager Not Doing Homework

CBN.comWhen it comes to kids and homework, I recommend that parents resist getting involved. It’s their responsibility, not yours. It’s common these days for parents to work themselves into a “quality time” frenzy—supervising their kids’ homework on a nightly basis, making sure that every assignment is done correctly and on time. Sometimes these parents actually “go back to school” themselves, heroically reading the textbooks and trying to learn the subject matter so that they can tutor their kids, or, if all else fails, do their homework for them.

Don’t do that! Don’t try to be a hero. Your job is to monitor progress, to coach and encourage from the sidelines, and to hold your student accountable—but that’s about it. Of course you care a great deal about how well your teen does in school, but you should also care enough to allow your teen to do it on his or her own. That’s the only way they will truly benefit from their school experience.

While there are always exceptions, most teenagers—if they are left alone and not overly pushed by their parents—will do OK in school and require little supervision and extra motivation. Don’t worry if your teenager isn’t getting straight As or winning academic-achievement awards. It’s not likely that you can turn your average student into an overachiever by nagging or pushing. In fact, the more you get involved, the greater the likelihood the student will do worse, not better. Remember, it’s her job to get her education.

Most kids are motivated to do well in school by a combination of two things: ambition and anxiety.

Despite what some think about today’s teenagers, most are pretty ambitious. They like challenges and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from getting good grades and pleasing their teachers and parents. Career ambitions or just a desire to excel at whatever they do may motivate others. Some kids are ambitious by nature, and others develop it gradually over time. It can be encouraged in teenagers by modeling it for them and by providing them with lots of affirmation rather than nagging. Your teenager probably is more ambitious than you realize, even if that ambition is not channeled directly into schoolwork.

Anxiety—or fear—is also a significant motivator. Most students fear what might happen if they don’t do their schoolwork. They might be embarrassed in front of their classmates or put their future at risk or lose a scholarship or make their parents angry.

Ambition and anxiety work in tandem. One of the other usually provides the motivation necessary to make students out of most kids. But what if that doesn’t happen? What if your teenager seems to lack both ambition and anxiety? What if he or she just doesn’t care?

The answer is not to make their performance your problem, but theirs. Sometimes parents and teachers worry and fret about a student’s poor grades while the student could care less. Unless your teenager cares as much (or more) than you do, he or she won’t be motivated to change or to take responsibility for performing up to his or her capabilities.

The best solution is to make school performance something that your kids care about. You can’t give them ambition they don’t have, but you can increase their anxiety level by tying school performance to the privileges that they enjoy and/or expect. Most kids care a lot about having time with their friends, having money to spend, having a car to drive, participating in sports, or having additional freedom. If their bad grades translate into a loss of privileges, they’ll start caring about their school performance. They’ll start feeling some anxiety.

Most kids won’t take kindly to this exercise of your authority. They will probably fight it tooth and nail at first. They’ll act like they really don’t care what you do to them and refuse to change just out of spite. They’ll act like victims and try to blame you for ruining their lives. Don’t fall for it. Just follow through and be patient. Eventually they will learn that you are serious and that if their situation is going to improve, they will be the ones who have to do the improving.

Of course, to make such a system work, you’ll need some way of monitoring how your student is doing, preferably on a weekly basis. There is simply too much time between report cards. What you need to know is whether or not your son or daughter completed the work that was assigned to them for the week, whether or not they are getting an acceptable grade. Some parents make arrangements with teachers and administrators to use a simple form at the end of each week (brought to the school by the student on Friday), which asks teachers in each class to give a progress report, along with a signature to discourage student dishonesty.

Your objective is not to micromanage your teenager’s life but to communicate clearly that they are in total control of their lives. They have responsibilities that they can choose to accept or ignore. The choices are theirs, just as the outcomes of their choices are also theirs. That’s how real life works.

This may not be necessary for your kids. Keep in mind that some underachieving students may have significant learning disabilities that should be properly diagnosed and treated. But the best response for the vast majority of kids who lack the motivation to apply themselves at school is to simply back off and let them take responsibility for their own school performance. Make it matter to them. In most cases, they will turn things around on their own, and they will learn a valuable life lesson in the process.

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Wayne Rice is the founder and director of HomeWord’s Understanding Your Teenager parenting event. Besides conducting dozens of UYT seminars each year and his work as a consultant for HomeWord, Wayne is a frequent speaker at youth, family and leadership conferences and other events for youth, youth workers, and parents.

Excerpted from Wayne Rice’s book, Cleared for Takeoff. Printed by permission of HomeWord.  For additional information on HomeWord, visit www.homeword.com or call 800-397-9725.

End the Nightly Homework Struggle: 5 Homework Strategies That Work for Kids

By Megan Devine, LCPC

Are you trapped in a nightly homework struggle with your child? The list of excuses can seem endless: “I don’t have any homework today.” “My teacher never looks at my homework anyway.” “That assignment was optional.” “I did it at school.” If only your child could be that creative with their actual homework, getting good grades would be no problem!

Pre-teens and teens often insist they have no homework even when they do, or tell parents that they’ve completed their assignments at school when they haven’t. If your child’s grades are acceptable and you receive positive reports from their teachers, congratulations – your child is doing just fine. James Lehman advises that students who are doing well have earned the privilege of doing their homework whenever and however they see fit. But if their grades reflect missing assignments, or your child’s teachers tell you that they’re falling behind, you need to institute some new homework practices in your household. For those classes in which your child is doing poorly, they lose the privilege of doing homework in an unstructured way. For the classes they are doing well in, they can continue to do that homework on their own.

Trying to convince your child that grades are important can be a losing battle. You can’t make your child take school as seriously as you do; the truth is, they don’t typically think that way. Remember, as James says, it’s not that they aren’t motivated, it’s that they’re motivated to do what they want to do. In order to get your child to do their homework, you have to focus on their behavior, not their motivation. So instead of giving them a lecture, focus on their behavior and their homework skills. Let them know that completing homework and getting passing grades are not optional.

If you’re facing the rest of the school year with dread and irritation, you’re not alone. By following the tips below, you can improve your child’s homework skills and reduce your frustration!

5 Strategies to Get Homework Back On Track

1. Schedule Daily Homework Time
If your child often says they have no homework but their grades are poor, they may not be telling you accurate information, they may have completely tuned out their teacher’s instructions, or need to improve some other organizations skills, for example. The Total Transformation Program recommends that whether your child has homework or not, create a mandatoryhomework time each school day for those classes in which you child is doing poorly.

Use the “10-Minute Rule” formulated by the National PTA and the National Education Association, which recommends that kids should be doing about 10 minutes of homework per night per grade level. In other words, 10 minutes for first-graders, 20 for second-graders and so forth.

It will be most effective if you choose the same time every day. For example, you might schedule homework time for the classes that your child is doing poorly in to begin at 4:00 p.m. every school day. If your child says they have no homework in those subjects, then they can spend that time reading ahead in their textbooks, making up missed work, working on extra credit projects, or studying for tests. If they say “I forgot my books at school,” have them read a book related to one of their subjects. By making study time a priority, you will sidestep all those excuses and claims of “no homework today.” If your child has to spend a few days doing “busy work” during the daily homework time, you may even find that they bring home more actual assignments!

2. Use a Public Space
It’s important to monitor your child’s homework time. For families where both parents work, you may need to schedule it in the evening. In many instances it may be more productive to have your child do their homework in a public space. That means the living room or the kitchen, or some place equally public where you can easily check in on them. Let them know they can ask for help if they need it, but allow them to do their own work. If your child would like to do his or her homework in their room, let them know that they can earn that privilege back when they have pulled up the grades in the subjects in which they are doing poorly.

3. Use Daily Incentives
Let your child know that they will have access to privileges when they have completed their homework. For example, you might say, “Once you’ve completed your homework time, you are free to use your electronics or see your friends.” Be clear with your child about the consequences for refusing to study, or for putting their work off until later. According to James Lehman, consequences should be short term, and should fit the “crime.” You might say, “If you choose not to study during the scheduled time, you will lose your electronics for the night. Tomorrow, you’ll get another chance to use them.” The next day, your child gets to try again – observing her homework time and earning her privileges. Don’t take away privileges for more than a day, as your child will have no incentive to do better the next time.

Related: Free downloadable behavior charts from Empowering Parents!

4. Work towards Something Bigger
Remember, kids don’t place as much importance on schoolwork as you do. As you focus on their behavior, not their motivation, you should begin to see some improvement in their homework skills. You can use your child’s motivation to your advantage if they have something they’d like to earn. For example, if your child would like to get his driver’s permit, you might encourage him to earn that privilege by showing you he can complete his homework appropriately. You might say, “In order to feel comfortable letting you drive, I need to see that you can follow rules, even when you don’t agree with them. When you can show me that you can complete your homework appropriately, I’d be happy to sit down and talk with you about getting your permit.” If your child starts complaining about the homework rule, you can say, “I know you want to get that driver’s permit. You need to show me you can follow a simple rule before I’ll even talk to you about it. Get going on that homework.” By doing this, you sidestep all the arguments around both the homework and the permit.

5. Skills + Practice = Success
Tying homework compliance with your child’s desires isn’t about having your child jump through hoops in order to get something they want. It’s not even about making them take something seriously, when they don’t see it that way. It’s about helping your child learn the skills they need to live life successfully. All of us need to learn how to complete things we don’t want to do. We all have occasions where we have to follow a rule, even when we disagree with it. When you create mandatory, daily homework time, you help your child practice these skills. When you tie that homework time to daily, practical incentives, you encourage your child to succeed.

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