Homework page 5

Help! I have Too Many Programs!

{Note: this section only applies to parents completing the first 4 Modules and is not relevant if you are only completing Module 4}

If you’re running the Homework Program and the Be Your Own Boss program at the same time, it may seem onerous doing so many ratings and celebrations. Keep in mind that homework celebrations are more material in nature and less frequent. Celebrations related to Attitude Credits are more frequent and more social in nature, so they may not be in direct conflict.

If you need to reduce the time commitment, you may wish drop the milestones or surprise celebrations for the homework program (or keep them simple such as taking a day off homework, getting to quit early, or having a special snack or treat). To recognize extra effort and points on the homework plan, you can also assign bonus Attitude credits on the “Be Your Own Boss Log”. Your child will accumulate Attitude Credits faster, and consequently good work on the homework plan will contribute to earning social celebrations at a faster rate.

You could also fade out the Attitude Credits on the BYOB program so you can focus on the daily homework points. This may be useful if general cooperation and positive attitude is not problematic, but homework completion is. Make sure you keep the praise coupons in place to recognize good study habits, positive attitude, and cooperation. Make sure you celebrate the coupons on a random basis as you did in Module 1.

Don’t incorporate the homework points into the Responsibility credits earned in the BYOB program. The Responsibility Credits should continue as they reflect completion of chores, acceptance of consequences, and they determine the weekly allowance. Trying to rate both responsibility and homework on a 3 point scale would dilute the rating to such a degree that it becomes meaningless, and both programs would fail.

My Child Ignores the Program and Doesn’t Care about Ratings and Points.

You can put this program in place and nothing happens. Your child can ignore it for many reasons. They may decide no amount of points or reasonable rewards are worth their effort to complete their self-improvement time. Their oppositional and defiant side may get the best of them. They may be in a habit waiting for you to force them to earn points and wait for you to up the ante or make them comply. In this case, you may be forced to implement consequences for failure to earn points. First however:


Ensure Your Child is Capable of Doing the Work Before Adding Any Consequences!

It’s possible your child avoids homework because they’re struggling with the work and could have learning difficulties or difficulty with attention and focus. Their apparent defiance or oppositional behaviour could mask academic concerns. The points program will encourage them to at least sit at their work station and put in independent effort. What they accomplish is not as important as what effort and focus they put into their work. If your child is trying to work but making little progress, you should take steps to assess what the problem is. Don’t just assume it’s laziness. While we wish to promote independent behaviour, we don’t want to overlook the fact a child could be stuck, unable to complete the work, unable to focus, or avoiding frustration and failure.

If your child has been diagnosed with weakness in attention or focus, you should modify your expectations and take their learning issues into account. You could shorten the rating period, add in stretch/exercise breaks, use a timer to signal the child to refocus, and ensure distractions are minimized. If your child is struggling to understand the work, have them work independently for the first rating period then, after the timer goes off, offer them assistance. If your child seems capable of doing the work, reset the timer, and let them work independently. If you feel they need extra help, reset the timer but work with them for the next work interval. Only do this if they’re making use of your assistance and not just acting helpless to engage you. Then expect independent work for the third interval. They still earn points for focus, concentration, and effort. If your child is having significant trouble, you may need to consult with their teacher to see if they can complete the same work independently in the classroom. If they’re struggling in the classroom as well, speak to the school resource teacher regarding possible academic assessment, or discuss with the school psychologist or your pediatrician the possibility of further psycho-educational assessment.

My Child is Capable – They’re Just Unwilling!

If you’re certain your child can do the work, but their stubborn or lazy side has taken over, it’s critical you don’t allow them to drag you into a control battle nor to just junk the program. You’ve been clear on your expectations. You’ve been kind enough to outline what you’re willing to do for your child to celebrate their cooperation and effort. It’s their job to comply, not your job to make them.

Follow the program. Assign the points as outlined. Your child may ignore the program and sit and watch TV waiting to see what you’ll do. They may have a million good excuses why they’re late to start or why they can’t concentrate. Even though your child ignores your program, you must say nothing and keep assigning 0’s. Stay the course. Several days go by. You’re bursting to get after your child, but you must show restraint. During this time homework may not be completed, you may be close to having a heart attack, but try to stay calm and just assign points. Review the 0’s at the end of the day with your child, but say nothing more. Your child is trying to out-wait you and will be puzzled by your apparent good nature. They would have expected to see you frustrated and upset, so your calm demeanour will be disturbing to them.

Assuming you can last a week or so, you can probably conclude that your child has no intention of following the program. They’ll be smug in knowing they’ve outlasted yet another parenting technique, and they’ll expect you to soon give up the program. This is the recommended course of action in the “How to Raise Parents” handbook. Just ignore any program or new parenting technique and the parent will change it. Parents are expected to use the “Technique of the Week” approach. The problem, however, is not the program. What you have laid out is reasonable. The problem is your child has decided to lead the good life at home and has no reason to act in a responsible manner. You’ve laid out all the positives you’re willing to reasonably offer, so you can’t add any more without trying to buy their cooperation. You’ve ruled out learning problems, made allowance for attentional problems, and you’re sure your child is capable of doing the work. At this point, you have no choice but to implement consequences. Remember, let the consequences do the talking, not you. You should speak softly and carry a logical consequence. Don’t warn your child in advance they’ll face consequences if they don’t start making an effort; you don’t need to trigger a control battle. When children defy you they should expect consequences at any time, and not just wait for threats or warnings before complying.

Sit with your child and review their Self-Improvement Log for the past week. That shouldn’t take too long as it’s all zeroes or maybe just a few ones. Express your disappointment that they chose not to follow your expectations, and that you had hoped it would be a positive and fun program for them. Don’t be angry; just be matter of fact and perhaps a bit sad but not discouraged sounding. Tell them you’d like to treat them like a young adult and let them make their own decisions, but at this time they aren’t taking responsibility for their own work. Consequently, you cannot support the lifestyle they’ve chosen to follow. Explain that from now on they’ll be required to earn at least 5 points each night (you can always raise this bar in the future should your child quit working as soon as they earn 5 points). If they achieve less than 5 points, they’ll not be able to use your TV and electronics, including game systems and computers, the next day. Nor will you be able to do favours or help them out, and any planned outings will be cancelled. These are logical consequences and would apply to adults. If I don’t get my work done in the evening, I certainly shouldn’t be watching TV and playing games. If I don’t help out my spouse, she’s not going to be keen on running errands for me or granting me favours.

If your child has lost their privileges but then completes their homework, don’t reinstate privileges that same evening. Points can only be earned during their original scheduled work shift, and trying to earn the points at a later time is not an option. If you reinstate privileges the same night, you’ll have taught your child to ignore their homework until you remove privileges, and then only comply enough to have the privileges reinstated. You’ll end up threatening them with consequences every night, and the program will fall apart.

Once applied, the Loss of Privileges lasts 24 hours. If 5 or more points are earned the next day, the privileges are all returned. Express your regret having to implement consequences, but your child has forced your hand. This is a different message than threatening consequences in the heat of the moment or applying them in anger. Your child’s actions have made the decision for you. If your child becomes aggressive or tries to watch TV, refer back to your rules and consequences program for disrespect as outlined in Module 1.