3 Ways to Avoid Homework Battles With Your Teen
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? A perfectly planned lazy Sunday evening is suddenly ruined by the frantic 7:30pm announcement from your teen that there is a Maths test tomorrow or a week’s worth of unfinished homework festering in the bottom of their school bag, all due by tomorrow. If your family is anything like mine, this rarely ends harmoniously.
It seems that the arguments caused by homework fall into two categories:
- Teen refuses to do their homework, causing the parent to feel that they need to encourage/cajole/nag (delete as appropriate) until they do.
- Teen is so keen to get the homework “right” so that they don’t get into trouble at school that they become anxious and stressed (cue parents becoming anxious and stressed)
My children pendulate between the two, seemingly with no middle-ground.
Sadly, there seems to be no move towards banning homework anytime soon, so how can we minimise the impact on our precious weekends and keep harmony in our households?
Agree with them
It is easier to be the ally than the enemy. It may seem to our teens that they have very little freedom in their lives to choose what they would like to do and they may feel that parents and teachers are in league against them when it comes to homework.
If you agree with them that homework is “boring” and “pointless”, they will feel heard and understood. This alone may diffuse the battle element in the household and they may even open up to you further about their frustrations.
This then gives you the opportunity to help them reframe the situation whilst you are both calm. Ask them how doing the homework (even though it might seem boring and pointless) might still get them to where they want to be in the end.
Give them the choice (and therefore the responsibility)
As parents, we often feel it is our job to hover over our teens and try to make sure they get everything done. This can sometimes be less than helpful as they can become complacent, thinking that we will always be there to ensure it gets done.
Sometimes, if we remind them once and make it clear that we won’t remind them again, it can be quite motivating. Many teens are happy to explain to their parents that they “don’t want to do it” but most don’t relish the idea of explaining this to their teachers.
If your teen has perfectionist tendencies, you can also empower them helping them see where they have choices. Let them know that they can choose how long is reasonable to spend on a task and they can choose to stop.
Understand the intention behind the behaviour
It is useful to remember that every behaviour has a positive intention, even if the behaviour is irritating and totally messes up your Sunday.
Getting to the bottom of the intention behind the avoidance or the overworking is the key to being able to help your teen.
Often, the clues can be found in the language they are using.
Is it an insecurity issue?
For example, “I don’t like Maths” could mean “I don’t understand the work”, “I’m scared I will fail” or “I’m scared of my teacher.”
Asking a few questions to get to the REAL issue could be enough to completely turn it around. Once we know what the real problem is, we can help in a more meaningful way, rather than just focusing on the weekly cycle of “getting it done.”
Is it an energy issue?
Let’s face it. School is tiring and restricting – on the average school day, teens have very few choices. When they get home, they might be craving some freedom.
Asking “When is a good time for you to do your homework?” can be far more effective than “You are not doing anything until you’ve done your homework.”
Giving them a limited choice might also work because it is still a choice. For example, “Are you going to do your homework before dinner or after dinner?”
Is it a fear issue?
“I can’t stop until I’m finished” is often loaded with meaning. What do they think will happen if they do? Once you understand the belief beneath the belief that they can’t stop, it will be far easier to offer reassurance and assistance.
Are you and your teen having issues with homework boundaries or routines? I can help.