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Refuses to do Homework

What to do:

Self-Talk. Say to yourself, "I wish my child wanted to do his homework. 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 homework. When I put myself in his shoes, I'll be able to help him better. Sometimes I don't want to do 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. 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-- that will be useful throughout their lives.

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. A homework routine, for example, could be: Right after dinner is now a quiet time. All homework will be done during that time. If a child believably claims not to have homework, he can read during quiet time because it is a time when all family members are reading or working on a project.

Make Rules. A simple rule could be: TV and all electronic devices will be off during homework. To enforce the rule, make sure all portable devices are off and are put in a place away from the homework site. A chore rule could be: All chores 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 homework, talk with him about what he's feeling. Is he upset about something going on in the class? Does he not understand the assignment? Is he worried that his teacher and you expect him to never make a mistake? 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 Homework Assignments. As a "family manager", your task is to know what your child's job is, and in this case it's homework. When you know the assignments, you will know whether they have been completed. In addition, you can judge the quality of the homework that has been done. If your child says he has no homework, it's possible to check the school website. Most schools now post homework for each class in each grade. You are not responsible for doing the homework or even knowing what the homework 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 Plan. If your child is doing poorly because of incomplete homework 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 all homework immediately after school. Parent checks it. Put it in notebook which goes in the backpack. Turn it in immediately in class. I'll correct my 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. Here is an example. Ask your child for his ideas!

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 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.

Use Grandma's Rule. You may have noted that in each case we've cited, the child can have his privileges only after work 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.

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 Homework 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 done, he will never learn to do it himself. Sitting with him to help him finish his homework won't teach him how to take that responsibility. Doing incomplete chores because it's easier than getting him to do them won't help him learn to be responsible.

The authors and Raised with Love and Limits Foundation disclaim responsibility for any harmful consequences, loss, injury or damage associated with the use and application of information or advice contained in these prescriptions and on this website. These protocols are clinical guidelines that must be used in conjunction with critical thinking and critical judgment.