Bribes and threats are no longer working when it comes to getting my twelve-year old son to sit down and do his homework. I get furious, but no matter how hard I try to get him to make it important, he resists as long as possible. Help!
Anytime you need something from your child, you give him too much power. He can either bestow upon you the thing you desperately need, or watch you squirm as he refuses to do what you ask. Parenting works best when parents are the calm, confident Captain of the ship in their child's life. This means that while you may encourage your son to do his homework, you steer clear of putting him in the disempowering position of either granting or refusing your request. Here are a few thoughts to consider:
• Care less. When I first suggest to parents that they stop chasing their children around to get their homework done, they look at me as though I'm suggesting they become negligent, uninvolved parents. Nothing could be further from the truth! But until we make some peace with the worst that could happen, our interactions will reek of desperation and neediness.
• Make friends with the Worst Case Scenario. What is the outcome you most fear? Complete this sentence: "If I don't force my son to do his homework, I'm afraid ___________" Are you worried that he'll fall behind? Get a poor grade on a test? Address those concerns directly with his teacher. He or she may recommend after school tutoring as a better strategy than bringing his work home. Or she may work out an accountability plan directly with your son that removes you as middleman.
• Turn off MOM TV. Make it less interesting for your son to engage in a battle with you about homework, positioning yourself as a supporter and instead of a taskmaster.
• Turn up the juice in his sluggish brain. Suggest that he work for seven minutes, run around the yard for a minute or two and come back for another seven-minute session. (It's much easier for kids to do something unpleasant if they can see light at the end of the tunnel.)
• Chunk down. Teach your son the "10 Minute Rule," encouraging him to just get started and work for only 10 minutes, after which he can either take a break or carry on. More likely than not, once he's in the rhythm of doing his assignment, he'll stick with it.
• Be kind. Acknowledge how annoying it is to have to spend time doing something he doesn't like, without lecturing him on how he should be more committed to his studies.
Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected and the upcoming, Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids (An Eckhart Tolle Edition). She is a family therapist, parent coach and internationally recognized speaker on all subjects related to children, teens and parenting.
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