Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The War of the Homework

As you may remember, we've had some issues getting our son to do his homework. The battles have been waging on. Two weeks ago I decided to pull in some reinforcements.
I decided to look at this from a behaviorist's point of view vs. a parents point of view. I did a lot of reflecting and analyzing for a few days. Here is what I learned:

Son would whine, tantrum, argue etc when it was time to do homework

-We would then engage in verbal coaxing, pleading, firmness - anything to get it done and to stop the battles.
This was clearly not working. We were actually REINFORCING this behavior that was driving us crazy and allowing negative interactions and time spent.

So, I put together a new plan of action. Using Boarmaker I made a schedule for our Son. On a chart there are 4 pics - reading, math, wordly wise (a vocab word study program) and unfinished work. Then an equal sign. Then 4 more pictures - screen time, TKD, toys and outside play. On the second line are 2 more pictures. A picture of a book, equals, and screen time (extra reading equals extra screen time).

We sat down with our son and explained the new rules to him:
-upon arrival at home after school he'd be allowed 20 minutes of getting energy out
-then he would be doing homework in a room that did not have a screen (to distract him)
-we would have no problems sitting with him if he wished, however, upon the first whine, argument, etc we were leaving the room with no response to him.
-we will stick to the visual schedule.

Here's what happened:
Day 1 - no improvement
Day 2 - homework took 4 hours
Day 3 - homework took 6 hours
Day 4 - homework took 1 hour
Day 5 - homework took 1 hour
Day 6 - homework took 1 hour
Two weeks and going strong - homework takes 1 hour
*his homework is designed to take one hour

He gets home from school, takes his break until I tell him his 20 minutes are up. Then he gets out his homework and gets it done! If he needs help he asks, and nicely at that! And when he's done he comes and shows me what he's done, checks to make sure he has gotten it all done and then he's off to play for the rest of the day.

W.O.W!!! The best part is that he is learning to manage his time better, create a plan and stick with it and learn alternative, but appropriate ways for solving his problems.

Key points for those of you that want to give this a try:
-identify what is maintaining the current behavior
-identify an appropriate alternative behavior
-come up with a plan
-explain the instructions
-stick with it - remember it always gets worse before better (see Day 2 & 3)
-reinforce the alternative appropriate behavior

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