Why do kids refuse to do their homework?

I get a lot of these type of questions from parents very distressed with the fact that their child refuses to do their homework. Many times, the children will lie about the homework’s completion, stating they turned it in when they didn’t. These lies can be very creative too 🙂

Most of the time, the parents REALLY are doing everything to stay on top of the situation. Teachers blame them for the child’s behavior but the parent feels helpless to do anything more to motivate the child. That’s when they come to me for answers. They don’t always like the one’s I have to give them and honestly, there are times, I really don’t know why. Fortunately, that isn’t too often. 

Why do the kids act this way and how can you correct it? I can only answer this question for the foster and adoptive children that I work with and not in more general terms. Most kids will get on track with their homework and be more compliant with a little extra vigilance on the part of the parent and a couple consequences put in place for some leverage. All kids test the limits at home and school and once they realize the limits are going to be firm and all the adults in their lives are working as a team to help the child, all is well…

But not for more traumatized children with huge losses in their lives. Unfortunately, these losses become part of the child’s Internal Working Model (John Bowlby) and color how they see the world, their caregivers/parents, and themselves. Self-defeating beliefs in a persons Internal Working Model are extremely hard to change. Not impossible, but their is a lot of work involved. 

The reason parents of these kids don’t like my answers is that I don’t focus on the homework at all. Remember, the issue is the child’s negative IWM, not the homework. That is just the expression of the negative belief system, not the cause. I want to address what is under the behavior and focus on the beliefs. Letting go of the need for the child to get good grades or have perfect behavior in the classroom is difficult for parents. When parents do get this concept and are willing to follow my suggestions to address the “roots” of the problem and partner with me and the child against the problem, the situation dramatically changes. 

Now I will give a quick disclaimer here. In some instances, the behavior never changes but what does improve is the relationship (read: Attachment) between the parent and child when mom and dad can keep the big picture in mind. I tell parents that it is more important to win the battle for the relationship versus the battle of the homework. School will come and go but the relationship is for ever! 

Of course, 80% of the behaviors will improve with a little psychoeducation on study skills, scheduling, communication with the teacher, better reinforcement systems, etc. It is the other 20% that I am focusing on in this post. 

The bottom line for this 20% of children who refuse to do their homework is control. Given their negative IWM about themselves, they haven’t experienced much control in their lives and this is one area that the adults can’t force them into compliance. They might improve for a time but fall back into the same control patterns. Even more reason to work on the roots of all this, improve the relationship/attachment, build more internal strength over grade point averages. 

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Parents Wonder: Why So Much Homework?

As the movement against excessive homework continues to grow, some parents say they’re drawing a line in the sand between home and school. Schools, in turn, are starting to rethink the role of homework and how it should be assigned.

If homework serves simply as busy work — proof that kids are “learning,” then that time is wasted, some say. Parents are sensitive to pressures on their children and want them to have down time when they get home from seven hours in school. If the work isn’t stimulating, then why do it?

“I just think that schools need to be a little more thoughtful about their policies for homework and work with the teachers to make sure that whatever homework that they do assign are rich, valuable experiences for the kids, and will actually be corrected,” said Jolene Ivey, mother of five boys in a discussion on NPR’s Tell Me More.

“The teachers have my kids for seven hours a day and when my kids get home I like for them to be able to do something else.”

“We’re teaching to the test, so a lot of the instruction that should be going on in the school environment is not there,” said Stephen Jones, an educator and a father. “Giving homework gives them an additional opportunity to give them work.” He doesn’t necessarily think that’s the worst thing, but he said homework should allow different learning styles to flourish so that it’s both more motivating and more fun for kids when they are at home.

Proponents of homework say that the ability to buckle down and focus on homework after a long day is a key skill that young people will need in college and beyond. If high schools don’t assign enough homework, graduates will be unprepared when they confront heavy work loads in college.

But Kenneth Goldberg, psychologist and author of “The Homework Trap,” argues that success in college is due more to self-confidence. He argues that homework highlights “under the radar” learning disabilities in children that make it much harder for some to finish work at home. One of his children struggles with homework on a nightly basis, leading Goldberg to conclude that homework batters the struggling child with negativity, challenging his self-confidence instead of nurturing it.

Goldberg has a few simple solutions to offer parents and teachers about how to avoid the homework trap and increase productivity. He promotes the idea of designating specific amounts of time to homework, regardless of whether the project gets done and then discussing a different set of expectations with the school.

He points them out in a Wall Street Journal article:

1. Time-bound homework. Just like school starts and stops by the clock, define homework as a fixed period of time. See what the child can do in a reasonable amount of time and work with that child on using the time well.

2. Reduced penalties. Zeros factored in 25 percent of the grade is too harsh of a penalty to alter behavior. Lesser consequences will prove more effective in both mobilizing the child and allowing the parent to approach the issue calmly.

3. Respect lines of authority. Teachers are in charge of their classrooms. Parents should tread lightly when it comes to telling them what to do. Parents are the people in charge of their homes; teachers should not tell parents how to organize their homes. Ultimately, when decisions are to be made about behaviors in the home (i.e. homework), the parent needs to be the one with the final say.

“Teachers should recognize that parents are the head of the home, teachers are the head of the classroom, and that homework is given with the permission of the parents,” Goldberg said.

For parents like Ivey, who want their kids to succeed in school, the homework conundrum has become inescapable.

“Homework is such a miserable experience in my life,” Ivey said. “The teachers have my kids for seven hours a day and when my kids get home I like for them to be able to do something else.”

How much homework does your child have and how do you get them motivated to get it all done?

Facebook® and academic performance

There is much talk of a change in modern youth – often referred to as digital natives or Homo Zappiens – with respect to their ability to simultaneously process multiple channels of information. In other words, kids today can multitask. Unfortunately for proponents of this position, there is much empirical documentation concerning the negative effects of attempting to simultaneously process different streams of information showing that such behavior leads to both increased study time to achieve learning parity and an increase in mistakes while processing information than those who are sequentially or serially processing that same information. This article presents the preliminary results of a descriptive and exploratory survey study involving Facebook use, often carried out simultaneously with other study activities, and its relation to academic performance as measured by self-reported Grade Point Average (GPA) and hours spent studying per week. Results show that Facebook® users reported having lower GPAs and spend fewer hours per week studying than nonusers.

This research article found that online use (multitasking) decreases academic performance. I guess that is a “duh!” Back in the day when I used to teach time management courses for corporations I used to preach that time saving devices are really time shortening devices. They just allow you to pack in more information in a particular space of time. The fact is that you really can only do one thing at a time. Unfortunately, I don’t practice what I preach and still multitask, now with droid phone in hand or pocket. I did get rid of my pager however!

Take this study into consideration and you consider your child’s study time. How should you set some limits on online use at home?