The Homework Battlefield

By: Julia Daly

kid-doing-homework-with-parentThe scene is common. Your child comes home from school, watches some TV or plays, and then you ask them to go do their homework…and chaos ensues. Maybe they drop to the floor screaming, maybe they hit you, and maybe they simply ignore you and continue with whatever activity they were enjoying before you entered the room. Parents are then left with seemingly few options. They can push the issue and get into an argument with the child, they can give in and let the homework go incomplete, or maybe they come back later and try again. Still, at the end of the night, no matter what reaction parents chose to give, many times that homework returns to school as blank as when it came home.

So, what else can you do to make homework time more enjoyable and successful for both you and your child? The list below describes just some of the things a parent may do to set their child up for successful completion of homework.

  1. Create an afternoon schedule. Many kids, whether they are diagnosed with Autism or not, learn to and willingly follow schedules. The schedule removes an anxiety about what will be happening next, and lets them know exactly what’s going to happen when. A schedule also helps the child to know exactly what behaviors are expected of them. They are a lot more likely to engage in the behaviors you want if they know what those behaviors are.
  2. Offer breaks. Break homework assignments down into smaller portions and allow the child to take a break after completing each portion. Getting to that “break time” more frequently is going to help motivate the child to continue working; and eliminate the sense of dread that their homework will “never end.”
  3. Motivate. Most people don’t work for free, so it’s really not all that surprising that kids don’t want to either. Use whatever the child really likes (snacks, toys, activities, TV shows, etc.) as reinforcement for completing their homework (or following their schedule). Reinforcement should come immediately and frequently in the beginning. As the child begins to do more homework appropriately, you can raise the expectation gradually. (Ex. You start out giving them one pretzel for each math problem, once they do that for a while, they have to do 3 math problems before they can get a pretzel.) Provide a larger reward for completion of all their homework.
  4. Ability vs. Compliance. Ensure that they have all the skills necessary to complete the homework. This is vitally important. Not completing homework because they don’t have the skills necessary to do so, is completely different than not completing their homework because they don’t want to.
  5. Environment. Create a homework space. Find a quiet place in the house for your child to complete their homework that is free of lots of noise and distractions. They will have a much harder time focusing if they are trying to do their homework in front of the TV.
  6. PRAISE. This may sound simple, but it might be most important. Let your child know when they are doing something right. Let them know you are proud of them, give them high fives and thumbs ups. Pairing your praise with an edible or other tangible reward may help strengthen the value of the praise if your child does not respond to social reinforcement.

It is important to note that results most likely won’t come overnight and may take some extra work on your part. But with consistency, some extra motivation, and small changes to the environment you may no longer find yourself on the homework battlefield.