Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sue Scheff: Teens Homework and Procrastination

As the first quarter of school is either completed or about over, many parents are either thrilled with the reports they are receiving less than happy results. I have heard over and over again how teens are very intelligent, do well on exams yet fail to complete their homework assignments which can lead to failing grades. Does this sound familiar? Check out these great parenting tips from Connect with Kids.

Source: Connect with Kids


“For me, it probably started [in] sixth grade, seventh grade.”

– Tony, 18 year old

During the school year, it’s one of the most common household battles of them all: homework. Getting your kids to finish their homework before they turn on the TV, or get on Facebook, or start texting their friends.

About getting homework finished, there are a million excuses.

“Best one was freshman year, I said my mom was driving me to school and it was really hot, so we had the window rolled down. I was doing my math homework, and it flew out the window,” 17-year-old Hamida says.

“I’ve said that I’ve been beaten up by rival schools on my way to school and they’ve taken my homework,” says Tony, 18.

Nearly every student has used excuses and exaggeration to wiggle their way out of finishing their homework. And it usually starts in grade school.

“I always used to blame not having my homework or an assignment on my mom. She didn’t put it in my backpack, or she must have left it on the kitchen counter,” 17-year-old Heidi says.

But eventually, the homework gets done, and that’s why experts say the REAL issue is procrastination. “There’s always fun things to do that are more fun than studying, more fun than learning,” says Viera Pablant, a clinical psychologist.

The challenge is to train your kids to get unpleasant tasks out of the way early, before they have to make excuses. “Since early childhood, begin to teach children how to wait for things, how to work for things, how to save money, for example, to get what they want,” Pablant says.

Psychologists call it “delayed gratification,” which means chores and homework come first; fun comes after they’re done. Then, your child won’t need excuses like the one’s Hamida uses.

“Oh, my favorite one was I said I left my homework in my car. It was a worksheet, and I took my car to the cleaners and when they were vacuuming inside it just went away; they sucked it up,” she says.

Parents beware: a study from researchers at DePaul University in Chicago shows that students’ excuses for missing academic deadlines are actually bald-faced lies about 70% of the time. The study of 224 American college undergraduates also rated the most common “fake” excuses used by student procrastinators, which included the following:

•“I was sick.”
•“I didn’t understand the assignment.”
•“I overslept.”
•“My alarm failed.”
•“I forgot.”
•“I had a family emergency.”
•“My grandma/grandpa died.”

According to study author Joseph Ferrari, “It sounds cynical, but professors really need to be skeptical when a student tells you ‘well, this is why I can’t do this or that. Most of the time, they are falsehoods.”

Tips for Parents
Why do some children procrastinate? According to the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions, power struggles begin to kick in when children begin school. They want to exert more independence and control. Putting off homework that an authority figure has assigned is one way in which children try to take more control. Sometimes, if kids feel a lot of pressure from parents, peers and others to achieve, they might procrastinate because they fear failing. Another reason for procrastinating is the feeling of being overwhelmed. These children procrastinate because they want to postpone those negative feelings.

If you have difficulty getting your child to do his or her homework, the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities suggests that you need to begin by acting as a role model for your child. Take the opportunity to read a book or newspaper while your child studies. Show your child that learning is a lifelong process.

Try these additional tips from the National Parent Information Network to prevent your child from putting off a project until the last minute:

Make homework a priority.

•Encourage your child to take responsibility for completing his or her assignments.
•Set rules making homework more important than other activities, such as television, games, etc.
•Supply your child with the materials he or she needs to do work both at school and at home.
Show interest in your child’s learning and education.

•Talk to your child about school and show interest in what your child is learning.
•Encourage your child to ask and answer questions about what he or she is studying.
•Set up family literacy-related activities, such as regular trips to the library and reading together.
•Attend or participate in school activities.
Know the homework policy of your child’s teachers.

•Know what type of assignments your child is expected to complete.
•Find out how much time your child is expected to spend on homework each night.
•Find out what type of parental involvement each teacher expects.
•Encourage your child’s school to set up homework hotlines and a website that allows teachers to post daily assignments and other information to help parents know what their children are working on.
Set aside a time and place to study and to do homework.

•Create a place at home that makes it easy for your child to study and learn.
•Set a time your child can devote to doing homework.
•Eliminate distractions, such as television, telephone and other noises, while your child is studying.
•Some children may find it easier to work with soft music playing; others may not.
Help your child keep track of daily assignments.

•Check homework schedules each day.
•Call your local homework hotline, if available.
Check your child’s completed homework.

•Check to ensure that work is complete and neat.
•Read teacher comments on graded assignments to see what areas your child needs to work on.
Help your child develop a study plan.

•Help your child identify what he or she needs to accomplish during each study session.
•Make sure your child reads and follows directions on all assignments before beginning work.
•Make sure your child understands what he or she is expected to do.
•Allow your child to take breaks based on his or her individual needs.
Help your child learn time management skills.

•Establish and follow a daily schedule.
•Encourage your child to complete homework when it is assigned, not just before it is due.
•Help your child learn to break longer assignments down into shorter sections.
Be consistent!

•Enforce the rules you establish for your child.
•Children of all ages and grade levels sometimes need parental involvement in homework. Make yourself available to help.

•Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities
•DePaul University
•National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions
•National Parent Information Network