What if My Kid Won’t Do His Schoolwork?

This question reminds me of a dad, some years ago, who asked me a question about parenting. His question was, “How do I get my son to clean up his room?” And I said, “Oh, that’s easy.” We know people are capable of cleaning up their rooms, because there’s something called boot camp or Basic in the military. All sons who go to boot camp learn to clean their space, shine their buckles, their shoes, their rifle, etc. So we know young men have the capacity to keep rooms clean. My answer to this dad (who I knew personally) was, “Here’s what you do. You get a big jar and every day your son does not clean his room, you put $ 5.00 in there. At the end of the month, I want you to send all of that money to some organization that you hate.” In my friend’s case, Planned Parenthood or the National Democratic Party would have worked. For you, maybe it’s just the opposite. But when I told him to send all that money to an organization that he doesn’t like, he replied, “Oh, you think the problem is me.” And I answered, “Of course it’s you.”

Your kids won’t do their work because of the way you’re rewarding, encouraging, or setting standards and letting it happen. You know you don’t let your kids go outside undressed in the dead of winter; you somehow make them dress. How do you do that? Well, if you can figure that out, you can quite figure out how to get them to go ahead and do their school work.

Our own method for our children was this: there’s an allotted time that you have to do each subject. For example, let’s say a student is supposed to read 20 pages in such-and-such time. Well, if they get through their 20 pages early, they can go do something for the rest of that time before the next subject starts. If they don’t get it done, like they have five pages left, guess what they’re doing in the afternoon? Instead of playing, they have to go back and finish those five pages. This way there’s a certain amount of, you know, accountability for them to get their work done.

If your student is not doing their work, you need to ask yourself this question, “How did I teach my student not to do their work? How did we (Mom and Dad) teach our children not to get their work done?”

If you’ll make up your mind, they’ll get it done. That’s as straight as I can get with you.

-Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

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