It’s that time again – either you or your kids are back at school, and that means dealing with homework.
Or maybe your version of homework is that project at work you’ve been blowing off, or that long list of chores and home repairs that has been gathering dust in the back of your mind.
Whatever the case, how do you motivate yourself, or your kids, to give a crap about homework?
I’m an expert at getting homework done, but I wasn’t always this way. I’ll explain.
A couple years ago I got a call from my daughter Max’s school inviting me to a Parent Teacher Conference, because she was about to get two D’s. Oy.
I should also mention that as the President of HG Corporate, my job is teaching people how to produce breakthrough results. So having my daughter on the verge of scoring not one but TWO Ds, was obviously not going to fly.
It occurred to me that Max was just like me at her age: she didn’t give a crap about school. When I was a kid, my mom handled my bad grades by putting me on lockdown – no phone, no slumber parties, no nothing. And the fear of having zero social life was enough of a threat that I managed to get my grades up. But did I become deeply invested in school? No. Did I love to learn? No. Did my mom and I have a great relationship at the time? Not even close. And if I had a chance do all that over, would I want to do better? Hell yes!
Time to face the music. I sat down with Max’s teacher, and she told me Max was simply not doing the work. She’d been blowing off many of the assignments that were detailed on the sheet the school sends home with her every night.
I asked, “There’s a SHEET? What sheet?! ” I learned that not only is there a sheet, but as her parent, it’s also my job to be checking the sheet. A job I didn’t even realize I had.
Immediately I realized what was going on. The problem here wasn’t Max, it was ME. I had become (gulp!) my mother! When Max would come home after school, I’d ask, “did you get your homework done?” And she’d say “Yes!” And I’d say, “Great!” End of story. I had the answer I wanted, which conveniently got me off the hook for actually dealing with the issue at hand.
The truth was, all those years later, I still didn’t give a crap about homework. Sure, I get that it’s important for my daughter to get good grades, but was my heart in the process with her? Hell no. If it was, I would have been hanging with her while she did her homework. I’d be creating a game plan to make sure she was deeply invested. I’d be all over that sheet (you know, the one I didn’t know even existed). Instead, while she did homework, I was returning work emails, or getting dinner ready, or a doing a million other things. And Max’s level of involvement matched my own: zilch.
I knew I had a choice: I could do what my mom did with me, and punish her, “You fix it, and leave me alone. Or else!” Or I could create something that I knew would produce a way more powerful result in my daughter’s life: I could step up and give a crap myself.
FIXING IT FOR GOOD
When I got home from the parent-teacher conference, Max (who is normally a badass) was petrified. She thought for sure she was going to get in trouble. BIG trouble. But I decided to handle this one differently …
I said, “Max, this is my fault.”
She said, “Whaaaaaaat?!”
And I explained, “I didn’t find out what the assignments were … I didn’t even know about that sheet she told me you were getting. I did nothing.” Then I apologized for not being invested in her schoolwork, and I promised her from then on when she did homework, I was hers. I wouldn’t be on my phone, or doing work stuff. I’d pay attention, help her out, and set up a framework for her dad to do the same. She agreed, and left the room.
About a half hour later, she came back and said, “Mommy, it’s not all your fault. I lied to you. When you asked me if I did my homework, and I told you I did … there were some nights where I lied, and I didn’t.”
I thanked her for telling me the truth. Next, I asked her what the conversation in her head was about school. She said, “I guess I just I don’t care about it.” And here’s the thing, if she doesn’t care, and neither do I, what kind of result is that going to produce? Lousy ones: D’s. That’s because our thinking, or Inner Dialogue, produces our results. Max was producing a result exactly in line with her thinking, and mine. Clearly, I had passed on my own crappy attitude about homework. It was time for an upgrade in thinking for both of us.
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I asked Max if we could be partners. She said yes. Together, we created a game: if her attitude about getting her work done was great, she got $5. And if she got B’s and above, she got another $5. So she had the opportunity to earn $10 per week. Instead of getting punished for doing poorly, she got rewarded for doing well. We shifted her thinking from “who cares?” to “how cool!” Clearly, Max and I are both motivated to win prizes! And I changed my thinking, too. I was present, I checked the sheet, I supported her, I cared.
And you know what happened? She never got another D again. As her grades continued to rise, so did her confidence. Her thinking shifted – she learned to trust herself, and became PROUD about her grades, and inspired to keep bringing them up. Last spring semester, she got a B+, two As, and an A+.
Plus, she learned an important lesson about being a leader in your own life – a lesson that can be applied no matter where you’re getting a D – your grades, that project at work, your marriage, your relationship with your in-laws. Your thinking produces your results, both A’s and D’s. If you’re not seeing the results you want to see, face the fact that you probably don’t care enough, no matter how much lip service you might be giving it! If you want a better grade, start by upgrading your thinking. Create a game that invests you in the result. Put your heart in it. Give a crap.
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