A few guidelines to understand the challenge of motivating a teenager and homework:
- We like what we understand.
- We avoid work that we don’t like.
- Habits are powerful.
When I did a survey to find out what students really think about homework – and why they sometimes don’t do it – I was surprised.
I expected students didn’t do their homework because they forgot about it or didn’t write it down. Turns out that was only one of the common reasons, but there was one that jumped out as even more pervasive.
Students don’t do their homework because they don’t understand the concepts and fear they won’t be able to do it well.
The next step is easy: students avoid work that they don’t like. How many adults jump at the chance of going over their financial statements and filing taxes? It’s human nature to gravitate towards the work that we love and to avoid work that feel obligated to do but don’t enjoy.
Unfortunately, the resistance to work they are not fully engaged in seals the fate of many students who get bad grades: they form a habit of missing homework and the process spirals downward.
So what do parents tend do? They usually begin by focusing in on changing the habit and behavior. To get to the root, however, you have to approach the real problem: helping students be comfortable with not understanding the material and still sticking with it.
Being comfortable with confusion AND still working toward understanding is at the heart of the homework problem.
As parents, when you speak to the fear of failure and the ability to have the grit to push through confusion, you’re on the right path.