It's back to school time and that means the return of that dreaded ritual: Homework. This can be a real source of contention for many reasons.

Finding out assignments were never done, even though you asked him a hundred times if he had homework and every single time he defended his answer of "no" and your gut told you that he must have had some assignment or other but then you feel like you're just badgering and after all he's never lied to you before but then you get a nasty note from an otherwise sweet teacher telling you your child will never amount to anything because he can't seem to ever turn in the homework he's sworn to you he didn't have and now you're thinking of him on welfare and wearing rags because he couldn't be bothered to do a simple math worksheet or history report because he wanted to get on the computer and talk to his girlfriend or play his Xbox. (Gasping for air) Yes. There is a possibility that this has happened to me. Maybe even a lot.

So how do we create an environment that encourages our children to complete their homework assignments? Here are some helpful hints, persuasions and tools to get you started.

1. Make a schedule

A child's schedule will vary depending on what other activities they are involved in, by how their natural clock works and by your family routines. Schedules may also vary from child to child, and that's OK, because it gives you an opportunity to sit with each one and give them assistance. Here are questions to consider:

  • Does your child need to run off some steam after school before sitting down?

  • Do they do better by getting it over immediately before anything else distracts them?

  • Do they come in famished because the school is so large that they eat lunch at 10:30 a.m.? Yes, that one happened to our family!

  • Do they play sports or other activities that require them to stay after school?

  • Maybe they do better first thing in the morning and would benefit from getting up a couple of hours early and getting it done.

Figure out their schedules and accommodate them for maximum success.

2. Spend a few minutes talking about their day

Prior to getting started, if you give them a few minutes of one-on-one time, it allows them to discuss their day, good or bad. It gives them a chance to work through issues which may pre-occupy them from giving their homework the full attention it deserves.

3. Include a healthy snack

Try to avoid sugary snacks and empty calories, and opt for one that includes fruits, veggies or nuts. There are lots of websites and Pinterest boards that have ideas for making healthy food more fun and appealing to little ones. This will increase attention paid to their work.

4. Set up a correspondence with the teacher

Perhaps you have one of those kids who would rather get to the important business of leisure after school and leave the world of academia in the dust. If so, rather than doubt and anguish over whether or not they actually have homework, set up a paper in a folder for the teacher to initial. Instruct your child to write down their assignments or write the words no assignment and have the teacher initial it. Check the folder right after your little after school chat.

5. Set up a reward system

Rather than punishment, set up some sort of reward system for completion of assignments.

  • A movie for the two of you.

  • A game night.

  • The front seat when the family goes out.

  • A chart with stars.

  • An extra hour before bedtime on the weekend.

Find out what motivates them and use that as an incentive to complete homework.

6. Set up a dedicated workspace

Set up an area free from distraction and preferably near you. The old kitchen table was always my choice. I prepared dinner and they sat at the table. No TV. No radio. No ear buds. When they had a question, I was right there to help. Make certain whatever space you choose, there is good lighting, comfortable (but not too comfortable) seating, and room to spread out their things.

7. Let them take breaks if they need to

I remember my kids sometimes coming home with hours of work. If this is the case, encourage them to take a few minutes every half hour or so to stretch, run around the house, play a level on a video game, read a chapter of a favorite book or some other diversion to re-energize them. Give them a big glass of water and get them started again.

Homework is a monster that can be tamed with a little effort. You have the power to help them succeed. And they must succeed if you ever want them to leave the house and marry and become productive citizens and raise good families and not sleep in the park on newspapers and eat out of dumpsters and - just get them to do their homework!

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