Problems Using Academic Assignments or Homework as a Punishment

Posted by Erica Warren on

In the heat of the moment, it is not uncommon for both teachers and parents to assign academic work as a consequence to inappropriate behaviors. In addition, pleasurable breaks such as recess are often withheld when students are being unruly or they don't complete classwork. A punishment might involve a writing assignment, extra math problems or additional homework.
Never use homework as a punishment

Why is This a Problem?

The issue with this method is that children associate negative consequences and punishments with academics.  So, for example, if Patty was told to write an essay because she exhibited inappropriate behaviors, the next time she has to write for a school assignment, she will likely associate the negativity she was feeling to writing in general.  In another instance, if Nick had to stay in from recess because he didn't get his assignment done, he will learn to dread future assignments.

What are Some Better Ways to Handle Unruly Behaviors?

  1. Ignore bad behaviors and reward positive behaviors.  Surprisingly, many kids learn negative behaviors. For example, a child can learn that complaining and whining can get them what they want if someone at sometime gave into their demands.  In addition, if a child only gets attention when misbehaving, they may choose that negative attention is better than no attention at all.  So make a conscious effort to change this cycle and praise all positive behaviors with rewards, verbal appraisals and benevolent attention. 
  2. Use the Opportunity to Lead a Discussion and Lesson on Social Skills.  Interrupt the unruly behaviors and have a calming heart to heart discussion with your child or children.  If necessary, give a "timeout" where all involved spend 3-5 minutes sitting quietly to calm nerves. If it is a classroom, have the class sit in a circle.  Take some deep breaths and encourage the participants to let their bodies relax. Next, see if the students can identify the problem and then ask them to suggest solutions.  If they are a part of creating the solution, they are more likely to make the right decision the next time the situation repeats.
  3. Allow Kids to Earn the Things They Want.  Many children are given all the things they desire without having to work for it.  If however, children earn their belongings, they will value these items more and take pride in their accomplishments.

Let's Flip the Coin and Associate Pleasantries with Learning

Clearly, we need to help students feel positive about learning.  Therefore, making an effort to associate academics with joy and fun is best.  What can we do to nurture this positive association?
  1. Integrate games into the learning process.
  2. Come up with fun and enticing names for lessons.
  3. Go multisensory and teach to all of the 12 Ways of Learning.
  4. Be excited about the material you are teaching.  Enthusiasm is contagious.
Making learning fun
I think you will find the more you associate pleasantries with learning the more you and your children will enjoy the learning process.  I hope you have found this blogpost to be helpful.   If you have any other ideas, please share them in the comments section below.

Cheers, Dr. Erica Warren
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.

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