What This Situation Is Like for Parents
While you know the importance of homework in your child’s education, you resent the fact that homework creates so many power struggles and leads to so much negativity in your home.
Because when it comes to homework,
…your child spends more time complaining about the assignments than it would take to just do them.
…you try to help them with the items they find difficult, and they tell you you’re “doing it wrong.”
…they may even tell you they’ve done all of their homework even when they haven’t.
You just want them to do their homework without so much drama.
What This Situation Is Like for Children
Children know they have to do homework. They know their parents are going to ask about it, their teachers are going to collect it, and that there will be consequences if they don’t do it.
But many children simply struggle with homework. It may be because:
…they need some downtime after school. After a long day of following rules and thinking hard and being good, they need a break and cannot face more things that they have to do.
… they struggle with tasks that aren’t engaging. All children are drawn to stimulation and novelty. So they may start to work on an assignment but their brain is drawn to a toy they see near them, or they start thinking about what their friend said at lunch that day…
…they need help with homework, but they feel discouraged and ashamed when their parents try to help them and they still don’t understand… or when their parents are teaching them in a way that is different than the way they learned in school.
And usually no one tries to determine why a child is struggling — or helps them figure out how to handle that struggle — so they eventually start to avoid homework because they just don’t know any other solutions.
How It Usually Goes
When A Child Is Not Motivated To Do Homework
Scenario: Jonah has to learn spelling words every week. For first month of school Jonah had been doing his words without too many problems. But as the year goes along, he becomes more and more resistant. His mom addresses the issue while he is resisting.
Mom: Jonah, you know you have to do your spelling words.
Jonah: I know, Mom.
Mom: So do them.
Jonah (whining): I don’t want to.
Mom: It doesn’t matter, Jonah. We all do things we don’t want to do!
Jonah: These spelling words are dumb.
Mom: They may be dumb, but you have to do them.
Jonah: But the test isn’t until Friday!
Mom: It doesn’t matter. Your teacher said to study every day.
Jonah: I don’t want to!
Mom: Jonah! I’m tired of this! Do your homework or there will be no electronics all week!
Jonah (starts crying and ignores his spelling words).
I highly recommend dealing with a situation like lack of motivation between times of Yuck.
That’s because in order to motivate children, they need to figure out why they are not motivated and find solutions…and they won’t be able to do either of those things when they’re in Yuck. You can use the Joint Problem Solving strategy to address this situation when you’re not all in an emotional place.
What A Joint Problem Solving Conversation Might Look Like
Scenario: Jonah has to learn spelling words every week. For first month of school Jonah had been doing his words without too many problems. But as the year goes along, he becomes more and more resistant. His mom addresses the issue when things are calm.
Mom: Jonah, I’ve noticed that we’ve been fighting a lot when it comes to getting homework done. Your homework has to get done, so I really want to understand what’s going on for you so we can make a plan that works for you.
Mom: Why do you think it’s so hard to get homework done?
Jonah: I just don’t like homework.
Mom: Why not?
Jonah: I don’t feel like doing it.
Mom: I can understand that. It’s much more fun to ANYTHING else besides homework.
Jonah’s mom is frustrated that Jonah is saying that he “doesn’t feel like” doing homework. She knows that there are a lot of things that she “doesn’t feel like” doing… But she also knows that if someone yelled at her when she didn’t do those things, that wouldn’t motivate her do to something different.
Jonah’s mom reminds herself to focus on the bigger picture — listening to Jonah and recognizing why he’s having so much trouble rather than making him feel bad for not doing what he’s supposed to.
Jonah (doesn’t say anything).
Mom: Actually, Jonah, CAN you tell me what it’s like to have to do homework after school?
Jonah: What do you mean?
Mom: Well when you have to sit down and do your spelling words, what’s it like?
Mom: So you take out your words and what happens?
Jonah: Well I can do the first couple of words. But then I start thinking about other things.
Mom: So it’s hard to stay focused?
Jonah: Yeah. I know I’m supposed to, but I just can’t.
Mom: That must be frustrating then… if you feel like there’s nothing you can do about it.
Instead of telling Jonah all of the reasons he has to do his homework, she focuses on respecting Jonah’s perspective… and understanding the true obstacles that he is facing. She knows that when they figure out the problem, they are more likely to figure out a solution.
Mom: Can I make a suggestion?
Jonah: I guess.
Mom: What if you did two spelling words and then got up and walked around?
Jonah: I like the walking around part.
Mom (laughs): But not the spelling words?
Mom: Fair enough. And… you still do have to do the spelling words.
Jonah: What if I could walk around the whole time?
Mom: Hmmm… What if you could walk around AND do spelling words?
Jonah: What do you mean?
Mom: What if you actually practiced spelling the words as you were walking?
Jonah: And maybe I could say a letter for each step I take?
Mom: Great idea! Want to try that?
Mom: OK, but one more question, Jonah…
Mom: What happens if one day you don’t feel like doing this plan? And you still have to do the spelling words that day?
Jonah: I guess I wouldn’t be able to do anything else fun that day if I don’t get my spelling done.
Mom: Yeah. I think that makes sense. But if that happens more than once, I think we should talk again about what’s making it hard for you. Because I know we can find solutions. OK?
To motivate Jonah to start to solve the problem, Jonah’s mom reiterates that she is not going to change her boundary.
Then she offers some solutions she thinks might work… But she also knew that even if her solutions didn’t work, her suggestions might spark some ideas from Jonah.
How to Make This Strategy Work
The “proactive deposits” discussed in the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.
If you want to be able to handle the situation when your child is not motivated to do homework, remember:
Depositing into CALM
Jonah’s mom will find it easier to stay calm if she sets her expectations appropriately. If she recognizes that most kids don’t feel like doing their homework — that that there is always a reason for that lack of motivation — she won’t get so upset when she hears him say that.
She will also find it easier to stay calm she is not in Yuck herself.
See Step 1 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap for help meeting your needs and setting expectations proactively so you can stay calm.
Depositing into CONNECT
Jonah’s mom will connect more effectively when she remembers that when children aren’t doing what they are supposed to do, there is always a reason… and that usually that reason is related to a lack of tools or a type of Yuck.
When she listens to Jonah and really tries to see his perspective, she can learn those reasons and find a solution.
See Step 2 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap to learn the reasons for children’s behavior so you can connect more effectively.
Depositing into CORRECT
Jonah’s mom needs to have shown previously (and consistently) that she will not change her boundary. That way, Jonah knows he cannot get out of the situation by stalling or complaining; instead, he knows it’s easier to just work with his mom and find a solution.
When she demonstrates that she means what she says and when she makes deposits into Jonah’s emotional needs PROACTIVELY, she will be able to correct his behavior more effectively.
See Step 3 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap to learn more about improving your influence so you can correct behavior.