Dr Richard C. Woolfson
Now that your child has started school, he has to realise that homework assignments cannot be ignored. He has full responsibility to complete them in time and to hand them in to the teacher.
He also has to make sure messages from his teacher gets to you, whether they are in notes, copied into his school diary or told verbally to him.
However, it does not take a genius to realise that not all children this age regard these tasks as essential.
For instance, you have probably cleared out his schoolbag only to find a crumpled note from his class teacher last week. When you scold him for this oversight, he rolls his eyes, shrugs his shoulders and gives you a look that says you are making a big fuss about nothing.
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This lack of commitment to homework and to conveying messages from school is not about laziness. It is about lack of “ownership” – the term psychologists use to describe a child’s sense of personal responsibility for his behaviour. In other words, he does not feel he has ownership of these tasks, and therefore, he does not complete them.
He is used to having things done for him: at nursery, you packed his little bag every morning, and on weekends you organised his play schedule. He was not responsible for organisational tasks, so he struggles to take ownership of these key activities now that he has started school.
TOP TIPS FOR DEVELOPING RESPONSIBILITY
1. Remind yourself that it is not laziness The chances are that you are frustrated, perhaps even embarrassed, by your child’s apparent inability to complete homework or to pass messages on to you. Try not to lose your temper. Remember that he simply does not see it as his responsibility; it is not because he cannot be bothered. He needs your help to assume ownership of these tasks.
Related: How to get your child to do homework
2. Explain the concept of responsibility Although it is obvious to you, it may not be obvious to him that he should take charge of his own homework. Be patient. Explain to him that now that he is in school, he has to behave like a proper school pupil. Emphasise that just as he is in charge of dressing himself, he is also in charge of his homework and getting messages from his teachers across to you.
3. Establish a regular routine Develop a fixed after-school routine at home. For example, this means he should get into the habit of looking at his homework diary when he comes home from school and searching his bags for notes from the teacher. The more he does this, the more it will become an automatic routine for him.
4. Encourage consistency Get your child into the habit of completing his homework before he plays or before he watches television. Once he is used to coming in from school, having a snack and then completing his homework, you will have less battles with him over this. The longer the time between coming home and tackling his homework, the less enthusiastic he will be about completing the assignments.
5. Review his progress Keep a close watch on his progress with these key school tasks. Every few days – even though he appears to have become more responsible – check over his school bag yourself to ensure he has not slipped back into old habits.
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