“Homework Is Destroying Our Family!”
As a mother of two girls, ages 9 and 11, Nancy was becoming increasingly more frustrated by the nightly homework battles in her home. “I cannot sit and do every piece of homework with them because I have to get the dishes done, lunches made, do the laundry… Yet, they freak out when I leave the room or fight with me about how to do their work. It cannot continue this way or homework will actually destroy our family.”
First, we helped Nancy set some parameters for homework. Nancy’s daughters had learned that if they continued to beg and cry, she would eventually give in and help them with all of their homework. So, she had been reinforcing the negative behavior instead of stopping it. This awareness was half the battle!
Instead, we coached Nancy to sit down with her girls to help them get started.
Next, we worked together to develop a two-pronged plan. The first part of the plan was to establish a reward system. Nancy introduced it to the girls like this: “In the evenings, I have a lot of work I have to do, too. I don’t mind helping you with your homework, but I can’t sit with you while you do everything. I will help you get started with your homework and check it for you, but you will need to do it yourself. If you can get through the night without crying or arguing with me, I will let you stay up 15 minutes later.” Eventually, Nancy turned the rewards into weekly goals; “If you can get through every night this week without crying about homework, we’ll go to a movie on Saturday.”
The second part of the plan was to stop reinforcing their tantrums. To put a halt on the negative behavior, Nancy told the girls, “I will spend 10 minutes getting you started on your homework, then I have to go to the kitchen and get some of my own work done. I will come back every 15 minutes to check on you, but I will only stay for two minutes.” We encouraged Nancy to set a digital timer so her daughters could actually see the time. Finally, and most importantly, she had to stick to her plan no matter how much they cried, begged, kicked, or screamed.
It was tough at first, but Nancy discovered that it did not take long before her girls learned that the tantrums no longer worked. “You were right,” she said, “The first night was tough, the second night was awful, but the third night went pretty smoothly.” The girls were getting some help from their mom, but they were also learning how to work more independently. They were also being rewarded for their positive behavior. “I found that the reward is very motivating for them. If they start to get upset, I remind them of their reward, and they usually calm down. Homework is getting done faster and there is much less fighting in our household!”