“No! I won’t do it!” The screams are heartrending as they emit from the kitchen amid gasps of tears and foot stomping. Unfortunately this occurs all too often in households with a defiant child refusing to do homework. Homework can be a burden both for students and parents if not approached correctly. If a defiant child is involved in the equation, it can mean even more misery for parents and care-givers. There are several strategies that can be taken to ease the homework dilemma with a defiant child and help create an environment for success.
Defiance is a Symptom
Occurs all too often in households with a defiant child refusing to do homework. Homework can be a burden both for students and parents if not approached correctly. If a defiant child is involved in the equation, it can mean even more misery for parents and care-givers. There are several strategies that can be taken to ease the homework dilemma with a defiant child and help create an environment for success.
Often times when a child is defiant regarding homework it is a symptom of other issues or habits. It may mean investigating understanding why the child is defiant. Children can be more defiant for one parent versus another parent or testing the boundaries that the parents set. Sometimes it is evidence of defiance against the teacher or even other siblings. So before attempting other steps, trying to analyze why the child is so obstinate is the best place to start.
Establish Time and Place
Routine is important to children. Homework should become a routine just as bedtime, bath time and brushing teeth. Usually it is best to start the homework as early as possible. Once the child is tired, there is a greater likelihood that the child will become defiant. If homework is a consistent part of the daily routine then the child knows that there is no wiggle room for defiance.
Under the pressure of defiance, parents sometimes lose their will to enforce good homework practices. There is a temptation to be worn down. Keep in mind if the child wins and just doesn’t do the homework, it is a long term loss. Will the fact that one assignment doesn’t get completed on one night affect a child’s education? No, but over time the child will have missed out on many learning opportunities and eventually it can cause a student to be behind other classmates academically. As the child becomes older, there will no doubt be situations that will have more at stake than simply a grade and yet the defiant child will have had defiance rewarded in the past. It may lead to more defiant behavior in the future.
New Infusion of Authority
Sometimes a great tool is to bring in a new person to be the authority for awhile. Many students improve by having a relative or a tutor come in to work with them on homework for awhile. Children tend to think that parents don’t know anything, but when someone else tells them the exact same thing, the student begins to respond. Another factor in this is when children see the negative attention from a parent as attention. Bringing in someone that does not have that emotional tie can help with a change in behavior.
It may be necessary to begin with small steps with rewards. The defiant child can rebel because homework seems daunting and overwhelming. Break the assignments down and then take a small break or have a snack. Often times when the student knows that a break is coming after one task, it will be tackled with more gusto. Eventually the student may indicate the desire to do a little more before taking a break. To start the goal may be finish five math problems or read one page in the book. The small goals make children feel like it is a surmountable task.
Often the frustrations of parents come through to the defiant child and make the situation worse. It is always best to be calm and if a parent feels upset with the child it is better to step away and ask the other parent to step in for a while. Another good idea is to decide that one parent will work on English and Social Studies while the other parent works on Science and Math. As a result is varies who is the person enforcing the homework. Also if there is such a push for perfection on the assignments that the child feels he or she can’t be perfect, it can lead to defiance. It is acceptable for the child to get a problem wrong once in awhile. Don’t push for perfection.
Work with the School
Talking to and enlisting suggestions from the child’s teachers is a valuable step. Do not keep the child out of the discussions. The teacher, administrators and counselors can be there to reinforce the expectations. It helps to make it clear to the student that everyone is united. Do not see the professionals as enemies. They are able to look at the child objectively and not emotionally.
Make it Visual
Consider a visual way for the child to see accomplishment on homework. For younger children it may mean taking a link off of a paper chain or putting jelly beans in a container. It can be a marker board or calendar to mark off the items completed. When the tasks are made visible to the student, the student develops a stronger sense of accomplishment. For older children it can be as simple as having an in-box and an out-box. Don’t put everything in the in-box at first.
No Rewards before Completion
A common mistake is to allow students to watch a little television or play a few video games before tackling homework. It must be established early on that completion of the homework comes before pleasure. If it is the other way around, a defiant child will continue to be defiant because of the desire to continue the pleasurable activity.
Proper Working Conditions
For some children an improper working environment can cause them to be defiant. Students are hungry and thirsty when they come home from school. A few minutes for a snack are certainly appropriate. Consider having the child sit at the counter while preparing meals so the parent is available for supervision and questions and yet it is not overbearingly looking over the child’s shoulder. Make sure that the student has appropriate supplies and that the study area is clean and neat. Cluttered desks, tables or other study areas are not conducive to studying for many students. Do consider playing music lightly in the background or allow an MP3 player as it can help some students to focus and then the homework is a little more pleasurable. Finding the proper working conditions may require a little experimentation.
If a child is defiant with homework, it may just be a symptom of other areas of defiance also. Parents should take this seriously and try to improve this behavior at as young of an age as possible. Developing homework skills at a young age can create habits that will last a student into college and beyond.
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