Why Does My Child Forget Their Homework?

March 1, 2019

Forgetting to turn in or bring back homework usually has parents pulling their hair out with demands, nagging, threats (“Remember, homework is half your grade!”), and bribes. All these tactics are inefficient and often backfires, reinforcing the behavior. There is usually more to it than meets the eye.

The first basic tactic is to ASK how you can help. Do they have anxious tendencies? Proceed cautiously and utilize phrasing such as, “I see you are having a tough time remembering your homework. Tell me about it”. You may be surprised at the type of response you get. One parent may hear about how all the math on the page overwhelms them which would point to an avoidance behavior.

This is useful information for long term success. Your potential A-student is dealing with performance anxiety so she simply gives up in a fixed mindset. Again, this is where growth mindset parenting comes into play (link to previous blog post on Dweck’s work). Get creative, can you demonstrate covering the homework with a blank piece of paper except the problem they are working on and move down as they progress?

You may also hear that they get overwhelmed after the bell rings, packing up is stressful for most people at any age. A developing mind needs guidance. Add a cool luggage tag to their backpack with a reminder list: lunchbox, binder, math folder, etc. Recite the list at home in an offhand sing-song way. Have them write down “homework” in their agenda. Anything that engages the student, after all, ultimately they need to own the process.

Contacting the teacher is a good idea only if all other tactics have failed and your child is still anxious or even ambivalent. You may find out the whole class is struggling with this organizational skill. There may be a change in procedure the teacher can instill to streamline the process. Adding a note on the board every day, an extra minute to pack up, or combining all subjects into one folder for all homework. Teachers want to help but their time resource is extremely limited. They need your lead and behavior to demonstrate your expectations of your student.

Third grade seems to be a big growth transition in students, as teachers expect more independence so be patient. Lower grade students still need consistency practice and an older grade child may need to be given extra grace. Above all else, remember this is a phase, just like every other stage of parenting. If you are consistently mirroring a growth mindset, an opportunity to get creative with those budding critical thinking skills will instill confidence in your student when they master the responsibility of turning in homework.