Helping Your Child Finish Their Homework (or what to do when they don’t have your homework gene)

Here are three strategies that can help a parent and child get a better handle on completing homework.

1) The Sandwich.  Always use at least a two to one ratio of positive to negative comments on the child’s homework.  Looking at their math?  If they got 6 out of 10 right, then notice the hard ones they completed.

“Your long division is really great and your hand writing is so neat on this one.  You only have a few that aren’t right.  All your fractions are correct!, Way to go!” Focus as much as possible on developing a Growth Mind-Set — that is, reinforce effort and hard work over natural intelligence.  Of course your little darling is a genius, you know it, just don’t tell her.  Convince her instead, to always give 100% effort.

2) The Rough Check  Dr. Phelan (Author of 1,2,3, Magic, makes a compelling case for 8:00 pm being no time to try to find perfection.  His protocol for the rough check is to see if the work is 80% correct, neat, and complete.  If so, call it good.  We want kids to complete their assignments, not perfect them. You can find Dr. Phelan’s materials here.

3) Contingency Rewards  — Lastly, set up a contingency system where you reward the child for a week of completed homework.  The trick here is to not make it all or nothing.  Think in terms of a sliding scale.  Each day, if there is homework, your child can earn up to ten points:

1 for neatness if they exceed the 80% neatness criteria of the Rough Check

1 – for completeness — f they exceed the 80% completeness criteria of the Rough Check

1- for correctness — f they exceed the 80% correct criteria of the Rough Check

1 – for not complaining about doing the homework, or your evaluation

6 – for starting on their own with out you having to remind them

If at the end of the week your student has averaged an 8 — they get the special reward or privilege, if not, well, there is always next week. If they score a 10 each day, throw a party!

The idea here is you are valuing self starting and removing the arguing from the equation.  As a warning you do have to be prepared to let your child miss a few assignments, for the contingency plan to work.  Just be sure the privilege or reward is something they won’t want to pass up on (skiing with dad).

Combined these strategies can be a very powerful tool to get a homework adverse child “retrained” and prevent a perfectionist child from becoming bogged down in the habit of procrastination because the work isn’t good enough.


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