What to do:
Self-Talk. Say to yourself, "I wish my child was motivated to do his schoolwork. But I can be calm when he fights doing it. It's his job to do it and mine to encourage his learning how."
Empathy. Tell yourself, "I need to know what my child is thinking and feeling to help him be motivated to do his schoolwork. When I put myself in his shoes, I'll be able to help him better. Sometimes I’m not interested and don't want to do my work around the house or on my job, and I always have to figure out why before I can be motivated to do it."
Teach. Tell yourself, "I can help my child learn the SOCS method of problem-solving to help him understand the (S)situation, the (O)options he has for solving the problem, the (C)consequences of choosing each of those options and the (S)best solution. (See more details in “Use SOCS”. This is a good problem-solving strategy for children to use when they can understand the meaning of these words-situation, options, consequences and solution This strategy will be useful throughout chldren’s lives as it builds a framework for motivation.
Make a Daily Routine. Routines are valuable tools that help us all stay organized, so we can get done all the things we need to do. Routines also help to motivate us to get our work done in a focused way. While learning at home, a possible schoolwork routine could be: the period from 8 to 10 am is now a quiet time. All schoolwork will be done during that time. If a child believably claims not to have any schoolwork, he can read during quiet time because it is a time when all working-at-home family members are focused on their work responsibilities.
Make Rules. A simple rule could be: TV and all electronic devices, except for the computer with school assignments on it, will be off during schoolwork time. To enforce the rule, make sure all portable devices are off and are put in a place away from the schoolwork site. A schoolwork rule could be: All assigned schoolwork will be done and inspected before devices can be used or the child can have playtime.
Use SOCS to Support Your Child's Problem-Solving. When your child won't do his schoolwork, talk with him about what he's feeling. Is he upset about something going on? Does he not understand the assignment? Is he worried that his teacher and you expect him to never make a mistake? Is he claiming boredom? When you know what the situation is---what your child is thinking and feeling—you can help him understand the options he has for solving the problem, the consequences of choosing each of those options and the best solution.
This SOCS method: Situation, Options, Consequences and Solution is a caring, supportive way to build a problem-solving partnership with your child that helps him learn how to be resilient and that he can cope with a problem by thinking it through logically to come up with a solution that works for him.
Check Schoolwork Assignments. As a "family manager", or “homeschool teacher,” your task is to know what your child's job is; and in this case, it's a school assignment. When you know the assignments, you will know whether they have been completed. In addition, you can judge the quality of the work that has been done. If your child says he has no schoolwork, it's possible to check the school website. Most schools now post schoolwork for each class in each grade. You are not responsible for doing the work or even knowing what the schoolwork is. But it is important for your child to know that you care and want to know-just as you would share a work project of your own.
Involve Your Child in the Schoolwork Plan. If your child is doing poorly because of incomplete schoolwork assignments, poorly done work, failure to turn in the assignments on time, or any of the other issues that you know are resulting in grades that are below your child's ability, ask him what he plans to do about the problems.
If he says, "I'll try harder," don't accept that as an answer. Instead ask, "What's your plan?" and help him pull together a detailed plan to correct the problem:
- Do schoolwork immediately after it is assigned.
- My parent checks it.
- Put it in notebook which goes in my backpack if going to school.
- Turn it in immediately after completion.
- Correct mistakes as soon as I get them.
Now, that's a plan. Again, make this your child's plan, not yours. He is responsible for the plan and the work. This is just an example. Ask your child for his ideas and guide the development of his plan.
Check Chore Completion. Most assigned chores have visible proof of completion. Empty wastebaskets are evidence that the trash chore has been done. A made bed shows that making a bed each morning was done. Fun activities are allowed when all chores and school assignments are done satisfactorily.
Make a Chore Calendar. In order to ensure that children know their chore assignments, a calendar with chores listed could be posted. Monday: Empty Dishwasher, Tuesday: Empty wastebaskets, Wednesday: Vacuum the family room floor, etc. Each child will then check off the chore on that date when completed. It’s also helpful to have a family schedule: Home school is in session from 8 to 10 am. Break time is 10 to 10:30. Chores done from 10:30 to 11. Break until noon. Etc.
Use Grandma's Rule. You may have noted that in each case we've cited, the child can have his privileges only after “work” (school or chores, for example) is done, which is the essence of Grandma's Rule. The when-then contract simply states, "when you have done what you are required to do, then you may do what you want to do." You manage your child's access to all of his privileges, such as electronic devices or play activities.
Take Frequent Breaks. To keep your child interested and motivated, it’s good to set small goals followed by fun breaks. For example: Do math problem 1 through 4, and then take five minutes playing a game. Then do problems 5 through 9, followed by a five-minute break. Most assignments can be broken down into segments to be rewarded by breaks.
What not to do:
Don't Nag, Beg, Threaten. These won't teach your child how to get work done when it needs to be done.
Don't Punish for Incomplete Schoolwork or Chores. Grounding and other punishments when things aren't done won't teach your child how to get things done. Punishment encourages lying to avoid the punisher-not what you want to teach.
Don't Take on His Responsibility. If you take the responsibility of getting your child's work or chores done, he will never learn to do it himself. Sitting with him to help him finish his schoolwork or chores won't teach him how to take that responsibility. Doing his incomplete chores because it's easier than getting him to do them won't help him learn to be motivated and responsible.