How to Get Your Teen To Do Their Homework

j0178426If your child’s grades are acceptable and you receive positive reports from their teachers, then your child has earned the privilege of not having strict rules about how, where and when they do their homework. If your teen’s grades reflect missed assignments or their teachers are indicating that your teen is falling behind, then you need to establish some structure in your teen’s homework practices. Here are some tips for parents to get their teen to do their homework:

Help Create a Good Environment

Some teens need privacy, others prefer people around them. Some need silence, others need music. (Studies consistently show that TV is a distraction and should not be on during study times.) Encourage your teen to find a place at home where they are comfortable to do homework. There should be sufficient space to spread out materials. All the tools and supplies they need to get the work done should be right at hand. However, if your teen is struggling with completing assignments and their study spot is in their room, you might want to require them to do their homework in a public place with the promise that they can return to their room when their grades improve.

Pick a Time and Stick To It

Routines are a key factor in academic success! Encourage your teen to choose a standard homework time (the same time every day) that works for them, which will improve the chances that they will stick with it and eliminates the need for parents to keep nagging, ‘Did you do your homework yet?’ It’s important to let your teen choose the time, as they will be more likely to follow the plan. Some kids want to get homework out of the way as soon as they get home, while others need some down time to recharge. Although they can choose their study time, make it clear that there’s no TV, phone calls or texting, social media, video games, etc., until homework is done and checked.

If your child says they have no homework, you should still stick to the “studying time.” They can work ahead on a project, review material for the next test, read a book, or practice math skills. If you are consistent about requiring a specific study time, then your teen will lose the motivation to claim they have no homework when they really do.

Develop Organizational Skills

Teens must develop their organizational skills, just like any other skill. Mount a bulletin board or a calendar on the wall, or give them a planner. Teach them to break down larger projects into small goals and mark them on the calendar to plan out a project’s completion. Have them mark exam dates in one color, reports in another, etc.

Explain Studying Skills

Studying is not an intuitive skill that students just know. Inform teens of proper studying basics, such as: taking notes as he’s reading a chapter; summarizing what he has read in his own words; making his own flashcards for quick review of dates, formulas, etc.; and reviewing for a test the week prior (cramming the night before is ineffective).

Do Not Allow Overcommitment

High School offers students many, different activities, and some teens try to do it all. You should explain to your teen that there can be ‘too much of a good thing’. Limit the number of activities in which they can participate, and state at the beginning of the school year that their extracurricular involvement is dependent on their school performance. They must receive good grades to continue participating in activities.

Apply School to the Real World

Teens are much more likely to invest time into something they see as valuable or important, so try explaining schoolwork in terms of the real world. For example, you might discuss how topics in History class relate to what is happening in today’s news. You could explain that meeting deadlines is critically important in their success in the workplace, even if they think their assignments are not important. You might talk about the skills they need to be successful in college and how high school is preparing them.

Find Their Motivation

Kids do not place as much importance on schoolwork as you do. So, instead of trying to improve their motivation, you might try focusing on their behavior instead. Use something they ARE motivated about to obtain their compliance with completing their homework. For example, if your child would like to get his driver’s permit, you might encourage him by saying that the only way you will feel comfortable letting him drive is if you can see that he is capable of following rules, even when he doesn’t agree with them. All of us need to learn how to complete things we don’t want to do, so tying homework time to practical incentives can provide your child with the motivation to succeed.

Parent Involvement

At the beginning of the school year, you should either call or meet with your teen’s teachers to introduce yourself. Get to know them and make them feel comfortable to contact you with any issues.

Additionally, you should be available for helping your teen with homework. If something is really confusing your teen, you might try helping them or suggesting your teen takes a break (shooting hoops, taking a walk with you, etc.) so they can approach their homework with a fresh mind in 15 minutes. If they get too frustrated with their homework, they may just quit.

Although parents should be available for help, there is a line between helping a child understand the instructions or checking to make sure they did a math problem correctly versus actually doing the problem for them, going on the computer and finding the websites they should use, or suggesting the words they should state in their next sentence. With school, teens need to be accountable.

Your teen’s grades do not reflect on you or your parenting. After you have provided your teen the time, the space, and the tools they need, the teen must be held responsible for their work. The answer is not to make their school performance your problem, but theirs. It may feel like bad grades are one of the worst things that can happen to your teen, but in actuality, allowing your child to develop into a young adult who doesn’t know how to take responsibility for themselves and their actions is much worse. Teach your teen now, while you can, with mistakes that are small, before you send them into the real world completely unprepared. You must clearly communicate that your teen has total control of their lives, because that is how real life works. They can choose to accept or ignore their responsibilities, and they will have to deal with the outcomes of their choices.

Find Resources

All teens should know where to find usable resources. Local college libraries, specific websites, and reference books are essential supplies for teens. Try: or

What If Nothing Works?

If you find that nothing is helping a teen with his schoolwork, and it isn’t a discipline problem, please get help. First try talking with your teen’s teachers. There is so much time between report cards, it can be very helpful to set up some form of monitoring so you can see whether or not your son or daughter completed the work that was assigned to them for the week, and whether or not they are getting an acceptable grade. Many schools offer online systems that allow parents to check on their child’s grades on a regular basis. If working with your child’s teacher isn’t helping, try other options. Sometimes a tutor can work or visiting the school’s guidance office: counselors are trained to find problems that other people may not be able to see. Don’t just try to solve it on your own.

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