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Schoolwork at Home

What to do:

Self-Talk. Say to yourself, "I wish my child cared about doing his schoolwork at home and would do it without my nagging him. 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 interested in doing his schoolwork. When I put myself in his shoes, I'll be able to help him better. Sometimes I don't want to do my work around the house or on my job; 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 as it builds a framework for motivation and being interested in accomplishing goals.

Check Schoolwork Assignments. As a "family manager", or home “school teacher”, your task is to know what your child's job is, and in this case it's school assignments. When you know the assignments, you will know whether they have been completed. In addition, you can judge the quality of the work that has been done. If your child says he has no schoolwork, it's possible to check the school website. You are not responsible for doing the work or even knowing what the schoolwork 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.

Take Frequent Breaks. To help your child of every age care about doing schoolwork at home, it’s good to set small goals followed by fun breaks. For example: Do math problem 1 through 4, and then take five minutes playing a game. Then do problems 5 through 9 followed by a five-minute break. Most assignments can be broken down into segments to be rewarded by breaks.

Make Rules. A simple rule could be: TV and all electronic devices, except for the computer with school assignments on it, will be off during schoolwork time. To enforce the rule, make sure all portable devices are off and are put in a place away from the schoolwork site. A schoolwork rule could be: All assigned schoolwork 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 schoolwork or is not interested in doing anything other than lying on the couch, for example, talk with him about what he's feeling. Is he upset about something going on? Does he not understand the assignment? Is he worried that his teacher and you expect him to never make a mistake? Is he claiming boredom?

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.

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. Of course, the teachers or plan for the routine at school that the school establishes will be the one that families will need to follow for each child.

While learning at home, you might be the one establishing the routine, not the school. In that case, a schoolwork routine, for example, could be: The period from 8 to 10 am is now a quiet time. All schoolwork will be done during that time. If a child believably claims not to have any schoolwork, he can read during quiet time because it is a time when all family members are focused on work. Then, a break during 10-10:30am will give children a goal—getting through the first 2 hours, so the “reward” is the break. Then, more schoolwork from 10:30-12, lunch at 12-12:30, and so on. The importance of routine is to motivate with a plan—this gives a child something to accomplish each day, as well as decreases the stress when life is unpredictable.

Involve Your Child in the Plan. If your child is doing poorly because of incomplete schoolwork 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 schoolwork immediately after it is assigned. Parent checks it. Put it in notebook which goes in the backpack if attending school. Turn it in immediately after completion. “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. This is just an example. Ask your child for his ideas and guide the development of his plan.

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 complain about your child not being able to go to school because of the pandemic.  Your child will take his cue from you.  When you stay positive and flexible, your child will be more likely to be motivated and care about school.

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 Schoolwork 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 schoolwork won't teach him how to take that responsibility. Doing his incomplete chores because it's easier than getting him to do them won't help him learn to be motivated and 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.