Understanding Your Child's Homework Struggles

Look for Reasons Why Your Child Is Having Homework Problems

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 Once again, you are getting a phone call or email from your child's teacher because your child failed to complete their homework. maybe you have already talked to your child repeatedly about the need and importance of homework and school. Maybe your child promised you they would do their homework.  You have tried discipline with consequences.

Still, your child isn't getting their homework turned in.

Don't feel bad. This scenario is actually pretty common among children and teens who regularly miss homework deadlines. The trick with getting your child to complete their homework usually isn't about making sure they know it is important. Most children want to please the adults in their lives. Even teenagers who question everything adults tell them still want to be successful in school.  

There are several steps that need to happen in order for a homework assignment to be completed and turned in. When I worked as an in school tutor, I used a checklist called "Taylor's Homework Chain" to pinpoint where in the homework completion process a child was having problems with their homework.

You see, the real trick to solving problems with homework completion is to find out exactly what part of the homework process the student is really struggling with. Once you can identify clearly and simply what the exact problem is, solving homework troubles becomes a very clear process.

The questions below are based on Taylor's Homework Chain. You can try looking over the questions below to diagnose the root of your child's homework troubles.

1 Does your child understand when they have been assigned homework?  

When I was taking classes to be a professional educator, I was surprised to learn that at any given moment only about 40% of the students in a classroom are paying attention.

This is not related to the quality of the teacher, but just the fact that the human mind wanders. Everyone, children included, will be thinking about their worries, their hopes, what they may be looking forward to, or other random bits of information happening in their own world throughout the day. This can be even stronger if your child has an attention deficit or is experiencing any significant life changes, like moving or parents getting divorce.

Most teachers will write all assigned homework and due dates in a noticeable place in the classroom, such as on the main white board. Assignments may also be listed on a class website. Make sure that your child knows when the teacher assigns homework, and where to double check when assignments have been given.

2 Do they know how to do the homework?  

If your child does not know how to complete the assignment, they will have a very hard time doing the work. Children do not always have the skills yet to go back and ask for help when they do not understand how to do something.

Instead, children may just shut down or avoid the work altogether.  This sort of denial gets int he way of doing work. Work with your child to find out if they understand the directions to complete their assignment, and if they have the academic skills to complete the work. 

If your child does not understand how to complete an assignment, coach them on questions they can ask in class to clarify the expectations for the work, or read over the instructions with your child so they can understand what they need to do for the assignment.  

If your child lacks the academic skills needed to do their homework, contact your child's teacher to  find out what to do to help get your child caught up.  

3 Do they have the materials needed for the homework?  

As adults, we understand that if we do not have something we need to complete our work, we need to go and get it. Children sometimes need help with this part of homework completion. Sometimes children will lose an important item, and choose not to tell anyone in order to avoid punishment. Of course, the longer they go without their necessary school supplies and materials, the longer they cannot complete their work. Your child may also need to learn how to organize their materials so they can find them when they need them.

Check with  your child to make sure they have their textbook, paper, pen or pencils and any other supplies needed to complete their work. Ask your child to show them to you so you can check and make sure that they really do have the items and know where they are.  

4 Do they have what they need at home?  

With this question you do not need to ask about supplies as much as time to do homework and a space to do their homework. You may need to sit down with your child set aside a specific time for your child to complete their work. Remember that it is not until well into the teen years until students are ready to work totally unsupervised. You may need to make sure your tween is working at the dining table on their work to help keep your tween on task.

5 Do they have the organizational skills to receive, take home, and return homework?  

Some children need help to put a system in place to make sure to do what they set out to do with their homework. This relates to 'executive function" or planning type skills. If your child understands when homework is given, how to do it, and has the necessary materials and place to work on homework yet still misplaces their work, then try developing a habit to make sure they get homework done and turned in. Work on making the missing step a  habit - such as always bringing home their backpack, or placing completed work into a single folder. Creating these habits will help your child learn how to simplify the process of getting work done and turned in, leading to homework success.

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