How do you inspire kids to do their best homework instead of doing the absolute minimum?
I like your expectation of “their best homework.” Even within the same family, children vary greatly in intellectual ability and learning style. Therefore, never compare children. Reward “their personal best,” emphasizing effort over outcome. Avoid discouraging statements like “this A- is great, but what about an A?” My daughter has a reading disability and always received lower grades than her friend, despite working much harder. Encouragement and admiration from teachers and family inspired her to become a highly successful student. Children find motivation in an environment that values intellectual curiosity and pride in personal work and responsibility. Avoid nagging, rescuing or over-involvement. These create frustration and communicate that acting helpless pays off. When you become more invested in the homework than your children are, their motivation and sense of competence diminishes. Be clear that homework is children’s work for their teacher and that your child must endure the natural consequences of a poor effort.
Dr. Patti Zomber is a child psychologist based in Marina del Rey, Calif. She has written numerous articles about parenting, and she is a contributing editor on NestleFamily.com as well as the editor of the Los Angeles Psychologist journal.