My middle school son won’t do his homework. He tells me it’s complete, and I find out later it wasn’t. I try to keep up with it on the teachers’ websites, but he always tells me he finished it in class. Later, I find out he just didn’t do it. What can I do to make him do his homework?

 I have a good method for getting homework out of students with CZS (Chronic Laziness Syndrome). But you must follow it completely. 

Step 1: Take away the most important non-living thing in your son’s life. If he’s like every other breathing teenager, it’s his phone. (I’d take away all the screens, but to each his own). Take it and hide it some place where he’ll never find it (if he’s your typical teen, a bookshelf will do). Tell him he will not get it back until he has passed every single class and completed all of his homework for an entire nine weeks. Don’t make the mistake of giving too short a consequence. If you want to break habits, it will require change over time.

Step 2: Every day make him sit at the kitchen table (or somewhere you can see him) with all of his books. Set a timer according to the “10-Minute Rule” (10 minutes of homework for each grade level. If he’s in the seventh grade, set it for 70 minutes). Make him work for the entire 70 minutes. If he goes to the bathroom, stop the timer. Keep in mind the following: If possible, avoid having him do any work on the computer. It's too good of an opportunity for him to turn work time into playtime. Have him write all his papers by hand until he gets his act together. If he needs to do any online research, he can do it in the library during his recess period. He will tell you (probably wrongly) that he does not have 70 minutes of homework to do. It doesn’t matter. Tell him he is there for the duration. He will fuss and fume, but eventually books will appear out of thin air as he tries to fill the 70 minutes with something other than staring at the salt shaker. If all else fails, have him read the encyclopedia (if they still make those). This homework time needn’t begin right after school. Kids need snacks and play, so let him go outside and blow off some steam. I would even let him pick when he wants to start the timer (as long as it’s reasonable).

Step 3: Stop looking up his homework for him on the websites. Unless you want to be filling out his unemployment forms for him when he’s 30, it’s time to make him take responsibility for his own learning. Let him write down his assignments in a notebook. If he forgets something, that’s a problem for him to solve. If he knows it’s going to cost him another Snapchat-less nine weeks, he’ll find a way. I wish I could tell you that nine weeks later, things will be fine, but it’s likely they won’t be. Teenagers love to test your resolve. The next nine weeks you’ll probably have to do it again, but eventually you’ll start to see him break old habits and mature right before your very eyes. Parents sometimes worry that their children will hate them if they enact such draconian measures. If you do it because you love them, they’ll understand and love you all the more. Remind them that if you didn’t love them, you’d let them do whatever they want (a surefire way to get them to eventually deplore you). But if you don’t like my method, then try something else as long as it is clear, consistent, and long-term.

To me, a bigger issue than homework is the fact that your child is lying to you. More distressing is that he’s lying to get out of doing a pretty puny amount of work. If you don’t change those habits and fast, you’re going to have a gigantic mess on your hands for the rest of your life.

Last modified on GSTEAug+04:000PMGSTE_WedPMGSTE_WedEAugustPM15029126850GST

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