Homework Strategies: Meaningful Consequences

Your children should recognize that doing their homework well will result in positive long-term gains. In contrast, not doing their homework, or doing it with minimal effort, will result in long term negative consequences. But providing short-term positive and negative consequences in the form of attention and praise for homework well done, and the absence of this for homework not done or poorly done, will help. You also might think about some ideas I’ve listed below:

  1. Each week, have your children assess their own homework completion by reviewing returned papers, tests and quizzes, and current grades. With your children, note their progress, improvements, areas of need, and jointly plan how to solve any problems.
  2. Display well-done work in a prominent place, such as on the refrigerator door.
  3. With their help, graph your children’s grades. Include the grades for each class, the average grade for all classes, and an agreed upon target line. The target line should be the grades that you and your children agree are reasonable and obtainable (if your child is now receiving D’s, a reasonable goal is grades of C: to first set the goal at A’s will lead to frustration). Discuss the graph with your children, help your children identify any patterns of poor performance, and jointly develop a plan to turn things around.
  4. Teach your children to bring all necessary materials home. If your children get in the habit of “forgetting” homework materials, have them spend time on reading or working on other academic activities during the agreed upon study time. Your children could also walk back to school to pick up forgotten materials, or be charged “gas money” out of their allowance for being driven back to school. Alternately, set up a system that rewards them for bringing everything home.
  5. Sometimes children “lose” completed homework in their books or backpack. Placing all completed homework in one folder in the backpack can solve this problem.
  6. If a child does not complete homework, reduce the freedom the child has until grades improve and the teacher indicates that the problem is solved. Methods of reducing freedom might be (a) giving your child less control about where and when homework is completed, (b) parents checking the quality of completed homework every evening, (c) parents and teachers maintaining ongoing communication in the assignment book, or (d) the child not being able to participate in a planned activity such as a field trip.
  7. Reward your child for good grades and for improving grades. Your child’s preferences should be considered in deciding upon the reward, but the rewards need not be expensive. Going out together for an ice cream cone, or telephoning a grandparent to tell them of the child’s success, are examples of inexpensive but effective rewards.
  8. Provide support and genuine praise for homework completion and good study habits.

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Dr. Alan Tepp currently practices in the areas of child psychology, adolescent psychology, adult psychology, couples and marital therapy, and forensic psychology, serving Northern Westchester and the surrounding areas with offices in Mt. Kisco NY, Fishkill, NY and Ridgefield, CT. To learn more, contact Dr. Tepp today to see how he can help you or a family member.