What to do about behaviors that get in the way of completing homework independently
In SOS Homework Part I you learned the seven behaviors that get in the way of children completing their homework independently and determined which of those might apply to your child. Now it’s time to create your plan to help develop the necessary skills.
Each section below gives an example of a child exhibiting one behavior and strategies that may be used to overcome it. You’ll be more successful if you get buy-in on the plan from your child and the best way to do that is to include your child in creating it. So, I encourage you to use these ideas as a starting point and brainstorm other ideas together. Then, have your child choose which strategy to use.
Paige puts everything off which may cause her to stay up late to get things done, rushes through work because she ran out of time, or hands in incomplete assignments.
- Lower the starting barrier. Many tasks seem overwhelming. Plan to start with the easiest work first to get going.
- Work for just 10 minutes. Anyone can do anything for just 10 minutes. Set a timer and take a short break when the timer goes off.
- Break projects into small parts and create deadlines. Knowing exactly what needs to be done makes it easier to get started.
Isaac wants to end what he’s doing before working on homework. That’s fine unless he is doing something that can go on forever (i.e. video games).
- Schedule a start time for homework. This could be the same for every day or change due to after school activities.
- Give a 10-minute warning before he needs to stop an activity and move on to something else.
- Save the most engaging activities until work has been completed.
David doesn’t know what his homework is, didn’t bring home his worksheet or book, and leaves his work at home or loses it in his backpack.
- Develop a system for writing down school assignments (i.e., writing them down at the beginning of each class).
- Organize his backpack and locker and schedule a regular weekly time for cleaning.
- Create a homework caddy that is filled with all the supplies he needs to do his homework and projects.
- Create a place to store school papers/notes that are no longer needed at school but will be needed for studying later. Throw away or recycle papers he won’t need again.
Rob finishes his homework in 5 minutes and then moves on quickly to a fun activity without checking for completion or putting things away.
- Provide a structure that includes both a start and stop time for homework. If he finishes early, he should check his work, read, or write.
- Develop a system for checking his work that doesn’t include going through every problem again (i.e., as he is working, he could circle or star the problems that were difficult and then only check those).
- Provide rewards for work that is complete and neat (i.e., extra TV time, special game with mom and dad, favorite dessert)
Fred can’t sit still, taps his pencil on the table, drops things, and gets up from his chair for any type of distraction.
- Provide tactile stimulation (i.e. stress ball, Tangle Jr™, velcro under work area).
- Have him sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair.
- Limit his distractions by using a table top presentation board at his work area.
Dana is quiet and remains in her sit but doesn’t get work done because she is so busy thinking about other things.
- Develop a strategy with her to help her stay on track (i.e., mom checks in every 10 minutes or set alarms for her to ask herself “Am I focusing on my work?”)
- Play “Beat the Clock”. Set an amount of time and have her try to finish the page before that time.
- Create a half hour homework music playlist that has songs she knows really well that can act as white noise so she can put her attention on her work.
Felix has frequent meltdowns in which he might shout, push books onto the floor, rip papers, or put his head down on the desk when doing homework.
- Disengage until he is calm. You can’t accomplish anything until the behavior stops. You can help him calm down by naming the feeling (i.e., “You’re right. Your teacher gave you a lot of homework tonight. I can see why you feel this is unfair.")
- Help him move forward when calm. If he doesn’t know how to do the work, you can ask questions like “What is hard about this problem?“, "Is there a problem like that in your book?” or “What can you do to find out what this word means?”
- Help him develop a plan to talk to his teacher if necessary. What would he say? When would he talk to the teacher?
Get a downloadable copy of the strategies listed in this blog: Homework SOS Strategies Guide.
Please contact me if you need any assistance in helping your child to develop the skills needed for working independently, or for any other organizational, time management, or study skills questions.