How To Handle A Student Who Doesn’t Do Homework

What to do when they aren’t doing schoolwork

So, your teen isn’t interested in school anymore. They’re not organised, the school is contacting you about work not handed in, and you’re at your wit’s end. But before you give them yet another motivational speech, there’s some important things to consider.

Back when I was a high school teacher, I found some students would have a bit of a slump in their motivation and application around Year 8 and 9. That’s because they’re over the newness of their first year of high school, and not yet into the higher-pressure years of senior. They might be immersed in the teenage languor years and think that trying too hard is not cool.

But just because it’s kind of normal, it doesn’t mean you just let them zone out and take a few years off. They still need to be doing the work the school sets and need to get the consequences if their work is not up to scratch.

If there is one thing that parents seem to do first, it is the motivational speech. It usually includes themes of wasting their talent, not making the same mistakes that another family member made, and endless offers to help the child organise themselves a little better. It might even veer into the big emotions, such as guilt (‘all the money we spend’) or threats (of a future, terrible life).

Unfortunately, if you have already given a talk like this once or twice and it has not had the desired effect, then there is no point in repeating it. Your child is probably only hearing ‘blah, blah, blah’. Save yourself the time and work on the next few strategies.

If the school sets the work, then the school is the best place to give the consequences for not doing it. Ideally, teachers and schools should have predetermined penalties such as a lunchtime detention, or extra work. If it is an assignment, then the student is likely to lose marks for being late, or end up failing the assignment if they don’t hand it in.

In this era of no surprises, schools often let parents know when children aren’t doing their schoolwork. But this is not an indication that parents should amp up their reminders, pleas, and threats to get their child to do their work.

If you receive a call like this, first thank the teacher for letting you know. Then tell the school that you give them full permission to provide your child the sorts of consequences they see as appropriate. Then tell your child calmly, and without high emotions that you received the call and exactly what you told the school.

Be matter of fact here with no extreme reaction. You want your child to know that they are now going to be facing some consequences for their lack of effort or organisation, but not start another argument.

If you do this, then the next report card is likely to be poor. When this happens, resist the urge to tell them how well they ‘could’ do as it will soften the impact. They need a bit of a blow to their ego to show them the impact of the approach they are currently adopting.

Remember, your child’s true potential is a little about their ability, but a lot about their effort and motivation. Once they realise this, then it’s more likely they’ll knuckle down. It won’t feel comfortable, but remember at some point they must learn that you get out of life what you put in.

Set up a home environment that is conducive for doing homework and builds their responsibility.

· The rule is they do homework before the fun things. Monitor this in the early days.

· But you can’t monitor them forever. They’ll have to eventually develop sufficient discipline to resist distraction.

· Check their extracurricular activities aren’t overly burdensome. Reduce these if they interfere with study.

· Don’t offer help before they ask for it, as it suggest they’re less capable and need your help.

This column appeared in the Sunday Mail on 29.8.21. Subscribe to the Courier Mail to get access to my column every week. Find more sensible parenting advice in my book, The Bonsai Child: Why modern parenting limits children and practical strategies to turn it around or, my latest book, The Bonsai Student: Why Modern parenting limits children’s potential and practical strategies to turn it around or have me come to your school to talk to parents and teachers about enhancing child resilience and wellbeing. Contact me here.

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Make sure homework is not repeatedly an issue

I ve tried everything I can think of therapy, taking away the Xbox, using the Xbox or other things as rewards he can earn, letting him handle it on his own, partial involvement, hovering, crying and screaming and I feel awful about those last two. The most common consequence that you can give out when a student does not do their schoolwork is giving them detention or some other form of punishment.

If a student does not turn in homework more than two times and they continue to not complete their work for several weeks, you can give the student’s parent a call. This can be an effective way of notifying parents about their child’s lack of schoolwork and lack of studying at home.


How To Handle A Student Who Doesn’t Do Homework?

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