Homework is never nice to do. After spending a day grafting at school, one of the last things students want to do is transfer that home to the dining table or desk.
Homework is essential, as much as it pains us to think about. It helps students reaffirm knowledge which boosts memory retention ultimately making it easier for them in exams.
The difficulty always lies with those subjects that students don't naturally enjoy. Each student is unique with their own set of beliefs, desires, and motivators which may not align with a particular topic or subject. So how do you go about motivating a student to do their homework without unleashing the wrath of strict deadlines and consequences?
It may be that you explore using an online tutor to help your child with their homework or revision for exams.
Alternatively, you may reward them with some tickets to a music event or sports game over the summer.
Let's explore a few ways in which this can be done together... This is not meant as a condescending list of do's and don'ts but more some useful tips and tricks that can be used or recalled if needed.
Time management is a useful skill at any age, especially when you enter the working world. So encouraging students to come up with a routine planner each week can help ease the stress and burden of homework. One of the worst parts about it is thinking that it will take up a whole evening. Which it won't.
Once students are aware of how long they have to complete an assignment, it can help them plan their activities and social events around that. This then reduces the amount of time spent worrying about the task at hand and enables them to focus on doing what needs to be done.
As many parents who have tried working from home may know, it's important to separate your work and play spaces as best you can. Especially if you are easily distracted or have questionable motivation to do algebra on a sunny evening!
Not every student will have the luxury of their own desk or separate room to work in, but it's best to avoid doing work in busy or frequently more relaxed areas like a bedroom. Therefore avoid working on a sofa and with the TV or talking going on around them. The same goes for music, which is often too involved or catchy to allow the required deep focus to complete the task. Some music, however, can really help people focus - keep it light and ambient, with no lyrics. Nature sounds like rainfall works great for this and can drown out minor sounds around that house or in the street that can break focus.
Clutter is also the worst enemy of deep focus. If getting them to do homework isn't hard enough, getting them to tidy their room beforehand probably sounds like an impossible task! However, as long as there is minimal clutter on the desk or table they are working on - it goes someway to avoiding distractions. Better yet, let them use your own home office (if you have one) or facilitate them going to the library in the evening or staying late from school to complete longer tasks before even getting home.
A great tip for any parents trying to encourage their teenagers to do their homework is to sign them up with an online tutor.
This works in two ways. The first is that teens are less likely to complain about doing something if it means they get more screen time; the second is that they will be able to learn in a flexible and convenient manner that works for them.
Now here's a little bit of science for you. The brain releases a chemical called dopamine when you receive a reward, which is a feeling you end up seeking out in the hope of repeating.
This goes double especially if the reward is something that they enjoy such as going to see their favourite band in concert or taking part in newer activities. They will feel like their work is much more worthwhile.
You can actually train them to enjoy homework as weird as that may sound!
One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to teach your child how to learn. Not just so they can complete homework on time, but also so that if their subject changes or evolves over the years, they are confident in taking it on and learning through discovery and that they can come to you with any questions.
Feeling like you are tackling a task on your own is a horrible feeling, so trying to do the homework together or have them explain it to you is a sure-fire way of increasing their knowledge retention and enabling them to reach their higher potential.
This is the most contentious of all suggestions and honestly could backfire so you have been warned. But I know there were a few times growing up when I imposed a ban on myself from touching my phone, watching TV or playing on the PlayStation until I had completed my homework.
Hiding their phone out of sight (and on silent) is the best method here. That way they won't get FOMO or distracted by messages or notifications and will be able to stay focused. You can also go down another route and use the Mobicip app to help reduce screen time - it tracks your screen time and limits the use of certain apps during certain times.
Offering it as a suggestion is the smoothest way of approaching this. The idea here is that by developing more of a separation between 'homework time' and 'social/gaming/entertaining time', homework will become less stressful or at least seen as more of an event.
Children should always be able to tell someone about the things they’re worried about. They can tell a friend, parent, guardian, teacher, or another trusted adult - but it's hard to know what to suggest beyond just listening. If you notice your child struggling with their mental health, going to your GP can be a good place to start to find help.
They may be suffering from social problems as well as symptoms or emotions that they do not recognise or understand - they are just kids after all! Stressful tasks like homework can trigger periods of poor mental health, but it is often not the root cause. Keep an eye on your young ones to see if they need additional support.
Your GP can let you know what support is available to you, suggest different types of treatment and offer regular check-ups to see how you’re doing. It can often be easier to discuss worries with a professional rather than a parent, even if you are the most supportive person in the world! Children can hold a lot of embarrassment or shame which can seep into all aspects of life.
If they are in need of immediate support they should know they can always contact Childline, where you can speak to a counsellor. Their lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Now, these are just some suggestions of how you can get your child to have better homework habits without seeming like you're nagging them. However, there may come a time when students will be conducted their homework on TikTok as an example in this article describes.
So go ahead and try them out, they are worth a shot anyway if you are struggling to get them settled into revising and homework.
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