How Failure Improves Homework Habits

By Regine Muradian, Psy.D.

Parenting Homework Habits

Image by Photostock

Most parents want to make sure they are doing everything they can to assure their children are happy, healthy, feel good about themselves and are successful. “How do I get my child to clean up their room without a fuss?” “How do I limit electronic entertainment?” “How do I get them to stop fighting with their siblings?” These are common questions I receive. But one of the most common is: “How do I get my child to do their homework?”

Being a mindful parent is key to creating changes in your child’s behavior, whether your child is 4 or 18. When working with tweens and teens, parents often feel that it is too late to create change. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The key is to be consistent with the change you are attempting to make, and to help your child feel in control of that change.

One of the most effective ways to spur changes in your child’s behavior – especially where school work is concerned – is to allow your child to fail. During my six-week positive parenting class, this is one of my favorite topics of discussion. When I make this statement, parents frown and look frazzled. “What do you mean allow my child to fail?” they ask. “Is that being a good parent?”

I practice this exact technique with my own children, and promise that it works. Failure needs to be experienced in order for your child to strive for success, and while it initially creates a sense of sadness and disappointment, with positive support a child’s inner strength is built rapidly.

Imagine your child has a test coming up, and you are well aware that he or she didn’t study enough. Do you pressure your child to continue studying? When you ask, “How do you feel about your test tomorrow, how can I help you prepare?” does your child dismiss you? If your child states that they are fully prepared, despite playing hours of video games or being distracted with another task, maybe you should step away and let nature take its course.

The next day, after your child’s poor performance on the test, you have a teaching opportunity. Your child will likely expect you to scold and express your disappointment, but if you empathize and maintain a positive approach, your child will be more open to your advice.

Now is the time to ask, “Do you feel you did your best? What do you think you could have done differently to succeed?” These questions allow your child to feel in control of their behavior and efforts to improve. As a parent, you are helping them become mindful and in charge of the tasks they hold responsibility for.

Parenting : Regine MuradianAnd next time your child is preparing for a test, you can gently remind them of your previous discussion and their plans for tackling things differently. During my years of practice, I have seen many children and teens benefit from this approach, and create positive changes in their study habits.

Regine Muradian, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist who uses evidence-based treatments for children, adolescents, adults and couples with a wide range of emotional, behavioral and adjustment problems such as obesity, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, relationship issues and ADHD. She provides workshops in positive parenting, teen issues, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, family conflict resolution and organizational management. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children. Learn more at

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