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3 Ways to help your child take responsibility for her schoolwork

Caroline Duda is a Senior Marketing Coordinator for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized experiences to accelerate academic achievement.

Maybe you know this struggle all too well: Your student returns from school, but she claims that she has no homework or that she forgot her supplies in her locker. Her daily planner is empty, and her most recent assignment includes a note to see her instructor. You know she is a bright child, but her intelligence simply does not translate in the classroom. When you press her about her academic performance, she refuses to take responsibility for her grades.

You may recognize this scenario, but you may not know what to do next. If so, review the below guide, which can help you help your student.

1. Speak with your child, and with her teacher(s), other parents, etc.

A student who shirks her schoolwork can feel like a poor reflection of your parenting. However, neither she nor you is a failure. The situation you find yourselves in is common, and the best thing you can do now is talk. Ask your child about what bothers her most about school. For instance, is the work too easy or too hard? You can also speak with her teacher. What behavior has he or she seen? Does the teacher have any suggestions about how you can support your student at home? What about other parents who may have experienced similar issues with their children? If you feel frustrated and alone, try to take heart in knowing that you are not.

2. Set achievable goals with your student

While you may want your child to immediately raise her social studies grade from a C+ to an A-, this may be too large a goal for your particular student at this particular time. With proper goal-setting, this might not be the case for long, but the key is to start small. If your child struggles to complete her homework on time, a great starting goal might be, "I will bring all of my materials home each afternoon." If her quiz performance is a concern, "I will study for 60 minutes every Thursday," might be a more ideal spot to begin. Encourage your student to identify and set goals with you, and regularly review (and, if necessary, revise) these goals as you move through the school year.

3. Incentivize and reinforce your child's progress

In most cases, just setting goals is not sufficient to permanently change your student's behavior. But noting and rewarding her successes can help her build confidence about and motivation around schoolwork. Certain children benefit from clear incentives ("If you earn a B on your language arts test, we'll go ice skating"), which are typically discussed at the goal's outset. Others thrive on verbal and written praise during and after the pursuit of a goal. A statement as simple as, "That's great! I'm so proud of you; keep going," with a genuine smile can work wonders. Even, and especially, if your student runs into difficulties, remember to compliment her efforts (or whatever she has done well thus far). Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective tools in your arsenal when working with a child who is ambivalent about her schoolwork.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

Image: Robert Daly/Getty Images
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