If you missed the first three installments of Scaling Down the Homework, you should read them before continuing down the page.
Scaling Down the Homework (Part 1)
Scaling Down the Homework (Part 2)
Scaling Down the Homework (Part 3)
How do you motivate a “moving away from” child in a positive way? What is the proper approach to homework for a child who is motivated by consequences? My husband and I designed a system which works beautifully, but didn’t discover it until school had only 1 month left! We’re ready for when the next school year starts. Here’s what we did:
Change #2: Hannah has to prioritize her work. She gets help from mom and dad on this one, but ultimately, we’re not going to micromanage her each day. I don’t say, “Stop doing your math which is due on Friday and do your journal which is due tomorrow.” We’re teaching her the skills to prioritize her work. Whether or not she chooses to DO IT is her choice.
Change #3: Hannah is in charge of her own time. She gets to spend her Hour of Homework however she wants to, nag-free. If she wants to dawdle, play, or waste her time, that is her choice – but her homework will not get done. There is NO extra time past 1 hour.
Change #4: There are consequences. This is the important one here, the big motivator.
If you don’t study spelling words, you fail the spelling test. If you don’t do your worksheet, you can’t turn it in. These are common sense school consequences that we all learned as children. School consequences = home consequences. Trouble at school = trouble at home. Hannah didn’t understand punishment since she’s never really had any (she’s a good kid!). However, we were very clear:
Consequence #1: If you don’t do your homework, you get bad grades at school.
Consequence #2: If you get bad grades at school, you get a bad report card.
Consequence #3: If you get a bad report card, prepare to be grounded, big time.
Grounded = losing things you REALLY want, already have, and privileges you take for granted. Hannah was told that a grounding would equal her having the TV taken out of her room or losing her CD alarm clock (which lets her wake up to Hannah Montana music instead of an annoying buzzer).
Armed with our new strategy, we instituted the Hour of Homework system. Wouldn’t you know it, this one worked perfectly! Why? Because it was designed just for Hannah, to motivate her in the best way based on how her mind works. The thought of being grounded made that child move faster than I have ever seen! She used her time wisely when she knew she was in charge of it. She stopped screwing around. Now that homework was her responsibility, it didn’t benefit her to dawdle and waste time. If she didn’t do her work, she’d pay by losing something that meant a lot to her. It worked like a charm. A few days into the new system, Hannah was feeling relieved. She liked only having 1 hour of homework. There was time for her to help make dinner and do fun family activities at night. The atmosphere was less pressure, less stress.
We axed the homework without cutting it out altogether. Setting reasonable limits on homework was necessary to the smooth functioning of our family and the happiness of our child. Now, her whole life isn’t about homework. For an 8 year old, I think that’s a pretty good thing!