How do I get my kid to do their homework?

Wolfgang asks: How do I get my kid to do their homework?

Okay, this is one where I’ve only observed.  No one gives dogs homework.  And this is one time I’m really grateful to be a pooch!

There seems to be one lesson about homework that parents forget, and need to remember.  And that is that it is WORK.  If it were fun, they’d give it another name.  You probably remember a project you had to build, or maybe a book that you had to read, which you would totally have enjoyed, if it just weren’t assigned.  But because it was required, all the fun was taken out of it.  So why should it be any different with your kids?  There’s a famous bit in “Tom Sawyer,” where Tom convinces the other kids that his miserable whitewashing job is fun, and gets them to pay him for letting them do it.  Similarly, a school could make chasing squirrels dreary work, if they assigned and graded it.

So how do you get your kid to do her homework?  Well it won’t be by telling them that it builds character or that they should enjoy it.  Instead, use it to train them in skills they’ll need in life.  What happens if you go to your job?  You get a paycheck, right?  And what happens if you don’t?  You get punished, right?  Okay, same deal with homework.  If they’re doing it without prompting, that’s great.  But if they’re procrastinating, avoiding, or rebelling against it, then you need to set up a system of consequences.  What can you offer them for doing their homework?  Maybe to start, some little reward for every assignment they do, and then it can build to being something bigger for doing all their homework over a week.  And what kind of consequence can you administer if they don’t?  Maybe they don’t get to watch TV or play on the computer until their work for the day is done.  It doesn’t have to be drastic.  Just something to help them in their training.

Now one additional point.  Sometimes a kid really fights their parents about doing homework – refuses, maybe even shouting or threatening their mom or dad.  And sometimes a kid will do their homework but constantly forget to hand it in.  In both these cases, there’s something deeper going on.  If you have a dog, he or she probably know what it is, but can’t explain it to you.  So in such a case, I do recommend finding a good child therapist instead.  It’s probably an issue that can be resolved pretty quickly, but it needs some outside help.

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