Posted by: Sara Carbone on: March 19, 2012
Very true when it comes to helping the kid who avoids and procrastinates. A kid avoids homework for many reasons – it’s hard, boring, overwhelming or just plain inconvenient. Lecturing and nagging doesn’t tend to work. So try some action instead.
Sit down and do the work together. Pull out a science textbook and read it together. Do some math problems. Plan out how to answer that essay assignment and begin the writing. Then, ideally, sit back as he keeps going. Don’t judge him or try to advise him on something he doesn’t want help on. Be an eye and an ear for when he has a question or needs encouragement.
Sometimes he just needs help starting. Ever avoid an annoying project at work? Put off an arduous house task? Well, peeling himself off the couch or logging out of Facebook can feel titanic. Keep this in mind on the days when your frustration and worry threaten to get the better of you.
He might just need a body in the room. A kid who struggles with issues around focus or sustaining his energy tends to do better when there’s another person nearby. Maybe read a book or work on the computer. That way he doesn’t feel on the spot, just quietly supported. And when he gets off track a gentle “How’s it going?” or “Do you feel stuck?” can help bring him back. For some kids it’s a soft touch on the shoulder or the suggestion to get up for a drink of water and a stretch. Then (this is key!) you can help him get back to work without getting waylaid.
Some kids need you to check in at the door periodically. Without judgement or provocative comments (“You’re never going to finish the paper at this rate!”). Just a neutral check-in.
When you can’t be there in person, set up to call, Skype or even text at a certain time. You can stay on the phone while he cracks open the book. Or he can read you the first paragraph.
If you can set it up so that you both define the kind of support he feels would work, even better. But if he refuses help altogether, don’t force it. Try bringing the idea up another night.
Ideally, with time he’ll begin to see homework as something less tortuous. The build up in his head that leads him to procrastinate may feel less insurmountable. And don’t worry about becoming a crutch. Just get past the procrastination first. Then you can (together!) look at how he can be more independent.
Now it could be that your relationship is so contentious or full of stress that it isn’t possible for you to be the one to help. When you’re both relaxed and able to listen, try to talk about having someone else in the family provide the support (one my students has set it up so his older sister does her homework in the room while he works).
Doing it like Elvis doesn’t work for everyone. But it can be a nice tool to have tucked in your toolbox.