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No Homework Tonight? Is Your Child Telling the Truth?
Is your child lying about homework? Maybe her teacher has told you that homework isn’t getting done, but she never seems to have any to do. Maybe she tells you she “did it on the bus” or “got it all done in class.” Why would a child lie about homework and what can you do about it?
Kids don’t do their homework for one of two reasons: either they believe homework will take so long that there will be no time left for fun or they believe that even if they do their homework they will get a poor grade. You can eliminate these reasons and increase your child’s ownership of her homework but to do so you have to take two different paths.
Help With Time Management
The child whose homework takes up too much time needs help with time management. Help him to list out what needs to be done and also what else that evening he wants to do. Help him decide how long each homework task will take and the right order for doing it (and let him decide: the easiest stuff first or the hardest stuff first). Let him plan out when he will do each homework task and how he will fit this in with other stuff he wants to do.
Often kids who let their homework last all evening have no idea that things could be different. Dawdling through homework has become a habit. So you will have to step in to help this child move things along and celebrate accomplishment at each step along the way.
Remember, not only does “work expand to fill the time allowed” but “all work and no play” is not good for any child. Help your child have a balanced evening and feel good about himself, not guilty. Now it will seem safe to remember homework and actually do it. It will feel good.
Help With Self Esteem
The child who doesn’t do homework because she is afraid of getting a poor grade needs a different sort of help. This child has learned that doing homework and getting a bad grade means she is dumb, at least in her own eyes. But not doing homework and getting a zero for a grade just means she’s lazy or “too cool for school.” Better to be lazy than dumb, if you’re a kid. Not doing homework is a way to save face.
So this child needs help in doing the homework itself, not just in managing her time. She needs help to realize that it’s not that she’s dumb, it’s that she just hasn’t learned this stuff yet. Here’s how you can help her:
- Never suggest that your child is not smart enough and don’t let other people say that either. Never compare this child to another child who seems to have an easy time in school. Instead say, “This really is hard, but I know you can figure it out. I will help you.”
- Help her with her homework. Find her a tutor if you need to. Ask her teacher for advice. But help her be more successful and start getting better grades. This doesn’t mean that you or the tutor should do the homework for her – oh, no! Doing that will send the signal that you think she’s dumb and can’t learn. Instead, help her understand the material and celebrate every step in the right direction. This will take time, especially if she’s far behind. Don’t get discouraged.
- Focus on the subject she finds the hardest. If your child is failing in many subjects, focus on one. Talk with her teacher and see if there is a bigger problem that is interfering with your child’s ability to learn. But success in one hard subject will give your child courage to try harder in other, easier subjects.
Once your child realizes you are on her side and you believe in her abilities, she can believe in herself. It will be safe to try once again.
Many school districts these days offer “homework hotlines” that list the homework that’s been assigned and even offer help by phone or email. If your child says he has no homework but you suspect this isn’t right, check the school’s homework site together and see what you find. Don’t check it on your own, since this sends the message you think your child is lying. Instead, check it with your child, which indicates you want to help him get it right.
And when there is homework, help him to figure out when he will do it and support him in believing he can do it well.