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How to Get Your Kids to Do Their Schoolwork (Without the Power Struggle)

It’s always a pleasure helping moms along their homeschool journey. I decided to write this post after mentoring a new homeschooler who shared concerns about her son’s work ethic. Let’s call her Karen.

Karen has a preteen that will not do his schoolwork unless she is hanging over his shoulder every step of the way. And that’s only when she can get him to do it without a power struggle ensuing. This daily struggle is exhausting for Karen, who needs her son not only to work independently but cooperate with the process. After a long, audible sigh, Karen asks;

“How do you get your kids to actually do their schoolwork?”

I’m not a stranger to this question. In fact, this is among the top concerns homeschool moms bring up in our conversations. I can only imagine the sea of other moms frantically searching the internet for the same tips. And while they’ll probably find great advice on the topic, I decided to write a post from my perspective and share what has worked best in our homeschool.

I want to make it clear that I do not run the perfect homeschool. In fact, the reason I can share these tips is that I failed in this area many times and sought solutions. I know how it is. I’ve experienced the exhausting power struggles, the frustration of my kids not taking me seriously, and the feeling of defeat after my boys totally shutdown. I know exactly why they say: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” You can give a child the best curriculum out there, but you cannot make them do the work.

What you can do instead is encourage your child to enjoy the work. There’s no need to use force or intimidation. That method always backfires. Rather, try implementing the following practices to help reduce the power struggle and motivate your child to become a self-starter in their education.

So, How Do You Get Your Kids to Do Their Schoolwork?

Keep Calm

Avoid yelling to make your point. Yelling makes children less effective at listening. That’s because they enter fight or flight mode and are now positioning to defend themselves, tuning you out. Speak calmly, but firmly. It shows you have self-control, and it’s more effective at getting your message across.

Spend Time Together

Spending quality time creates an environment of mutual trust and respect between you and your child. These virtues go a long way when it comes to homeschooling. The higher the trust and respect your child has for you, the more likely your child will abide by your directives. Additionally, when you spend time with your child, you are creating opportunities for open communication, fostering positive behavior, and building their self-esteem.

Establish a Routine

You won’t have to bark orders when your child knows what’s expected of them. Research shows that children exhibit better behavioral patterns and academic performance when they have a solid routine. That’s because solid routines help children feel safe, confident, and in control of their day. When a child feels this way, they are less likely to power-struggle their way through homeschooling.

Stop Bluffing

It’s one thing to have rules in your home, but those rules need to be enforced. It may sound like common sense, but I’ve spoken with many parents who do not enforce rules. I’ve also been that parent myself. It’s impossible for your child to take you seriously when you don’t follow through with consequences. So, only say what you mean, no threats. For me, forgetting made up 50-percent of my reasons for lack of enforcement. For good measure, write it down and hang a note on the refrigerator relaying that Johnny can’t play video games this weekend because he didn’t complete his schoolwork. Boom.

Be Solution Focused

Ask questions that help your child engage in the solution. Questions like, “What do you need to work on next?” or “How can we ensure you get all your schoolwork finished so that you have the rest of the day to do other things you enjoy?” This practice will shift the conversation from being unfruitful to productive. You’ll be surprised at the great ideas your child comes up with.

Make it Matter

Your child may or may not care about grades, consequences, or even your being upset with them. This is where you must find creative ways to make it matter. Study your children, discover what they’re passionate about, and then explain to them how their schoolwork will help them advance in that particular passion. Children, especially older children, find little value in doing things they feel doesn’t immediately benefit them. They must feel like what they’re learning has a purpose and a place in their life.

Start Over

Chances are you totally missed the mark on your child’s curriculum, and it’s not a good fit for their learning style or academic level. I hate to say it, but if this is the case, I encourage you to toss that curriculum and find one that is tailored to how your child learns best. You may also want to level up or down a grade. Sometimes gifted children get bored and need a curriculum above their grade-level to feel challenged. Sometimes struggling children get discouraged by a curriculum that is just too challenging for their mastery level. It’s not a big deal. Tons of homeschool moms toss their curriculum mid-year and implement a new one for these very reasons. For more information on different learning styles and corresponding teaching methods, click here.

What Happens If None of These Work?

There are a few things to consider. You can check with your child’s healthcare provider to rule out learning disabilities, which really aren’t disabilities but unique ways your child processes information. You can also do a mental health check-in to ensure your child isn’t battling the blues. Lastly, I recommend evaluating your child’s diet. Children need healthy balanced meals to promote optimal brain function. Studies show that poor nutrition is linked to behavioral and learning problems. A few simple tweaks in their diet can make all the difference.

Well, I do hope you found this post helpful. Want to stay up to date with The Homeschool Genius? Subscribe to my newsletter. I’d love to have you!

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